fruit flies like bananas

Ten years ago today, I landed in the Bay Area.

On November 7, my 1997 Ford Escort station wagon had 114,000 miles on it. Six days later, 3,950 more would be tacked onto the mileage indicator.

Having vacated my Augusta, Maine apartment at the end of October, I delayed my departure for an entire week so that I could vote in the 2000 election. I was at the polls at opening time (7:00 am, if I recall correctly), performed my civic duty with dispatch, and headed south on I 95. I’d watch the election (non) results that evening at the home of my friends Paul and Patti in Washington DC before getting an early start for day number two.

It would be all hotels for the following four evenings: forced off the road by the threat of tornadoes near Carthage, TN just a few miles short of my daily goal. Then Oklahoma City. Then Gallup, NM. And Finally, a night in Barstow, California before landing at the home of my Uncle Paul and Aunt Paula in Palo Alto sometime a bit after 1:00 in the afternoon.

I’d otherwise be reluctant to bring up the election at all, apart from the fact that it figured centrally in setting my departure date. Otherwise, we know how that all played out. We’re still saddled with the aftermath, and I’ll be damned if that snarling, arrogant cur George W. Bush isn’t in the news, again, right the hell now, ten years to the day, pimping his memoirs which, as it turns out, are not entirely his. It’s a fascinating and perverse coincidence.

But there I was, and yet here I am.

I have uncovered no pots of California gold, so far, in the baser sense, but it has been a decade of many riches.

I am married. Legally married. Who’d have dared imagined such a thing possible in 2000? Further, to an impossibly kind, gentle, thoughtful and funny guy. I’m blessed.

The road that forms my apparent path is tossing me a few pot holes and speed bumps, but I have established myself as someone who someone else is happily willing to pay to write. Not bad. Not bad.

The amount of time I’ve been able to spend with my saxophone has vacillated wildly, but I’ll be damned if it ever disappears completely. It simply won’t go away. Good.

I will always consider myself a Mainer. I will continue to actively, thoughtfully miss it for at least five minutes of every day I live elsewhere: a span of time that may very well bracket the rest of my life.

But it’s good to be here. I’ve had wishes fulfilled I didn’t even know I’d been granted permission to have.

And for those yet to materialize, they’re germinating here, in the most fertile soil imaginable.

Photo by NASA via Wikimedia Commons


To be kind, to play: to be human

The bad news is that I continue to spend altogether too damn much time in my own head, but the good news is feels more like quality time.

Will be heading out shortly for a long-overdue haircut, but am finding myself compelled to jot down a few thoughts, so I do believe that I will run with that feeling. Since my daily writing duties for by themselves satisfy my urge to put thought to word, I have done precious little personal blogging. It’s not so much out of neglect or indifference, but more due to time and the simple fact that I’m mostly getting my need to write met in full, thank you ever so much.

But the lights are blinking this morning, and I’m opting to indulge myself in some extracurricular musing on what it means to be human.

While science news is my beat, I’m always on the lookout for items, articles and topics that engage interests that may not appear by quick glance at the surfaces to be overtly scientific. The arts, and music in particular, serve prime example. A couple of months ago I offered a piece that briefly discussed research into the matter of monkey drumming. Yes, monkey drumming. The findings indicate that our simian chums use rhythmic patterns quite deliberately, with purpose, for communication. The underlying suggestion is that behaviors that form the basis of what we now call music could very well be even older than our capacity for the spoken word.

As I write two pieces per day, six days a week, lather, rinse, repeat, it’s easy to forget what I’ve covered as the ongoing run of tomorrows offers up fresh news items and all manner of interesting stuff to review. I’d honestly forgotten all about my drumming monkeys until following a link to an outfit in the UK that was included on a recent post on Nick Heyward’s wonderful website. Nordoff Robbins. Music transforming lives. Absolutely wonderful. Of *course* music, and its therapeutic potential, should be used to enrich lives–the drive to express via music, to give and to absorb meaning,  is every bit as encoded in our DNA as is the drive to communicate through speech.

Add to this a couple of other shops whose stock in trade is the exploration of higher aspects of the human condition. There’s the National Institute for Play in Carmel and the Greater Good Science Center in Berkeley (and can I just say how amazing it is to live in California where such institutions are even possible?).

NIFP characterizes play as anything but frivolous: it’s an evolutionary birthright that rises from and feeds back into our big, rich, juicy brains as well as out of the fact that we are singularly social creatures. And the GGSC has only recently crossed my radar screen (and, yes, I wrote about those folks as well), impressing me greatly with their reclamation of the inaccurate and unfortunately perverted take on Darwin (i.e. ‘survival of the fittest’) that has long held sway. We are, they are finding and reporting, evolutionarily and genetically predisposed for kindness.

It’s a big, bustling world. It is easy to react based on a perception of lack, or to give in to fear or greed. And, really, some people are just plain dicks. Still, I am, this morning, having a lovely time just chewing on this assemblage of aspects of the human condition that are irretrievably higher and better and more noble, and they reside within each of us, should we make the choice to call upon them as we move about out lives.

Posted via email from dmboisterous

the sonic as tonic

My introduction to, and strongest association with Fortean Times magazine goes back a dozen years: an advertisement in the back pages for a bumper sticker that read, in uber tripped-out, wavy letters: “hey glue sniffer, look at my tentacles” remains a hallmark moment in Things I Find Funny.

Reacquainted only recently with them through their online edition, a news headline caught my eye and / but linked me over to MSNBC, a decidedly non fortean site in my estimation.

No matter. This is an exceptionally cool article that explores the physiological, and more particularly the therapeutic responses to listening to music.

Doctors are increasingly studying — and employing — the physiological dance music does with the body’s neurons and blood-carrying cells.“We’re in the infancy,” said Dr. Ali Rezai, director of the Center for Neurological Restoration at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic. During a surgery called deep brain stimulation — performed while patients with Parkinson’s disease are awake — Rezai and his team play classical compositions and measure the brain’s response to those notes. “We know music can calm, influence creativity, can energize. That’s great. But music’s role in recovering from disease is being ever more appreciated.”

I love this story on multiple levels.

Not the least of these is that, to my mind anyway, we’re witness here to serious work, in traditional science, that pulls undeniably in a direction toward the spirit.

and now for something completely different

acclimating to the new toy.

could have sworn that i had a mic preamp kicking around here, but it’s no where to be found, and until it turns up (or i replace it), i’m unable to record horns or bass or voice direct. oh well. monkeying around with loops today has been highly amusing.

wee hours update. one more.

Louie Bellson, 1924 – 2009

It was a sad bit of awakening to the clock radio, tuned to NPR, as my first creaking hints of consciousness this morning were greeted by the news of the passing of Louie Bellson, widely regarded as among the jazz world’s finest drummers. He was 84.

My introduction to Bellson came during my 8th grade year. I was then early on both in my saxophone study as well as my development of a fondness for jazz, and on a lark, I purchased a used LP copy of Maxell Jazz Sampler from a bookstore in Brunswick, Maine. Among the cuts from Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson, and others was a barn-burner of a big band arrangement from Louie Bellson titled “Quiet Riots.” I played this track nearly endlessly, in no small measure owing to the scream – in – your – face – ’til – it – melts – clean – off – yer – head tenor solo by Pete Christlieb (who I would later come to know through his holding lead tenor chair in the Johnny Carson-era NBC Orchestra, as well as through his magnificent studio contribution to Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” and “FM”).

Among the things that struck me about Bellson (apart from his jaw-dropping chops), through photographs and film clips, is that he looked like he was always having such a damned good time about it all. Huge smile. Joy unbridled. For real—go have a look and listen at Louie from 1957.

And if you care to take a few minutes for a big band break, head on over to Rhapsody and give a listen to Quiet Riots. As best as I can tell, this link, or perhaps this one, should work in getting you there.

One of the greats. Made it look fun, which no doubt he was having. Made it look easy, too, which musicianship at such a world-class level is certainly not.

farewell to a giant

I won’t pretend to do justice to Jerry Wexler’s impact upon 20th century popular music, but I do feel compelled to note his passing with gratitude for the astonishing body of work his hand helped to craft and mold and bring to life.

My music collection runs rampant with what he touched. Yours probably does as well.

A long and incredibly fruitful life. Rock on, Jerry.

blocks: a) creative b) building

1) I have got to get my scan on.

It’s a bit of an impediment to flow, having a scanner, having a computer, but not having the wherewithal to have them shake hands and work together.

* sigh … *

I own it: I’m not gadget guy. But this is not part and parcel of me being a tech cheese-fist. There is definitively no driver that exists for my particular scanner that will work within this machine / os configuration. Old hp, old mac. Screw it, I’ll schlep my wares over to glom of a friend’s rig before too much longer, I hope.

Been fairly productive, line wise. Out of no where, I’ve taken to drawing without pencil, and, necessarily, significantly, without eraser. That’s kind of a big symbolic deal.

2) What a wake-up call this morning, facing my saxophonic rustiness. That’s. What. Happens when you don’t find time to play. My diaphragmatic processes and structures are total mung. Dang. I literally need to relearn how to breathe correctly into a saxophone.

Which means that I need to find time, and a place, to accomplish this.

3) First published blog contribution! Also kind of a big symbolic deal. Many thanks, Dan.

I’d be remiss to not encourage any who find their way here to meander on over there as you travel the tubes.