Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Merging vs. Observing: Concerts!

Perhaps you remember the old days when people in the audience at concerts would hold up a cigarette lighter. I always interpreted that as the fans saying, "Oh great Rock Star, you are like the sun, and this small flame is my way of showing my desire to merge with your great light." (Ok I know they were probably just high and doing the lighter thing because it seemed cool, but I'm a mystic and a poet, so there.)

In more recent years, you go to a rock concert and instead of lighters, you see the virtual "flame" from hundreds of smartphones instead. The meaning-making part of my brain wants to understand this shift in cultural consciousness. And the way I read it is, "Oh wow I'm in the presence of something awesome right now and I need to record it in some way." 

I've done that myself. I've snapped crappy, blurry photos of the performers. I've attempted to bootleg part of the show with Voice Recorder (doesn't work, volume is too loud). And I've tweeted and Facebooked about the show while it is happening.

In fact, I've been recording shows for posterity since I first started going to concerts in the 1980s. I was a photography major, and I use to plunk my ass down on the stage at the 930 Club in D.C. and take photos of the bands I was seeing. I was well aware that I was choosing to step back and protect myself from the intensity of the experience by hiding behind a camera.

What's a little strange for me is that now everyone else is doing it, too. And I'm not sure what to make of it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Seeking patterns: Music, movies and poetry.

Years ago I read an article positing a question about movie critics Siskel and Ebert. Why would they rave over some obscure, hard-to-relate-to film, while panning the latest feel good Robin Williams family fare? The article went on to answer its own question. In a nutshell, Siskel and Ebert have seen so many movies that they require something more from their celluloidesque entertainment than the average moviegoer.

I've mentally returned to the ideas stirred up by this article many times, mainly when seeking to understand why I can barely tolerate most of the music on the radio, while my own music tastes are "torture" to my friends' ears. Looking back on my history, I've spent time working in a record store and also as a volunteer disc jockey and music director for a college radio station. I've had a music zine, and my record reviews and music articles were published by an entertainment newspaper as well. (Oh and I've also written songs, recorded them, and played briefly with a band, but that almost doesn't matter).  Does all this put me into that Siskel and Ebert zone, where I'm so familiar with music that I am bored to tears by the mainstream fare and need some serious weirdness to wake my neurons?

Contrast this with my experience with poetry. Two and a half decades ago I was very involved in the Newark, Delaware poetry scene. I met regularly with local poets and we critiqued each others' work. Many of us also read our work aloud, and occasionally even got paid for doing so. But other than the work of other local poets, I was not much of a poetry reader. Fast forward to now, and I'm even less involved with poetry than ever. In an attempt to find some new poetry to enjoy, I've discovered the work of Mary Oliver, which speaks to me more clearly than a lot of other stuff that's out there. And guess what? Mary Oliver is apparently America's best selling poet. So following the thought pattern, I am apparently not enough of a poet connoisseur to have obscure tastes in rhyme and verse. And that's fine with me. A bit of a relief actually.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


It's summer and that means the dome goes up in the backyard and I take up painting again. I've been working on a series called "Fruit Voodoodles" since before my kid was born. The past two summers I've made some good progress. 

Here's a sample of some recent work:

I'm also blogging a bit about art and what I've learned from doing it. I'll write and post more as I get closer to the finish of this project. In the meantime, you can see a close up of my first painting in this series.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Gold Yunnan Tea

A while back I wrote about tea, and how I like it to express the full rainbow of flavor. Well I did find one tea that expresses a short section of the color palette in great depth. That tea is Gold Yunnan.

For the sake of symplicity let's say this tea expresses…the full palette of available…golds/yellows. (Because that is the name of the tea, and although I do have a wild imagination, I am not, in fact, a possessor of the trait of synesthesia).

This is the tea I turn to when I don't want the strength of a black tea, but I do want a smooth, fragrant flavor. It's the tea I turn to when I want to casually, delicately, slam back two full cups of the stuff in under two hours. It's what I call a tea that is easy to drink. If I could guess intelligently, I would say it is low on tannins. 
When I first encountered this new favorite, it was at the 2012 Northwest Tea Festival. A lady from Teahouse Kuan Yin handed me a sample packet of loose leaves and warned me that the tea had been mislabeled. When I first tasted it, I was sure it was an oolong, but an oolong that I actually enjoyed. So I was kicking back cup after cup until the sample was gone, thinking "I finally found an oolong I like. I need more." But when I visited Teahouse Kuan Yin and asked them to help me find it, I learned that it was in fact, Gold Yunnan, a black tea from China. (The part that had been mislabelled was just the subtitle, which had declared it as Gold Yunnan: A Taiwanese Assam. I knew that couldn't be correct, as Assam is a region in India, Yunnan is a province in China, and Taiwan is, well, Taiwan. A tea can't really be all three at once unless it is a blend.)

So anyway, now I have a whole bag of this wonderful stuff. And if you want to taste it, come on over.