Sunday, December 20, 2009

poetic licence

pardon me for a moment of exuberance...

today i feel
like an acupuncturist
to the world

[grandiose, i know]

to palpate pulses
and diagnose

to needle separate points
and feel global flow

to minus nonplussed-ness
[yes, much of a muchness]

to be everywhere
while staying at home

Saturday, December 19, 2009


here's a provisional copy of the logo i've been working on for our 'secret' soil product.

what do you think? does it read? can you get an idea of what it does just by looking at the graphic? does it need anything? can it be simpler?

any comments/criticisms welcome.

snow and other things falling from the sky

winter has arrived a few days before the calendar officially dictates. yes, snow! cold, crunchy, drier than rain and maybe slightly more preferable...above is a photo of norwich snipped from bbc norfolk.

[just noticed that i caught my cursor in the screen shot---the finger of god!! it has always interested me that the word 'cursor' comes from the latin word for 'something/one that runs'; wikipedia agrees. why do you think that computer use is never relaxing? we're the actual cursors trying very hard to follow a virtual one, which has the advantage of being able to run at the speed of light!]

for the past week, on bbc radio 4, a surprisingly poignant book was read for their 'book of the week' broadcast. [unfortunately, i don't think that americans can access the bbc iplayer] 'dear granny smith' by roy mayall, a pen name punning on 'royal mail', was written by a mailman, who are called 'posties' here. 'granny smith' is the slang nickname that 'posties' give to their archetypal customers, like you and me, but especially to the socio-economically marginalized older women, for whom the postal service is a lifeline. [a bit like 'john or jane q. public' in america] the author writes as a worker on the receiving end of managerial policies of 'modernization', 'flexibility', 'change', 'efficiency' and all the rest of late-capitalist-business-school-speak. in other words: different ways to squeeze more work out of fewer, less secure, more disgruntled employees for less money---the way of all jobs on the bottom of the totem pole.

why poignant? as i listened to the readings, i felt moved by the heart and mind of a philosopher! that is to say, in writing intelligently about the economic dynamics in play which are changing the royal mail for the worse from the perspective of the worker as well as the customer, roy mayall says something very valuable about the state of the world as a whole. by touching a quite specific node of experience incisively, he reflects the big picture and raises big questions in a meaningful manner---a function usually reserved for literature or poetry.

in other words, the royal mail illustrates the template of what is happening to companies within our broader 'globalized', privatized, corporate economy; and we are all 'granny smith'. in a london review of books blog post, roy mayall recounts a meeting between royal mail management and staff: after hearing about new policies which would adversely affect service, an old-time postie asked management, 'what about granny smith?'

the reply? 'granny smith isn't important...granny smith doesn't matter anymore...' and we are all granny smith...

Monday, December 14, 2009

norwich graffiti

courtesy of the west pottergate underpass, where i access downtown from my city half of the week.

as you can see, wild-style is live and well...i'm glad that the artists choose not to defile the historic buildings...instead they mark out the marginal and decorate it, brighten it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

putting the 'i' and the 'image' in 'imagination'

this theme keeps creeping into my consciousness through different cracks: meditations, thoughts, books, articles, probably influencing each other...

rudolf steiner, in his meditation manual, 'start now', places great emphasis on 'imagination', but not in the way currently used. he means it as an act of will, not the 'will o' the wisp' opposite we usually mean, as in, whatever-comes-into-your-head. rather, steiner's version is to conjure a stable image in your inner visual field and to do so long enough so that the object can be manipulated in that space, as if it were a physical thing in your hand. another route he suggests is to picture something symbolically meaningful to the spiritual quest, like a seed, which can then 'grow' or 'blossom' along with the soul that is doing the picturing!

in meditation, i've tried the latter with some success. my gut feeling about this exercise is that being able to conjure [pun intended] images within can directly lead to clarity of vision about one's life---that this is the initial step of 'reality creation' in the outside world. creative visualization works in this way. never before have i equated my inability to picture things with my inability to direct my life! i can now look back at the ancient belief that images and art were magic....because they ARE! or can be...if one keeps at it...right now i'm working with my inner acorn...hopefully, one day to sprout and to grow into my inner oak ;-)

another suggested exercise from steiner is the 'backward review'; simply to picture the significant events of your day, from the most recent, back in time---to rewind the day in order to reinforce the lessons learned and to notice where improvements can be made in the future. we do it in all learning situations: classes. we do it in prose, and call it a 'conclusion'. why not in everyday life, the ultimate school?

lastly, in his 'essential exercises', steiner tells us of the importance of initiating some type of action each day, no matter how trivial. the small act of will builds the capacity for greater ones. my miniscule will muscles are getting sore...

speaking of arresting images...i was browsing the new york times and found that there's an exhibition in nyc of jung's famous 'red book', his personal illuminated manuscript. a review is here. i snipped some images from the article:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

misty day in cambridge

summer and i were going to go to the beach yesterday, but as we entered the train station, we saw that the route was delayed by construction. what to do? next down the schedule was a train to cambridge----leaving in 3 minutes! off we ran down the platform...

we arrived in a literal fog...a thick, chilly mist...would we even see the town? quickly we oriented ourselves, with the aid of, or in spite of, a tourist map. my eye was caught by posters for an exhibition of lithographs by odlin redon, an artist i don't know that well, but whose work has appealed to me since my art school days. the admission was free at the fitzwilliam museum and a fine [art] excuse to get out of the cold.

the cityscape was itself impressionistic, due to the mist----thick on atmosphere, literally. i seized some photographic moments:

the digital camera interpreted the fog as a purple haze [cue hendrix].

some fine [art] moments in the fitzwilliam's sculpture park:

summer with an extra hand waving...

like many student towns, cambridge harbored seas of bikes which i thought were particularly interesting visually---more like a scene from a city in china:

album cover out-takes

...especially for jay....with even more heavy metal fire!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


no, haven't joined a terrorist organization...just another day partaking in allotment culture...

as a note: this is an aspect of british culture that hasn't made it to america at all and might seem incomprehensible if judged through american lenses. allotments are public garden plots which are available to anyone for a very low cost per year. these days there are 2-year waiting lists for an allotment, due to the popularity of 'growing your own'/d.i.y. but this clouds over the core of british culture that is quite independent of trend. at heart, according to my pet theory, england's official religion has nothing to do with the church of england----rather, it's nature herself! gardening is the main ritual. others would include birding and walking the landscape.

allotments provide the worshiping ground. social events often take place there: parties, meetings. there are temples on these holy grounds, called sheds. every allotment has one to store tools and practical items, but also are places of sanctuary [from the elements, annoying family members, etc.] some are surprisingly outfitted with conveniences like stoves, kettles for tea and even fridges powered by gas. i've heard it rumored that some even have basements dug beneath them!

this past weekend, i attended an allotment party with about 8 others. we convened to help with the hostess's winter gardening activities: digging compost into the soil, constructing a poly-tunnel [so that plants can be protected from frost], digging of new beds, clearing last year's growth, etc. in return we, the guests, partook of fresh soup, bread, cake, song and bonhomie. i'm not much of a gardener and i was skeptical when summer invited me; digging in the cold wetness wasn't my idea of fun, but i'm proud to say that i had a great time. i grew beyond my childhood associations that gardening equals tedious yard work---a punishment.

so, today, when james suggested that we clear the unwanted overgrown phalanx of blackberry bramble from his new, unworked allotment, i didn't think very hard about it. off we went. at the outset the task seemed daunting. after a time, however, we found a rhythm and a method: surgical trimming with small handheld clippers in order to expose main stems which were then chopped with a hatchet. a healthy bonfire would then consume all brush waste...and then some. notice me, donning the farmer's look complete with overalls and 'wellies', kicking apart pieces of the old shed to fuel the flames with the wood...

...a satisfying day in flow...clearing the land for future growth...with some 12-year-old-boy destruction thrown in! [always important]

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

i'm on skype now

i've joined the coming of age millennial 'naughties' just in time for the end of the era ;-)

yes, i'm on skype now...the cool, hip way to undermine the phone companies ;-) in essence i can talk to you via the internet for a scandalously low price per minute. my skype name is similar to my real name with a dot between my first and last name---look me up...hook me up....if i'm in front of my computer and it happens to be on, i'll even answer, probably...


Friday, December 4, 2009

keech banjulele [sic]

last week, i took a trip out to the breezy, pancake-flat, norfolk countryside to the rambling farmhouse of an antiques dealer. i returned the proud owner of a keech banjulele. keech was the inventor's last name. he apparently was a hawaiian who relocated to london [nice move, eh?] banjulele was his portmanteau word for banjo+ukulele--a ukulele that resonates on a stretched head. it's designed to be as loud as possible for its small size, a function it serves brilliantly!

judging by some minor googling around on the internet, the instrument dates from between the 19-teens and the 20's. [it's about as old as my grandmother...and built just as well!!] the original gut strings are still on it, minus one!! [though it was strung incorrectly] the case is a time capsule: old gut string wrappers, 'the wright way' ukulele method book [very thorough], tuning key that oddly does not fit the lugs to tune the calfskin head, and a 'hawaiian plec-strum'. here's a picture:

a leaflet in my time capsule case states that the hawaiian plec-strum [a play on 'plectrum'] was made by violin makers to 'enable the ukulele player to perform with the correct arpeggio accompaniment', that is, sounding the notes separately and not at the same time. it took me a few minutes to figure out how to use it: you put your fingers through it like brass knuckles [not that i'd know] with the wood bar towards your palm, felt picks towards the strings. [felt is a typical pick material for ukes---firm and gentle at the same time]

it works brilliantly! i wonder if these, or something like it, are still made? if not, maybe i have another job ;-) the leaflet concludes, in run-on style:

'it has taken twelve months of experiment to make the invention correct, and in the form it is now made, it will be found to do all that is claimed, and to be a well made and finished article that will last for years.'

...and it has!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

beginner's mind

week 4 of taiko...

last night during taiko i experienced a typical phase of the learning process, though it's not usually recognized as such---frustration!!! wanting to quit and go home!!

laughed as i thought back to how confident i entered the class [only 4 weeks ago] and realized how easy it is to feel the sudden surge in confidence when you perform the initial basics of an activity well; you're at, or close to a 100% performance level! you're an expert of a very small world! congratulations! you won't feel that way again for a very long there is something to the circular pop-zen notion of the black belt being worked until white once again...

beginner's mind...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

voice project

i convinced james to join me in singing with a community-based choir called 'the voice project'. capably and enthusiastically led by jonathan and sian, we're rehearsing for a show in 2 weeks. all the music is taught orally in 5 parts---bass, tenor, alto 1 and 2, soprano---broken down into phrases and gradually woven together, part by part. johnathan and sian are both rich sources of vocal tips, as if they were playing the 'instrument' of the choir, sculpting the sound.

so far, there has been a curious absence of the typical dysfunctional 'i-whip-and-you-take-it-smiling' relationship between the director[s] and the members. i've wondered about the reasons why and it seems that it comes down to the philosophy of the group. a community choir serves its members, hence serving the community---emphasis on 'serve' as as verb. it's a project of teaching and learning not separated from the world. it's embodied, with a need for the anxiety of wondering about place in the world to well up into other manifestations, like put-downs or backbiting!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

what the stones mean to me now

some of you remember the string of synchronicities right before i left for this trip: that i was to 'follow the stones'...the stones actually followed me at that time! on the same day, rachel, my roommate then, gave me a stone as a farewell gift, as did a client of mine whom i hadn't seen for 6 months. deanna organized a bon voyage party in which i received a sac of stones/runes contributed by 4 separate people. james then started planning a trip to carnac! none of these people knew what the others were doing [if they even knew each other in the first place] nor did i ask for anything in particular, stones included!

two months into my trip, the one-third mark, how do i interpret the stones? a chunk of my interpretation is under the influence of thomas moore [mentioned in an earlier post] whose books, 'care of the soul' and 'life at work' i've recently enjoyed, as well as robert sardello's 'facing the world with soul' which was included in moore's bibliography. i'd love to quote the whole sardello book here and claim i wrote it, but that would be illegal; so, i'll give you this meaty, stony excerpt from pages 62-3, where he quotes from an alchemical text, the 'gloria mundi' and then comments on it:

'the stone is familiar to all men, both young and old; it is found in the country, in the village and in the town, in all things created; yet it is despised by all. rich and poor handle it every day. it is cast into the street by servant maids. children play with it. yet no one prized it, though it is the most beautiful and precious thing on earth and has the power to pull down kings and princesses. nevertheless, it is esteemed the vilest and meanest of terrestrial things.' i dare say, this stone is the soul of the world. how impotent and insignificant it seems. the purpose of learning through soul concerns the intensification of what is actually present, which comes about when individual soul conjoins with world soul.

yeah...what he said!

to close, i'll add a literal dimension of the 'follow the stones' directive: james and i are working on a product, codename 'geo-grow'. we'll be taking a quarry product, fines or stone dust, and repackaging it as a soil re-mineralizer [which it surprisingly does with the help of earthworms and soil microorganisms]! usually the fines get paved into roads, rather anticlimactically. the idea to use crushed stone in the soil is far from new. farmers 100 years ago referred to 'stone flour'. but the zeit is right, right now! but, shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh....don't tell anyone...........................yet................................

Thursday, November 19, 2009

party in a foreign tongue

went with summer to a very fun birthday party with many performers, actor, artists...needless to say there were songs, dances, drawings and games! there were at least 4 ukuleles there; i strummed a pink glittery one for a time. one game in particular was much more fun than i'd anticipated [or was it the company?] called the 'hat game' by the hostess:

break into teams. each person rips a piece of paper into 3 equal slices and writes the name of a well-known character, living or dead, real or unreal from the common culture of music, tv, film, literature, politics, cartoons, art, etc. [we banned 'sports' as a category!] the names then go into a hat. first round: each team has one minute to guess as many as possible from one person giving verbal clues. round ends when hat is empty. clue-giver rotates for the group's next turn. calculate points. second round: similar to first, except that the clues given by the giver are limited to two words. third round: clues are silent mime!

very fun! especially the mime round! it became a memory game of references to mistakes and misunderstandings made by all groups---whatever was most memorable. the shared vocabulary was created right before your long as your group knew what you were talking about, it didn't matter if the clue had much to do with the name on the paper.

then we performed a song that every subject of the crown knows, 'my old man's a dustman'...see/hear video of a famous version by lonnie donegan, the skiffle king. i included the chorus lyrics below. 'cor blimey' is an expression of surprise, a corruption of 'god, blind me'...and proper narner or 'nana is short for 'banana'...i had no idea what the words were while trying to sing them.

Oh, my old man's a dustman
He wears a dustman's hat
He wears cor blimey trousers
And he lives in a council flat
He looks a proper narner
In his great big hob nailed boots
He's got such a job to pull em up
That he calls them daisy roots

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

a lovely, timely meditation

...from rudolf steiner's 'start now' book:

i know
i will find myself
because i will seek myself
in the world's soul
in the world's spirit
in the world's divinity

i've been working with this verse in conjunction with an initial breathing awareness prelude. on the inhale i think, 'in with universe', on the exhale, i think, 'out into universe'...yes, i'm seeking to feel connected to the bigger picture, to be an integral part of the larger world---a great challenge for me!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


slaughtering sacred cows and grilling sacred steak...

as an american, i've found the differences in environmental consciousness [or is it just marketing/behavior control?] between england/europe and america a study in contrasts, indeed! one facet in particular interests me: namely, everyday individual actions and my own assumptions about my beliefs.

for instance: my daily life in america before i left had little regard for any environmental ramifications of my actions, as did my culture, even in politically bluest boston. and i thought i was somewhat progressive, or at least sympathetic to the cause. yeah, there was a rush of self-righteous pride from refusing a plastic bag at the store---when i could actually plan a shopping trip and remember a reusable sack! small sack of potatoes... i drove a lincoln town car [filled with relatively cheap gas] for crissakes! why? because i like to hear the earth scream? because i'm callous? uninformed? no.

my whole point in wasting energy powering [your] pixels here is that my behaviors have little to do with convictions/beliefs but rather with simple/stupid effects of logistics, or, to make a pun, environment, as in surroundings...[by the way, an interesting article in the economist makes the case that computer use worldwide contributes just as much carbon to the atmosphere as the entire aviation industry! click here to read. and gaia help those who clatter away on their laptops during a flight ;-)

but now, i'm a totally different person! i've been transformed into a model marching member of the green army! i bike to the store with my eco-jute bags...i buy local and organic when available, which is most of the time...when i don't bike, i walk...when i don't walk, i ride the bus or train...when any of these options don't exist, i don't go...i use energy efficient are double and triple water is heated as needed...i wash dishes in tubs...i shave in a basin sink...recycle everything...compost all kitchen scraps...dry clothes on the line, weather out of the garden...pick berries from hedgerows...pick various and sundry objects out of dumpsters....heck, i'm even developing an environmentally friendly product with james...

so, what happened to me? captured and reprogrammed? joined the green party? no...i moved to england! gas is about $7-$8/gallon...the state wields considerable power in people's lives [knicknamed the 'nanny state' here]...i don't/can't own a car...however, the infrastructure exists to provide fact, i'll soundbyte my point: it's the infrastructure, stupid!!! a true freemarket wag could say, 'if you really want to change the world, vote with your citizenship as if it were a consumer product---move out of countries without ecologically supportive infrastructure [if you value that type of thing, of course]. don't support them...ahhhhh, imagine if we had that much freedom as individuals? that would be real globalization...not the monkey-business-as-usual that is sold to us as such...

yes...individuals can't make an infrastructure [try even making a pencil from scratch], but governments and big businesses can...though, can individuals effectively steer governments and big businesses? mmm...i wonder...

even if still divided by a common language, england and america seem to cross-pollinate culture with each other in our reciprocal laboratories. if this is true, my fellow americans, be prepared for an unglamorous, pared-down lifestyle---not to be hip, but because you'll have to...though you might learn to like it just the might even be a better way to live regardless of the climate change debate...

it's not bad...really...


Saturday, November 14, 2009

taiko drumming

if anyone had asked me when i was 8 years old what my ultimate fantasy was, and if i'd had sufficient cultural knowledge of the world [which i did not] i would've blurted out, 'taiko drumming!!!' that eight-year-old isn't far from the surface; so i jumped at the chance to go to a class!

big drums! big sound! sweeping gestures...drumming as martial art...physically demanding...led by a sharp warrior woman, named alice...the warmups took me back to the jujitsu dojo i attended briefly as a preteen: full stretches, pushups, situps, demanding poses, squats----a recipe for a very healthy body, if you don't get hurt...and if you keep doing them...

our warrior-in-chief did a great job showing us where the power needed to come from: the whole body, starting with a supportive stance [seen in photo] and radiating through the 'core', lower abdomen, center, hara----take your pick---to your upper body. in other words, not just with your arms or hands.

i was experiencing 'zen'-type moments, where my whole body was unified with itself and with the center of the drum. yes, chime in, 'aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh daniel-san.........become the target..........' i did. i forgot the need to 'be a drummer', to be flashy and fancy...very liberating!

for the past 3 days i've been as sore as i can remember being after the start of high school wrestling season...but i think i'll be back next week, taiko drumming!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

summer in november

yesterday was a rambling day on foot, instigated by a new friend, named summer...she earns her name with her warm enthusiasm...

got the call at 11:45, "do you want to go to the beach at noon?" a rare, clear sunny day made up my mind for me. already i had done a loop around the overgrown, moody norwich city cemetery nearby. fifteen minutes later, we were off, straight across the city, to the train station; 1.7 miles according to google maps.

we seemed to walk right on a train which then seemed to immediately leave, sending the picturesque norfolk countryside whizzing past. shortly, we appeared in cromer.

then, .5 miles to the beach from the train station. we descended the switchback ramps down the cliff to the beach and walked southeast till we were half as tired as we thought we should be in order to make the return trip. on the way, flint chunks made for fun stacking columns across the low tide sand flats! we even saw three lads, probably on a dare, run and dive into the water in their boxers! the air was 45-degrees. the water was most likely less. summer said that jumping in the ocean is a british tradition on boxing day [the day after x-mas]...i guess they were training for december 26th.

cromer didn't seem to exhibit that sad, seaside decay that seems to be a specialty of old shore towns, particularly in america, more particularly, in new jersey. in other words, the town had a life and identity outside of the summer hordes. plenty of people were out and about; shops were open, families were crabbing off the pier, dogs barking and running up and down the beach. i was cynically thinking that this was because of the slight difference between the british climate in july and november.

after repeating the above in reverse order, we decided that a film was in order. at the library we chose a film neither of us knew, wim wenders' 'the american friend'...perhaps in keeping with the spontaneous meaningfulness of the day...what a bizarre noir movie! like a dream....or was that the 10-plus mile day on foot talking?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

snuffing the candle at both ends

it's only november and the sun sets at about 4:30! yikes! it'll be 3:30 by the time solstice arrives...nothing else to do but write a poem about it:

sun rising late
sun setting soon
candle being
snuffed at both ends

so, this is
how the year ends...
the attitude
of 52-degrees latitude

shivering winter
arms akimbo
will greet march
with open arms

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


last night at norwich arts center---another church converted to cultural pursuits---we saw/heard a fantastic welsh band, mabon! self-described as 'original inter-celtic', they are led by the main songwriter, jamie smith---a tunesmith, indeed, with fiery fingers effortlessly gliding up and down the accordion! so young, so talented...and he's only been playing the accordion seriously for 9 years! his playing seems to belie the 10yrs./10,000hr. rule of mastery.

if that weren't enough, the entire band was just as accomplished, especially jamie's wife, grainne, on fiddle; she did everything he did, but with a bow---quietly virtuosic. calum stewart, the scotsman of the group, joined in the quiet virtuosity on flute and pipes. even more warming was the fact that the original band was started by jamie's dad, who still plays a mean rhythm guitar with them. the rhythm section was playful, tasteful, tight and with welcome funky outbursts.

as an outro, i'll let the video speak for itself...

Sunday, November 1, 2009


united against a
battleship-gray sky
british chimneys stand.

dry-docked oceanliners,
wet with sea spray--
battleships in port

home from empire,
empire is now home.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

landing again and norwich market

i'm safe and resituated at james' brother's place. closer into town, more urban, less suburban; so i've been getting the medieval city experience: on foot everywhere, market shopping, rubbing elbows, cobblestones, flint walls and churches, two pubs round the corner, baby crying through the wall...i've bought a computer, on which i type as we speak, from a friend of juliette's who happened to be moving/downsizing her life---good timing!

more about norwich market: official link here...

about 190 stalls set out in a grid in the middle of a square...everything you could think of buying: hardware, tools, clothes, food [prepared and otherwise], produce, meat, fish, veg, books, things ethnic, etc...

it really hit home to me just how much we pay for convenience at a supermarket [in every way]! what alerted me to this thought was the lack of having-been-hit-over-the-head [by stimuli as well as price] sensation i usually get in, and on the way out of, supermarkets. yes, there's quite a bit of stimulation in a tightly-packed marketplace, but it doesn't make me dizzy like the huge box-stores. the difference? i suppose no pulsating lights over head and a much smaller, more intimate [human] scale. also, concerning price: when you walk into a supermarket, you enter a monolith and a store [competing against itself]....and if you don't like the prices or products you, uh, drive really far to the next one, since so much land is needed to build on such a scale. but, in a marketplace, you enter multiplicity and directness, which, economically speaking, foster competition and hence, lower prices or just a short stroll to the next merchant...

simply, there's no hiding...there's accountability, an actual person to interface with---to direct feedback to, both good and bad...customer and proprietor quickly evolve together in this short feedback loop...yes, large corporations take customer comments/suggestions but with their allegiances divided between customers and shareholders...customers are everything to a small merchant. the larger a company gets, the more leverage it has in every way and can impose its will as monoliths are wont to do, from the top down. a merchant getting power-hungry will probably find himself lonely, alienated and unsuccessful...

think: if we're trying to run our lives like corporations---taking cues from our economic surroundings...could this be more of a reason for widespread loneliness and alienation then the abstract hobbyhorses usually given [e.g. corrosion of family values---which could really be caused by behaving large companies in our personal lives]?

no, market life isn't for everyone in all locations! the geography might not allow for it [vast distances to travel]...the sociology [no one at home to take the time to shop, plan and prepare meals]...whew! i do bang on, don't i? ;-)

serenading jesus

something i actually did, in the form of a poem:

i serenaded jesus
in a small chapel
in a large cathedral

'jesu, joy of man's desiring'
was the tune
on a ukulele

played by a man's son
to the son of man

on a portico
two stone angels accompanied me
one on flute, one on lute

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

tits up and pear-shaped

two british-isms for things going wrong

most people, if asked, would've said that this moment was inevitable...

last saturday juliette, james' girlfriend, expressed that she didn't want to share her space with me; not for 6 months, at any rate----that she wanted to go back to the way her life was before i arrived [which is not possible even if i left tomorrow]...

so...basically i'm seeking a place to live for 4 nights/week, during the times when juliette returns to norwich. james' brother has offered his place till december 1st, when he gets an official lodger. i'm taking him up on it! but then what? i've been reflecting pretty hard about what has come up for me...and not really getting anywhere, honestly...

why has having a home been such a constant struggle? either sold out, priced out or kicked thomas moore reading has influenced me towards an archetypal reading of my situation: i have no home, and attract such treatment through a combustible mixture of being poor and not knowing myself... in a 'new age' way, these two share the same root. having a home is having a place is having a self. i can accept this: i haven't paid into life enough to join it and reap the, not necessarily material, bounty. and not knowing myself means that others can't either. what do i tell them? what's my literal and figurative story? now, i can really see this dynamic! there's nothing people despise/fear more than the unknown, whether it's projected onto death or foreigners.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

trekking round the broads

two buses in, two back out to and from this coup of a day i had today---coup, as in 'personal victory' of actually accomplishing something i had thought i'd like to do. the weather cooperated almost supernaturally: lots of sun, a few sprinkles when i reached the bus stop to leave. on the broads themselves [not being sexist here---broads are flat marshlands] the wind was cranked up to a steady pre-nasty-thunderstorm level [however many mph's that might be].

too bad i forgot my, you'll have to settle for maps instead....
how weird it was to arrive for my first bus connection 30 mins. before i left the house! unbeknownst to me, daylight savings time ended today...

if i had an image editing program, i'd draw a line from the 'a' flag on the map, which represents about where i started my walk in the town of acle, up to the fork in the river just below where it says 'thurne'; hugging the river most of the way. about 8mi. total.

portrait of the landscape: netherland-like flatness, swaying reeds, windmills, a breugel drawing come to life, sailboats and motorboats sticking up two fingers at the wind, cows, bulls, horses, blackberries, moors, clouds, dogs with their walkers, mud, grass...aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh....
it being a sunday in england, i had to end my hike with a huge platter of traditional sunday roast in a local pub....aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh...
i got blisters on my toes!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

what do you think it means?

into downtown for various commercial purposes for an hour or so then back out....

or so i thought...looking up from my current reading, thomas moore's 'a life at work---the joy of discovering what you were born to do', i noticed that i had no idea where i was [in my physical plane coordinates as well as soul] ! then i found out i was heading to norwich airport instead of sprowston, where i'm staying! i really wish to go to the airport [as in leave]? do more wandering [is that even possible]? or is the message: get your nose out of a book and into real life?

comments encouraged...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


yesterday, we trained back and forth to london to see this inspiring documentary about a mad-scientist sound-artist, composer, sculptor, all-round renaissance man named trimpin:

can't say any more than that....maybe except for the faded memory of my postmodern art school days when, in my video classes, i remember being told that, 'video is the language of the future'. i think technology, from pocket-sized cameras to youtube, has caught up with that statement and made it true. after all, i've just illustrated the point: i had an experience that i don't know enough about to explain, but i can show a piece of my experience to you via this video...picture worth 1000 much is a video worth?

egyptian drumming workshop

this past weekend i attended an egyptian drumming workshop with famed doumbek [though he called a 'tabla' throughout] player, E. Meniawy. i don't really play the doumbek proper [or even properly], but wanted to gain some insight into different hand-drumming techniques---which i did, i think.

it's interesting to learn just by watching and imitating, with very little linguistic intellectualizing; a result of a language barrier. his masterful gestures urged us to let go, be very relaxed, with rubbery hands and whip the fingers rather than flex and press into the head. though, a passage from the tao te ching passed through my mind: 'when a beginner fools with the tools of a master, he/she gets hurt'...i believe i understood the kernel of truth of this line, especially as it pertains to teaching a musical instrument: a good player makes playing look much easier than it really is; and that the technique s/he arrived at has evolved to finer levels over time...having started from a much coarser place that isn't evident because the master isn't a beginner anymore. i think this is where the concept of beginner's mind enters as it pertains to teaching.

an example witnessed at the workshop, in myself and others: the excited drumming student hears the loud, crisp sounds of the teacher's playing and wants to mimic them. so, lacking technique, the student uses strength to affect the desired sounds...thus performing a very inefficient gesture that will basically injure the player fairly soon. if the teacher isn't attentive, the student has just learned how to hurt his/herself and will probably not continue playing due to injury/frustration.

i'm pretty sensitive to matters pertaining to teaching a physical craft, having taught massage for a number of years. on top of that, i've suffered a self-induced movement disorder for the past 9 years---focal dystonia. all the lessons being presented to me are unanimous: RELAAAAAAAAAAX!!!!!!!! DON'T HURT YOURSEEEEEEELF!!!!!

i was interviewed, at the workshop, by a person from future radio, the local norwich station! i asked her for audio and if i receive it, i'll post it. photos courtesy of azza, the organizer of the event and owner of the sahara house.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

wondering about wandering and childhood

****attention! poorly-worded, cerebral, egg-head musings alert!!!

i'm at the stage where my map knowledge, visual knowledge and memory of norwich's streets all do not quite coincide; so it's a bit dream-like to wander act of intuition rather than logic or planning. don't get me wrong, i do get around with intent...just not always in the way i wanted to...'oh, i'm here...'

anecdotally, i've found, in my wanderings through various medieval downtowns [norwich included], that there is a peasant roundness about the streets...and that, eventually, all roads lead to the center, whether it is geometrical, spiritual [cathedral], or social/commercial [market/square]. things are where you'd think---if you're thinking like a medieval city dweller...

so, here i'll risk a second adolescence and share my 'deep' inner thoughts. i scrape away some navel lint:

during a wander i came upon a place i remember not knowing from when i first arrived in norwich one month ago; before i even had a container, a context to put it in. here was a space that had yet to be formulated/represented in my mind and connected to other spaces that were already formed within.

then...i really felt that i was experiencing spatially what we all face temporally in trying to describe, re-live, make sense out of our distant pasts [childhoods]---within the same lifetime and even across life times, if you believe in reincarnation. the 'container' could, in this case, be called language with the 'spaces' and 'streets' being synaptic connections between neurons in the brain.

in the same vein, i thought of trauma victims being presented with difficulties that couldn't all be processed/understood in that moment [or even across multiple moments], thus creating a 'remainder' or overflow of free-floating experiences/memories which couldn't be understood [like a mental free-radical]; that didn't 'connect' literally, with other mental schema which would make them more 'processed' or more easily assimilated into the system [digestive-system style]...perhaps even becoming a 'not me' foreign invader that needed to be attacked [immune-system style]...

in sum, really i was reflecting on what happens when we're given any kind of experience before we are able to understand it, or even have the tools with which to do so...that's all...sorry! this chain of thoughts was much better in my head-----where it probably should've remained...

Friday, October 16, 2009

rory mcleod

courtesy of juliette's car, last night we made the 2hr. trip into london [camden town] to see rory mc leod:

even though i'd had a headache all day which continued through the night, i'm very glad we not only went, but stayed for two can get an idea of his general musicianship from the video: impossible harmonica playing, driving stomping rhythm with foot and guitar, spoons on the leg, sensitive lyrics, meandering stories and a very, almost zen, gentleness.

his way of dealing with a quite inconsiderate group at the bar was subtle; so much so that they missed the point, drunkard was actually holding up the start of the second set. she repeatedly wanted to give rory a pair of spoons to which he replied, 'nah, that's alright, plenty at hang onto 'em and get better...' without any malice or sarcasm...very poetic [for me, obviously]...

then...james had been storing a found door---like he does--- at his dad's house a couple of miles from the venue; so after leaving rory with a thank you wink and a 'goodbye' [had to pass him on the way out] we drove to james' dads', tied the door to the roof rack and james continued the long haul drive back to norwich. in at 3am.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

tea chest bass

this week has been dedicated to scavenging the materials for and constructing a proppa tea chest bass for james. you see, we're working up a set of swingin' tunes for busking: in norwich's medieval downtown, empty churches and hopefully a nursing home or two [what high aspirations, eh?] after practicing with me on tenor ukulele and james on vocals and artful kazooing, we decided some fleshing out of the sound was necessary---hence, the bass.

tea chest? americans wouldn't really call it a chest; more like a crate or simply a wooden box in which tea used to arrive from distant points of the empire. thought of as a commonplace item in england, a bona fide tea chest eluded us. however, our eyes were open enough to seize some fine-looking plywood at the local dump!
well, one side was fine...the other had hideous fuzzy wallpaper [stuff that was old when i was young] stuck to it. not a problem to remove after a good scoring and soaking. another score from the dump proved the structural corners. add in some hardware [string, clamps, screws, glue, sandpaper, stain, steel corners], a broom handle and a number of hours wondering how to make it, and you get something like:
[photo coming]
we even called, according to one blog, 'the grandaddy of musical invention' himself, bart hopkin, for advice, which he so graciously gave. i found myself grateful and giddy---almost fan-like---after hanging up. inspired. definitely check him out, soundies...especially this well produced video of him making and playing a driftwood xylophone!
oh, the bass? it sounds excellent! very deep and tonal...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

jimmy juice

as i've said in a previous post, james has been on an all-liquid fruit and vegetable juice diet---supplementing with bee pollen, tinctures of cayenne and hawthorn, spirulina and acidophilus---for the past month. he intends to continue for two more months.

why? to fight chronic fatigue syndrome, aka, myalgic encephalomyelitis in britain. 'me' has made the news recently, having been linked with a virus.

the photo above represents an entire day's worth of nutrition: about 10 pounds of fruit and vegetables. [yes, an expensive proposition] then, all is chopped up and fed into the juicer [the same kind as jay and mel have]. realize that he's been hauling around either the juicer, in the case of carnac, or multiple liter bottles of juice, most days!

then poured through a strainer into containers which hold a meal-serving. [5 liter servings/day]'s a closer look at the chlorophyll goodness:

it provokes wonder in me that chlorophyll and hemoglobin are like yin and yang of each other---similar consistency; opposite in color; opposite in function: transporting co2 and o2 in opposite directions; one is plant, one is animal

voila! cheers, mate to the green moustache! james wanted the caption to this photo to be 'got calcium?' in reference to the fact that we've been conditioned by the dairy industry that calcium equals milk or cheese; meanwhile, your average leafy green contains far more, and far more bioavailable [more able to be absorbed by the body], calcium---amongst many other nutrients:

Friday, October 9, 2009

sick...finally...'s finally happened. getting the first one over with... i've been in for two days with a cold. maybe it was all of that juggling and hula-hooping? maybe that pint of greene king ipa i imbibed after being so excited about circus matters? maybe just a clash in a dark alley between my immune system and some thug microbes who didn't like my kind...

echinacea, cayenne tincture, vitamin c fizzy tablets, nettles tea, ginger and lemon tea: all kindly provided by james and juliette. hopefully i don't return the favor to them, by getting them sick!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

norwich circus night

how ironic it is that i'm spending yet more time than ever in churches---all it has taken is living in a place of little faith...

but this week's excuse to be in a church is perhaps the most cunning: circus night!!!

i found them on myspace. gather together each wednesday and work on your circus skills: juggling, hoola-hooping, unicycling, stilt-walking, etc. [sometimes more than one at a time] secretly i've been wishing for a group of this nature, heck, a school system of this nature! how much better off would we be if we learned circus skills as children? [well, you know my totally biased answer]...actually i should ask the kid in the group; he's about 12...and seemingly a fine nice it was, even for a mediocre juggler, for me to have something to teach!

i look forward to next week!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

'singing' with the norfolk gallery quire [sic]

all day saturday, culminating in an evening concert, i 'sang' with the raucus norfolk gallery quire [pictured from their website:

the music, i was told, was an english parent to shape note singing in america. four parts sung pretty much as loudly as one can. robust! very fun! [that's why the victorians told them to stop, according to music director, chris gutteridge] like becoming a pipe organ with 15 other people---recommended! i really thought of my friend hugh a lot...

the program was named 'church going' after the philip larkin poem, whose last stanza i'll include:

A serious house on serious earth it is, In whose blent air all our compulsions meet, Are recognised, and robed as destinies. And that much never can be obsolete, Since someone will forever be surprising A hunger in himself to be more serious, And gravitating with it to this ground, Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in, If only that so many dead lie round.

an earlier stanza wonders what churches will become after no one worships in them---a present problem in england. the present answer is for curches to become cafes, museums and music venues. norwich, with the highest concentration of stone churches in europe also has a high concentration of...cafes, museums and music venues!


Monday, October 5, 2009

carnac---part III....inside the dolmens and tumuluses

stop. what's that on the side of the road? a wonderful group of two dolmens and a tumulus! the dolmens de mane-kerioned. [gradually i'm learning that the greatest satisfaction lies in discovering sites for one's self, off-piste.] the interior of the tumulus sports some interesting engravings which look like chalk drawings but aren't. it seems that the carved channels in the rock attracted some type of fungus over the course of 5,000 years. amazingly, i was able to capture them convincingly with the digital camera. flash in the dark.

let's set the exterior scene----here's the smaller dolmen of the two:

the larger of the two:

here are engravings inside the tumulus. maybe its just my tactile nature, but it was in here that i found the most 'connection' and communion with the stones...and/or with the people who put them there. the sense of sanctuary which is inevitable inside a stone tomb surely added to this sensation.

lastly at the fruitful dolmens de mane-kerioned, james plays schiziod tour guide and can subsequently never run for public office: