Monday, June 28, 2010


and the living is easy...
and otherwise... depending on the moment.

My cousin's Epic Vail/Beaver Creek Wedding is mere days away. I'm vigorously preparing, alternately worshipping the sun gods
and belting wedding music in my car. You see, it's been over a year since I've sung some of the songs I will be singing this weekend. And when I sang them, I sang them at sea level. I don't know how much water that whole "lung capacity at different altitudes" thing holds, but I can tell you that, as a singer, I cannot sustain or support notes the same way up here as I could in Philly. My anxiousness is of course compounded because Vail is another couple thousand feet elevation from where I am now. So as difficult as it is to struggle through the 10-beat, 3 note, formata'd key-change-climb at the end of The Prayer here in Boulder, it's gonna be a REAL TREAT up in the mountains.
All I really have to say on the subject is: Mags, I wish you were here... to give it to me straight and help me fix what needs fixing. I'm also thinking that Schubert's Ave Maria in Bflat is being optimistic. I think I'm gonna take G, just to be safe...

But enough about that.
Isn't summer glorious? When I'm not trying to figure out my life, I'm enjoying the relatively humidity-less hot days, and the immediate accessibility of a pool. Whoever first concepted water-filled giant tubs, miles from any lake or shore, was brilliant. To you, good sir, I say Thank You.

and: Look what I just got in the mail:
If you find yourself in The Big Apple, pick up an issue. My cover article on Ms. Howard is a 3-spread piece, and I've also got a little piece in there comparing American Politics to Wonderland. (The image is a delightful still from Tim Burton's AIW... of Tweedledee and Tweedledum looking particularly bi-partisan.) It's written under a pen name... but more on that later.

Back to Lovin' Summer.

photos: Art Pixie, vintage beach image, Kevin Costner & Christine Baumgartener wedding image,, Summer Face by singareev, American Summer from, image from

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Spirited Away...

"Once you've met someone, you never really forget them."

In an attempt to restore a little magic into life, I'm diving into some Miyazaki. Have you ever seen Miyazaki's films? Out of Ghibli studios in Japan, these films are still animated by hand. They are full of wonder and magic, myth and legend, hope and trial and innocence and triumph. And no matter whether characters play heroes or villains, they always have a reason for what they do; each is multi-faceted. Here are some color-sorted stills from Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away.... The last is from My Neighbor, Totoro, which I haven't seen yet....

If you're looking for a fantastic visual escape, open your eyes to Miyazaki's work.


It's my 100th post.
Thanks for sticking with me. I think I miss the more succinct posts of earlier... the ones less concerned with reality and more concerned with the thoughts that occupy the space between reality and unreality. So perhaps I'll try to do more of that...

For this post, I've swiped something rather fabulous from Lolita,
because I think it's important to remember that in that space just beyond reality, reaching shining tendrily fingers into the fabric of "real life," are ample opportunities for sheer, expressive, fantastic, bursting-with-joy, Magic.

Just keep your eyes peeled for your white rabbit...
I know I always do.

photos: Magic quote taken from Lolita, Lost Mind by 'Night-fate from deviantART.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Room with a View

"She began to talk. Her thoughts darted like sparrows. I couldn't follow everything she said."
- from "Pictures at an Exhibition" by Sara Houghteling
I've been whisked joyfully out of reality for a small bit of time.
...That's not strictly true, but sometimes it feels like it.
Friends of mine have decided to jet across the Atlantic for a tour of the British Isles, and have left me in joyful possession of their mountain-top-bungalow house-keys, the temporary surrogate mother of two silly cats (Stormy and Lola, aka. Grouchy and Sneezy). Together, we aspire to be productive. And also to take catnaps in the sunshine whenever needed.
I enjoy evening views of Boulder Valley, which fades into dusk before lighting up like an earthly Milky Way, sparkling in the nighttime hours. Christine left me with a delicious book to devour during my first week here: Pictures at an Exhibition.
For the Musically Inclined, perhaps the name rings a bell, calling to mind the haunting music of Mussorgsky. Here's a bit of Promenade and Il Vecchio Castello:

The book briefly mentions Mussorgsky and the actual paintings that inspired this composition, but spends more time summoning visions of Manets and Picassos and Wartime Parisians. The irony was that I wrote down favorite quotes in a litte art sketchbook that had accompanied me to many museums. Even as I read about Degas' Little Dancer's provocative stance and innocent face, I wrote quotes in a notebook that held sketches of the very same statue. Books are adventures, aren't they?
"It had ceased to rain, though dampness was in the air, and the plaza and its stones and statues were washed and darkened. The sound of the fountain was joyous. The piles of leaves blown against the trees glistened. The sky cleared, as if a hand had brushed the clouds aside and left only stripes of pink against the blue."
As for me, it's time to be more accountably productive...
"I was a work on paper: weightless, sketchy, all impulse..."

photos: Dear Friend, Dear Sparrow from, Sunset photo and lazy cat by Gloriosity Media: Boulder 2010, Pictures at an Exhibition cover - novel by Sara Houghteling, Olaf Hajek image from Google Images, Acqua 4 by Roberto from Flickr, Sketching Hand (mine!) by Eric Ian of ClarityMedia.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Beautiful Game

Watch this video. I dare you not to be excited about the World Cup after you see this:

Are you singing this song yet? I'm sitting in a coffee house, and the sound is off on my computer, and I'm singing it. So you have to be.
I admit it. I'm not the biggest sports fanatic. I'm not even a mediocre sports fanatic. I'm not precisely a fair-weather-fan (much like my love of Coca-Cola, my "team" affiliation resembles more of a no-holds-barred radical, purposeful ignorance of the merits of other "teams"). In other words: I'm a Braves fan... but I haven't seen a full Braves' baseball game since... High School? However, I'm also a huge fan of emotional-affiliation, of giving in to the joy of the moment and screaming at the screen when there's a fumble on the play, or leaning left in my seat in hopes that the curling stone will also curve left, or jumping up and down in the chair so that a jockey and horse will ride just a little faster, or holding my breath during foul shots so that the sound of my breathing won't distract the player on the tv screen. This may explain my near-religious experiences when watching Friday Night Lights. I'm emotionally invested. Just ask my roommates, current and former.
So, I think Soccer - nay - Football, allows for the best of all worlds. Brash support of the US team, despite our baby-hood on the field and a discrepancy in talent when compared to the world's heavy-kickers that is comparable to the discrepancy in salary range for US Footballers compared to England's or Portugal's or Brazil's. All-out emotional exclamation at the pubs and heart-in-it, eyes-glued-to-the-telly, what-a-great-play adoration. Some other appealing qualities? Handsome, handsome men. Wearing Ralph Lauren designs. And costumes. Lots of costumes. Entire flights of stadium seating for National Super Heroes.
One of my Philly roommates recently came out to visit me in Colorado. She explained several important things during the US v. England game: 1) what "Off-Sides" means. Because I didn't know. 2) The minor upswing in popularity of games after the advent of HDTV, because the cameras have to be so damn far away in order to take in the action, that plain-old-tv makes the players look like little colored blobs prancing around. With HDTV, viewers can finally see what's going on. 3) Football is a working-man's game. It enlivens towns full of blue-collar workers; it isn't a blue-blood's game. ("Chesley, Manchester is like... Pittsburgh. Lots of steel and factories. And that's kind of it.") 4) Footballers on club teams in foreign countries make millions of dollars... whereas a player on Philly's new team makes about 14k.
The only thing I really could bring to the conversation was: "Hey, I went to High School with one of the US players. We were in the same grade. Yay, Ricardo!"
Then I happened upon the June Vanity Fair. Current football stars on the front. Classic football legends on the back. Inside, Annie Leibovitz does her epic-photography thing with a bunch of boys in their boxer briefs. And A.A.Gill writes one of the best Vanity Fair articles I've read in awhile- because he writes about the game as "a powerful link between multi-millionaire athletes and the man on the street," with a literary style that does the same, interjecting tongue-in-cheek observations, jibes, self-aware blanket statements, and brief anecdotes into a rich-but-quick overview of the game's history. And it's all illustrated by boys in their boxers... and Ronaldo's mom.
Gill writes, "It seems that football took to the world pitch at about the same time as the modern independent nation-state. After a flag, a national anthem, and a press release decrying Yankee imperialism, the next thing newly minted nations do is build a stadium and come up with a national grudge match. As a result, most countries see their football team as an expression of national solidarity. The British, with a contrarian savoir faire, use it as an excuse to dissolve the union and play as four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland." (long quote- I had to put the whole paragraph in. It's brilliant. Kudos, Gill, on being clever, insightful, and succinct, all at once. Not an easy task.)
He personifies the countries using the characteristics of their in-game technique. And then shares classic fan traditions. When the Dutch play Germany, fans chant, "Give us our bikes back," recalling the WWII retreat of German soldiers from Holland, when they stole bicycles to use as getaway transportation. As for the English, they still play The Great Escape theme, and sing (to the tune of Camptown Races), "Two World Wars and one World Cup, England, England." I stand in resolute support of any tradition that recalls the greats in the cast of The Great Escape; Coburn and Bronson, Attenborough and Garner, and the inimitable Steve McQueen....
So if you run across a Vanity Fair, pick it up and read the article. And try to catch a game sometime (preferably in a pub, or at least in the presence of someone schooled in the game... It's more fun when you have a personal translator...). Or just download "Wavin' the Flag," and enjoy a little catchy tunage that celebrates
The Beautiful Game.
photos: Children from the Toba Qom Ethnic Group play soccer on Indigenous Indian Culture Celebration Day, Screaming Woman, Aher Mendelsohn Fan Tribut, Soccer Boys by Flickr member Nattu, Annie Leibovitz Vanity Fair spread, image from Det Kempke, still from The Great Escape, Preparing for the World Cup in South Africa from

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Higher Power.

Click-Clack, Click-Clack, Click-Clack, Click-Clack, Click-Clack, click-clack...

It's the sound my heels make on the marble floors when I walk into the High Museum.
Don't be deceived- those click-clacks aren't dissipating into nothingness.
They're off on a treasure hunt, flying at the speed of sound through the new galleries and the old, hunting for something new to discover, and saying hello to old friends.

When you walk into a museum that has been Your Museum since before you could talk, things are different. Yes, the Met is magnificent- its lungs filled to bursting with beauties untold. Yes, the PMA, too, holds Ghosts and Opera Singers, is home to Madonnas and goddesses.
But for me, the High is like coming home.

At the High, I met a dignified Native American Indian Delegate. He told me about the pride of being a Warrior, and the pride of being a Diplomat. He wore his feathers in his hair, his bone jewelry, his weathered face; He wore fine clothes of a White-Man's cut. He taught me about Culture Shock, long before I left home.
At the High, I learned that Degas turned a brush around a horse's flank as magnificently as he did around a dancer's leg.
At the High, I met a Roman God, and learned all about the advantages of having wings on your feet and wings on your headdress. There are messages to be imparted to mortals, heroes to be warned, just in the nick of time; there are stories to be told.*
At the High, I contemplated Campbell's Soup Cans, on repeat. Tomato soup had a glamorous side. It wasn't just the comfort lunch of my youth. Tomato soup had an ego. Tomato soup was a star. Tomato soup had a message: commercialism reaches it's grasping fingers even into the warmest memories of your childhood.
At the High, I ran into an old acquaintance, David. I had met him in Florence, but he was visiting America. I introduced him to my family. With my mother, I examined the lines of a master, the subtleties of an artist's craft. With my father, I spoke of legends and histories. With my older brother, an engineer, I spoke of the alchemy of bronze, of casting and restoring. With my younger brother, I spoke of gore and battle and victory.
At the High, I met Whistler's Mother, years before I wrote a paper on the glorious nocturnes of her brilliant and expressive expat son.
At the High, I walked into a Passing Storm, to hear the distant rolling rumble, to feel the darkness and the electricity in the air slowly dissolve, to smell the moisture in the air, and bid farewell to the receding maelstrom.*
At the High, I smiled at Alexander Calder, 20 years before I ever looked up in the PMA gallery and met his Ghost.
At the High, I had a conversation with Howard Finster about God. Finster was a little kooky. Finster was a lot expressive. Finster was Southern. Finster loved God, and I loved Finster. I loved him so much, I introduced him to my Modern Art History professor in college, who had never met him before, never having been exposed to the glories of Southern Eccentricity.
At the High, I was introduced to a Lady in Black Velvet: Mrs. Eulabee Dix Becker; as a girl, I wondered what it was like to wear such rich clothes, to be so stately and elegant. As a young woman, I wondered what she was thinking, and if she was happy, and if her heart was whole or broken.
At the High, I learned that a woman's writing desk in the 19th century was like a rocketship that could take you to distant places, to travel the globe in a friendly salutation, or even skip through time, like Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters, disappearing into flights of fancy. A writing desk was where a woman was allowed to think, and it was a sacred place.

At the High, Sol LeWitt taught me about the color palette. Long before I ever knew what conceptual painting was, I learned red, blue, orange.*
A museum isn't just a repository for artwork. It's a building full of connections waiting, striving, yearning to be made. It's a storehouse of realizations and epiphanies, of humanity and deity, of presence and meaning.

At the High, I learned not just to look, but to see.

* Mercury statue, Inness painting, and LeWitt lithograph are not replicas of the actual pieces in the High Collection, or seen as visiting exhibits at the High. Lacking the actual artwork, I used something similar to the pieces referenced.
Images: High Museum of Art, Atlanta, No-Tin by Henry Inman, Race Horses in a Field by Edgar Degas, Mercurio by Giambologna, Campbell's Soup Cans by Andy Warhol, David by Verrochio, Whistler's Mother or Portrait of the Artist's Mother by James McNeill Whistler, Gathering Storm by George Inness, Three Up, Three Down, by Alexander Calder, Angel by Howard Finster, Lady in Black Velvet (Mrs. Eulabee Dix Becker by Robert Henri, Untitled Lithograph by Sol DeWitt.