Icy Cinema

At the end of two hours of improvising music today, we were tossing out name ideas when Darrel said Amen, Icy Cinema, which is a palindrome. To which I said, Icy Cinema and the three of us looked at each other as if to say, I think that’s it! And so it is, I think we have a name for our Ambient trio.

Here are a number of tracks from our last practice, Feb. 7.

Icy Cinema March
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Icy Cinema Weave
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Icy Cinema Moroccan Moon
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Icy Cinema Lilybeth's Lament
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Icy Cinema Word Sword
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Icy Cinema Crater Cut
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International Clash Day 2018: I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.

In honor of #InternationalClashDay I recorded I’m So Bored with the U.S.A. in the stairwell today on my lunch break. Long live The Clash!!!

Jason Molin covers The Clash I'm So Bored with the U.S.A.
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I’m So Bored With The U.S.A.

Yankee soldier
He want to shoot some skag
He met it in Cambodia, but now
He can’t afford a bag

Yankee dollar talk
To the dictators of the world
In fact it’s giving orders
An’ they can’t afford to miss a word

I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
But what can I do?

Yankee detectives
Are always on the TV
‘Cause killers in America work
Seven days a week

Never mind the stars and stripes
Let’s print the Watergate Tapes
I’ll salute the New Wave
And I hope nobody escapes

I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
But what can I do?

I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
But what can I do?

I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
But what can I do?

Favorite Books From 2017

Just MercyJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson has spent his life giving not just legal aid but himself to otherwise forgotten death-row inmates throughout the deep south. In his understated way, he reveals systematic injustice and dignifies his clients, creating a redemption so powerful that we feel it from just hearing these stories.

Fear and anger are a threat to justice. They can infect a community, a state, or a nation, and make us blind, irrational, and dangerous.

But simply punishing the broken–walking away from them or hiding them from sight–only ensures that they remain broken and we do, too. There is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity.

News of the WorldNews of the World by Paulette Jiles

Captain Kidd, now in his 70s, makes his living traversing post-Civil-War Texas reading newspaper articles to frontier people. When he has to escort a 10-year-old German girl back to her remaining family after having been in Kiowa captivity for most of her life, he seems to be the only one who can usher her precarious life between the two worlds. This vulnerable and unlikely pair proved extremely charming and heartwarming for having helped each other survive the unforgiving prairie

Maybe life is just carrying news. Surviving to carry the news. Maybe we have just one message, and it is delivered to us when we are born and we are never sure what it says; it may have nothing to do with us personally but it must be carried by hand through a life, all the way, and at the end handed over, sealed.

The Examined LifeThe Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves by Stephen Grosz

Grosz distills a lifetime of psychoanalysis into crystallized stories that give just what is necessary to witness the patients’ problems and the profound truths behind them.

All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them. But if we cannot find a way of telling our story, our story tells us – we dream these stories, we develop symptoms, or we find ourselves acting in ways we don’t understand.

Creatures of a DayCreatures of a Day: And Other Tales of Psychotherapy and Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom

Yalom is a therapist and mensch of the highest order and each of the ten patients he shares with us gives us a glimpse into a fascinating and compassionate relationship of insight and healing.

What has been given is a new perspective on living life, and what has been taken away is the illusion of limitless life and the belief in a personal specialness exempting us from natural law.

Love's ExecutionerEach of these books describes 10 patients in depth and draws such vivid characters that they stay with you. Like the accountant who is resistant to therapy but whose dreams are so rich that they speak to the therapist for him. Or the older woman who can’t stop living for a lover from a weekend a decade ago (for whom Yalom must be love’s executioner).

Beneath Yalom’s effectiveness customizing therapies for his patients lies a philosophy that the human condition consists of four givens:  isolation, meaninglessness, mortality and freedom. His existential bent spoke to me.

I think my quarry is illusion. I war against magic. I believe that, though illusion often cheers and comforts, it ultimately and invariably weakens and constricts the spirit.

Four givens are particularly relevant for psycho-therapy: the inevitability of death for each of us and for those we love; the freedom to make our lives as we will; our ultimate aloneness; and, finally, the absence of any obvious meaning or sense to life.

Reasons To Stay AliveReasons To Stay Alive and How To Stop Time by Matt Haig

In Reasons To Stay Alive Matt Haig chronicles his first major break into anxiety and depression in his mid-twenties. His raw account of what it feels like to be paralyzed by anxiety and debilitated by depression is refreshingly authentic. As he takes us through years of learning to live with and come back from these conditions, he learns to appreciate who he is and tells us how to channel the intensity into an appreciation for love, life and art. It’s a brave account which helped me deal with my own versions of these.

To other people, it sometimes seems like nothing at all. You are walking around with your head on fire and no one can see the flames.

Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.

How To Stop TimeHow To Stop Time is a fictional account of a man named Tom Hazzard who develops a rare disease at puberty called Anageria, which slows your aging down to 1 year for every 15 lived. One of Tom’s first jobs is playing the lute in Shakespeare’s theatre. At present day Tom is in his 400s having gained a certain wisdom along the road of his weirdly evasive life trying not to be recognized as different by avoiding long-term relationships. It’s a somewhat clunky conceit which nevertheless allows Haig to deliver us a new perspective on embracing our limitations and savoring love and life, no matter how quickly or slowly it may pass.

Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.

The Fire Next TimeThe Fire Next Time and Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin

The Fire Next Time is two long letters, one to the American people, the other to his 14-year-old nephew. Written in the 60s, Baldwin’s graceful but direct attack on the state our country and it’s insidious racism is still perfectly relevant and precisely what we need to hear. He describes his own journey of disillusionment with the church and calls upon us who are awake to steer our American history off its collision course:

If we — and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others — do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world. If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophesy, re-created from the Bible in a song by a slave, is upon us:

“God gave Noah the rainbow sign,
No more water, the fire next time!”

Go Tell It On The MountainGo Tell It On The Mountain, Baldwin’s first novel, is an extraordinary semi-autobiographical account of a young man coming of age in Harlem in a family whose life revolves around the storefront Pentecostal church down the block. The intensity of young John’s faith and adolescence creates an almost surreal brew of spirituality and family psychology as he attempts to navigate his own emerging power through the sometimes terrifying examples of the men around him. But greater than the mercurial and obstinate men are the fiercely devoted women who surround him and keep the faith. Having become an intensely Christian soul myself during puberty, this book resonated, fascinated and terrified me.

John’s heart was hardened against the Lord. His father was God’s minister, the ambassador of the King of Heaven, and John could not bow before the throne of grace without first kneeling to his father.

The LacunaThe Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

The Lacuna is the fictional story of a sensitive young man whose mother is Mexican and father is American, and his time growing up in Mexico and then living in the States. It is a portrait of an artist as a young man, coming into being between two worlds. Soli (Frida’s nickname for the protagonist) is a fascinating, enigmatic and ultimately reclusive writer. A lacuna is “an unfilled space or interval; a gap” or more specifically, sometimes, “a missing portion of a book or manuscript.” Soli’s life is marked by these in at least these three ways: a rock opening in the ocean into which he dives, a missing journal and his hidden sexuality. It becomes a central fact that:

The most important thing about a person is always the thing you don’t know.

I read this because it is Maile’s favorite book, to share in it and better know her. Maile loves Kingsolver’s books and this one in particular partly because Frida Khalo animates much of it. Soli works for a while in Frida’s and Diego’s house and Frida is the largest character throughout. The book is worth it just to have her as a confidant in the middle.

How-to-MeditateHow to MeditatePure Meditation, and When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron

These three books all deliver the same messages over and over: how to meditate the Tibetan Buddhist way and why it is a unique tool for making peace with our discursive monkey minds. The goal of this type of meditation is simply to sit with ourselves, not to do anything other than gently and lovingly grow our awareness of the present while not getting distracted by our thoughts.

pure-meditationIn a way it is a stripping away, a practice of simply showing up for ourselves to check in, to show ourselves kindness, and to practice the initially daunting task of recognizing how constantly our thinking tries to blow things up and out of proportion. From my paraphrased notes:

Reality is not as solid as we think. And we can liberate ourselves from enormous suffering and anguish which destroys the quality of our lives, that we can dissolve by learning to see the illusory quality of all this thought that arises in our mind and the enormous importance we give to it and the enormous pain it causes us. We can begin to see how suffering escalates and begin to deescalate suffering. We make things solid with our minds, things are not as solid as they seem.

When-Things_Fall-ApartThe first two book are workshops recorded over a weekend or week. And we can feel ourselves sitting and struggling along with all the other meditators in front of her to come back to our breath time and again, to practice loving-kindness toward ourselves as meditation dredges up memories and emotions, as we attempt to dissolve our own time-honored narratives in which we are stuck. I love the sanity she brings by teaching us to contextualize our thoughts and emotions within a greater sense of self than just how we think or feel at any given moment.

Noone else has a clue what is going on in your mind. You are the only one who really knows what is happening with you at any moment in time. A lot of people will give you good advice, but you have to trust your own sense of insight into your own mind. We need to become our own meditation instructors. You’re the only one who knows if you’re too tense, or too harsh, or spaced out, or wandering all over the place, or caught up in something… what mood you’re in, what thoughts you’re thinking, how much spaciousness, settledness, you feel. You’re the only one. Meditation practices gathering confidence connecting with your own mind at any given moment so that your thoughts and emotions become accessible to you and you have tools to work with your mind.

Honorable Mentions

  • Lying On The CouchLying On The Couch by Irvin Yalom – This fictional drama isn’t as real as the other two books listed above, but it grew on me and ended up being a page-turner as he wove this psychoanalytic drama together around several compelling therapist/patient relationships.
  • song-of-solomonSong of Solomon by Toni Morrison – This is such a dense work I don’t feel qualified to comment on after only one reading. It reads like a vision delivered to a prophet. I will need to reread to process more fully.
  • HP-order_of_phoenixHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling – The ominous tone that hangs over this book made it one of the least enjoyable of the series. Like Harry, I can’t stand not knowing and being cut off from Dumbledore the whole time.
  • HP_halfblood_princeHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling – Though Dumbledore is my very favorite of Rowling’s characters, Snape emerges in this one as the most inscrutable and complex, and this is perhaps my favorite of the HP series. I got seduced along with Harry into the potion master’s spells all the way.
  • HP-deathly_hallowsHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling – Riddle and his Horcruxes make for a fantastic puzzle and the pre-apocalyptic feeling of this one doesn’t fail to deliver a great ending to the series.
  • GhettosideGhettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy – This all-too-real murder mystery is a profile in LA detective and ghetto culture, injustice, and systemic inequality, racism, and despair. Important and difficult.

 

Moira’s Audition

Maile has been watching a new series called Schitt’s Creek starring Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara and we’ve been obsessed with this scene. Moira is trying out for the Jazzagals and I think she nails it.

There are so many funny nuances to her impromptu performance. My favorite is the song itself – stuck in my head for days – with its perfectly enigmatic, absurd opening line featuring the word Log. Makes me laugh, every time.

There are only a few lines before she’s incoherent, lost in loony scatting. And the whole thing is done with such false-modesty and confidence.

Someone held me on that log, it should have been you
Someone’s arms were big and strooong, it should have been you
I warned you I was lonely, but you didn’t seem to care
no, no, no, [starts scatting]… a woman’s tears… [scat solo]
Someone left me on that log, it should have been you

What is it that is so tender and hilarious about bad singing done with utter conviction?! When it’s not intended as comedy, which is most of the time, we have to not laugh. But here we have full permission and it’s a gloriously guilty pleasure.

It’s also such a pleasure to see Catherine O’Hara doing her amateur auditions again because we are already such fans of Waiting for Guffman, and this audition scene in particular from 20 years ago.

Kirby Jenner, Photobomb Master

KribyKirby Jenner makes me laugh really hard. The longer I look the harder I laugh. That’s enough. That mustache, that face, that body… so well played and seamlessly Photoshopped in.

There’s also a great gorilla satire to the hilariously eager and congenitally uncool character he inserts into the life of Kendall Jenner, professional princess reality star. Kirby is Kendall’s fictional twin we never knew she needed until now.

Kirby makes fun of Kardashian culture by impersonating it, inserting his parody persona in the form of a devoted fraternal-twin brother, tagging along on her photo shoots and photobombing her grandiose selfies with his goofy enthusiasm.

Kirby turns Kendall’s epic self-absorption…

Kendall Jenner

… into a grand farce:

Kirby Jennar Napoleon

He’s usually too enthusiastically enjoying the situation, making an awkward goofy face, sometimes moping or somehow getting it wrong, and often eating a Subway sandwich. He makes Kendall the boring background she is.

He’s frequently in his underwear, like Kendall, exposing all sorts of gendered double-standards with how differently it reads. He’s trying to be like Kendall but it never works, always to comic effect. He just wants her to acknowledge he’s there!

And that’s just the photos. His captions and hashtags add another level of endearingly dumb bragging:

kirbyjenner SO EMBARRASSING… totally thought Kendall said we were going to “mime camp” but I guess she said “voter registration rally.” Lol All good I had fun anyway tho. Ended up using the art of miming to help 20 youngsters register to vote AND taught them about the three branches of government 🙂 #ClassyMime #AlsoMimedAVotingBooth #GotStuckInTheInvisibleVotingBooth #yolo

Thank you, Kirby, for making me laugh so much.

Nathaniel Russell: The Opposite of Lost

I found Nathanial Russell’s fliers and fake books, clicked around his site and fell in love with his whole aesthetic and ethic, simple drawings, full of ideas, empathetic innocence, absurdity, DIY analog spirit, humor and wit. And he plays guitar and makes lofi accousticy songs! My kind of guy.

Nathaniel Russell art

 

Spring Break in Paris With Maile

The music just below is one one of the recordings I made in Paris, this one of an accordion player on a pedestrian bridge. Hit play now so that the sounds of Paris will accompany you. OK. Can you hear the melancholy French jazz?

accordian player on the Ponte Nuef
accordion player on the Ponte Nuef playing a melancholy Autumn Leaves

Maile and I originally planned to travel to Paris together for our 10th wedding anniversary. Two and a half years later we made it, by ourselves, for a full week. We rented a wonderful loft appartment on AirBnb in the Marais, from which we sauntered out an back every day.

I took about 1600 photos with my little Canon G7X and got it down to about 250 favorites shots that I’ve posted as an album on Flickr. See the slideshow at the end of this post. I’ll try to whittle it way down here and tell the story of our trip primarily in pictures and captions.

We arrived on Saturday morning and took the train into the city.
We arrived on Saturday morning and took the train into the city (with Charles Beaver, Anais’s envoy).
Walking from the Metro to find our place we stopped at Le Petite Marcel for lunch.
Walking from the Metro to find our apartment we stopped at Le Petite Marcel for lunch.
The beautiful blue door to the building where we stayed.
the beautiful blue door to the building where we stayed
the reflection of our front building in the shiny black van opposite
the reflection of our front building in the shiny black van opposite
The beautiful classic bicycle that was always locked outside our door
The beautiful classic bicycle that was always locked outside our door

The Pompidou

We stayed two blocks from the Pompidou, passing it every day, eating across from it. Here are a few of the outside and then a few of my favorite works inside.

Pompidou plaza
Pompidou plaza
seven people sitting in front of the Pompidou
seven people sitting in front of the Pompidou
We stayed a few blocks from the Pompidou, a wonderful modern art gallery
my reflection in the window of the line and houses opposite
Man Ray's room of art and beautiful objects
Man Ray’s room of art and beautiful objects
shiny spinning metal shape with divets in a black and white lined box
shiny spinning metal shape with divets in a black and white lined box
Giacometti people
Giacometti people

I particularly liked the Gerard Fromanger exhibit, his use of monochrome figures and infographics.

painting by Gérard Fromanger
painting by Gérard Fromanger
painting by Gérard Fromanger
painting by Gérard Fromanger
Paris skyline
view from the top of the Pompidou; see the Eifell Tower shining it’s spotlight in the distance
we caught these break dancers entertaining the crowd in front of Hôtel de Ville
break dancers entertaining a crowd in front of Hôtel de Ville
break dancer balancing on one hand
break dancer balancing on one hand
Reflection on the front of a bus
reflection on the front of a bus
woman in red hat waiting, man in black coat turning away
waiting for the light to change on a bridge over the Seine
the view through the menu
the view through the menu
Paris swing band on the bridge over the Seine
Paris swing on a bridge over the Seine
colorful juice window
colorful juice window
reflection in car top
reflection in car top
reflection in bus window w driver
reflection in bus window w driver smoking
Maile on the Ponte Nuef overlooking the Siene
Maile on the Ponte Nuef overlooking the Siene
ladies at a cafe
ladies at a cafe
people sitting on the steps leading down to the Seine
people sitting on the steps leading down to the Seine
man running with child
man running with child. one of my favorite moments to capturing, participating in that pure joy.
men in front of a flower shop
men in front of a flower shop
pedicabbies looking left as the man in black walks right
pedicabbies looking left as the man in black walks right
mannequin with reflection of tower and tree
mannequin with reflection of tower and tree
I lived off these lovely fresh baguette sandwiches
I loved lunching on these fresh baguette sandwiches
a perfectly pruned park
a perfectly pruned park
the Mona Lisa hype machine
the Mona Lisa hype machine (I found it hard to appreciate the Louvre)

Street Art

There was so much great street art everywhere, from centuries old sculpture to  to stickers, art sellers and graffiti, chalk artists and street musicians. Hardly a block went by that I didn’t notice a gorgeous door. I was always stopping to snap something and then running to catch up with Maile.

statues throughout the city had been secretly blindfolded in scarlet
statues throughout the city had been secretly blindfolded in scarlet (an art stunt meant to draw attention to the ubiquitous – and easily overlooked – statuary)
chalk drawing on wall
i love this chalk drawing, a face made out of squares, making eyes out of cracks in the wall
vandals with a nice sense of color
wonderful street art everywhere. vandals with a nice sense of color
HUMANITY shakes hands with POWER
HUMANITY shakes hands with POWER
poster of baseball cap
Trust The Classics
turquoise pattern with clothing cutouts
turquoise pattern with clothing cutouts
a cup of shit (by Space Invader, I think)
a cup of shit (by Space Invader, I think

Now listen to the slow funky Flamenco sounds of a guitarist echoing in the Subway.

guitarist in the subway
guitarist in the subway

Musée d’Orsay

Musée d’Orsay was a pure delight and inspiration. So many beautiful works of art that I’d never seen, and in a beautifully converted old converted train station.

painting from the Orsay, Paris

painting in the Orsay

painting at Musee D'Orsay

sculpture at the Orsay

reflections at the Orsay
reflections at the Orsay

Picasso Museum

a window upon rooftops
a window upon rooftops, the distortions of the hand-blown glass making a painting

stone sculpture head

viewer of a Picasso painting

black paintings w names/numbers

Picasso sculpture

Picasso drawing

Picasso painting

And there are so many more I’d like to include. Here is a slideshow of all my favorites: