Saturday, November 07, 2009

Meeting Leonard...

It was a warm, sunny day in beautiful Nashville. I left my hotel, passing by the venue where Leonard Cohen would be playing that night and crossed the street to where there were two fountains I had grown fond of since I arrived in town the previous day. The fountains flanked a massive, column-intensive state building. There is a War Memorial there if you keep walking left in the large, open courtyard with the bookend fountains--a single, lacey-white bubbling cascade of water sung in the middle of large square pools of water.

Sitting on a marble bench that lined a planter for about twenty feet, while facing the sun and fountain, I took off my jacket and lit a cigarette. It was like a summer day in Juneau, this glorious fall day in Nashville. I had a notebook with me and was about to dig it out of my purse along with a black gel pen that makes my uber sloppy handwriting a little less indecipherable when I noticed a slight man approaching. He was wearing a beret and a light, waist-length jacket. I'd taken a long walk to Broadway that morning and had my sandals off to cool my feet on the smooth stone. The man continued on towards the fountain I had staked claim to and I hoped he continued on down towards the center of the long seating so I could still feel alone with my thoughts and not worry about bothering a stranger with cigarette smoke. When he got almost to the corner section where I was I paused and looked harder. Was that Leonard? A shift in profile pretty much confirmed it was him.

Should I say something? I didn't want to be 'bugged' so why should he? But then again, it was an opportunity I would probably end up regretting if I didn't say something, so I surreptitiously slipped my watch off and asked if he knew what time it is. He said he did not.
So I said, "Okay, thanks."
And he said, "Nice day, isn't it?"
And I said, "Yes, beautiful."
And he continued on down the path that surrounded the fountain and I swear out of the corner of my eye, I saw him skipping.

None of this is true. Well, none of the parts involving Leonard are true. I never saw him...but I did have a nice conversation with that fountain and my notebook.

Nothing is simple. Everything is simple.

I have been on a few of what amount to 'musical pilgrimmages.'
Starting with Bocelli and that first (ever) opera in Detroit where I had the pleasure of meeting him for the first time on the street in front of the MOT, to my recent first rock concert(s) in Vancouver, BC to see a musician I have admired for years (Jack White!) and his newest band, the hard-rocking, Dead Weather.*

Now, there is Leonard Cohen in Nashville. In what would have been one of the biggest mistakes of my Life, I almost didn't go, twice. For a long time I considered whether or not I was up for seeing Leonard Live. What if his age made those beautiful songs of his sound below his usual standard? What if it seemed like he was only there because it was a 'job' he needed to do because of circumstance? And then there is the personal baggage I have related to discovering this amazing musician/poet nearly a decade ago, that might make a live-listen just too fucking intense. I have issues and on the list is over-thinking stuff. Also on the list is being hyper-self-aware (thank you ADD!) and if any of the above ponderings were a reality, it could have been a disaster. Okay, maybe that is hyperbole, but just maybe. And it turned out all my ponderings were completely without merit.

It started a couple of months ago. I set a high-bar to help me make the decision, placing the burden of this coin flip on the Universe. IF I could find a perfect front-row-center seat at a fall tour venue, I would go. Had to pay a ridiculous VIP package price, but there it was, my dream seat and a dreamy venue. And it turned out to be in a city that had peripheral benefits.**

Then, mid-September I decided my job was no longer an option. It felt somewhat like a life or death decision. I chose Life. So that leads to the second "almost not going." I seriously considered (for a whole day!), cancelling this Nashville/Cohen trip (eating the expensive concert tik) to save a few bucks, since Job was going to be an X in a few months. Fortunately, I came to my senses and merely 'down-graded' my hotel to a Doubletree from the sublime looking Hermitage. Ah, sacrifices! But it was still ON.

I have to mention just how much I liked (like, liked!) Nashville. The weather Gods were very kind and it was sunny and warm--not too hot--just right. The architecture there is an anachronistic mix of eras and styles that some how 'works.' The streets are clean and the atmosphere laid-back. Even the traffic didn't seem daunting. My small town tendency to get over-whelmed by the hustle/bustle of a large town, never kicked in. And there are a couple of fountains there that provided a serene reprieve from the city 'noise' along with beautiful marble benches to chill (haha) on whilst being washed by the watery lullaby that fountains around the world sing. Nashville was an unexpected bonus on a trip that was turned out to be filled with 'all good things.'

Back to Leonard...My seat was intimate, being literally a few feet from the stage. Leonard has perfected the art of transformation. If you took a picture, an unmoving snap, what you would see is an old man, in a hat. It's an illusion. I believe he is aware of the inital perception vs. the reality and guides his audience away from anything that defines him by first impressions . It's only a guess, but hopefully not too far-fetched. His playful moves and humorous self-deprecating lyrics/comments--his kneeling to the floor and rising back up, like an athlete, to standing--to his energetic side-skips off the stage all send a message of who and what he is. This is not simply some 'old man' on the stage singing songs from the past. He is vibrant and giving and ageless. Shit, his new song, "The Darkness" is my current 'fave' song.

A genuine humbleness permeates everything. From his obvious appreciate of his audience to his obvious respect and admiration for those who have come along with him on this journey/tour. There are no slackers or inflated egos present up there on stage. I've never seen anything like the 'mutual admiration' society that is his band and backup singers...and no hyperbole, they are all deserving of the highest accolades for their musicianship. You can TELL there is a concerted effort to be completely there in the Now. Every damn one of them. At one point, Leonard stands in the back, in the near dark, hat in hand, eyes closed, listening, really listening, while Sharon Robinson solos, "Boogie Street." Nothing and no one came across as 'going through the motions' of another concert. And they all without a doubt love and respect Leonard and his music.

Hell, yeah. The concert was wonderful. The music and lyrics written by Leonard Cohen are long beloved and it would take a lot to screw them up. His lyrics which are so intriguing and well-written, I think end up leaving what is some of the most beautiful 'music' ever written over-shadowed. Music vs. Lyrics. Lyrics win, but Music comes in a close second. Can you imagine "Hallelujah" set to any other music? Or "Anthem"?*** Or "Dance Me To The End of Love"? It's just impossible. I don't think there is any other artist who has so successfully melded the theme of the lyrics with music, like Leonard Cohen has.

I didn't want to do a typical, Concert Report. It's so status quo. Of course I loved everything about the concert and the music needs not be mentioned--it is legendary for a reason.
Thank you Leonard!!

* Since then have seen the Dead Weather in New Orleans and Dallas.
**Third Man Records (and very nice co. :o)
***I fucking hate to cry in public and knew this would be the one that would possibly take me into that territory--being my intro to LC and the song that sort of saved what's left of me...Thankfully, I had to pee like a race horse for most of the first half of the concert and that little problem was enough to distract me.
Bladder 1. Kleenex 0.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Wet vase from iphone (experimental)

Trying this to see if it can be expanded when clicked.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pottery stuff catchup....

It always seems like a minor miracle when I can actually get my camera out, suffer through the squirrely download/edit process and get this stuff posted. I still can't figure out an efficient way to get the pics to line up nicely on the screen. The options are: left. right. center. none. They need a 'dummy' option that says, 'Would you like us to figure this out for you? If Yes, click here.'

My false-hellebore vase is not here. It suffered a problem in the kiln. Literally, two of the leaves wilted.

Here is the Raven teapot I threw together here at home last summer on a whim. The glaze colours came out pretty nice. The 'black' is a matte black glaze I purchased and expected it to be much more 'matte.' But I'll take the semi-gloss it turned out to be and am delighted this thing survived intact. I was still very new to working with clay when I made this and in hindsight can't believe I attempted something so ambitious. It is not 'functional' as a teapot and was never intended to be. I don't put bottoms on my vases because that would make them too 'functional.' I'm trying to make Art here. The rectangular gray spot on the cheek (below) is a camera angle problem that is looking into the 'inside' of the cheek on the other side. The beak area had minimal space to get glaze inside and that was a spot I could not reach. It doesn't 'read' like this in person.

Below is my Tab vase. It was one of the first things I glazed with some of the glazes I bought from Seattle Pottery Supply--as opposed to just using what the studio had. This is a 'milk glass' glaze with 'licorice speck' over that. It is the first item that came out looking like something *I* might buy. Meaning it doesn't scream "Amateur!!" and there are no glaze mishaps. And I figured out how much you need to smoothsmoothsmooth before bisquing if you want it to look decent. That smooth finish did not happen on its own! It's all in the details.

There are three windows cut out in the back. You can see one in the photo below.

Sigh. The vase below has another personal glaze, Burnished Steel and would have been really nice had it not stuck to the kiln shelf because the glaze ran too much. I LOVE this glaze. It is very metallic and suits my style really well. I made this and the Tab vase about the same time. I really like the design and will try it again...
Below is a piece that is sitting on my work desk in my garage and is still 'wet.' It is sort of a crazy ambitious thing. I've put lots and LOTS of time into smoothing it. Each of the 'fins' were placed in the body by me cutting a slice out of the vase (x8) and placing the fins in using a 'slip n score' process that hopefully will make them stay put. For a while I never thought I'd be able to get the thing to look like a single piece. I should have shot it when the slimy wet slip was oozing out of both sides of the fins and on the inside of the vase and was leaning all over the place. It was a hot mess that I thought I'd never be able to fix.

Another view of my WIP.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

If you didn't believe Ravens are really smart...

One of the pair of 'my' ravens hangs out on top my car's luggage rack, using it as a perch. The other raven usually hangs out in one of the tall pines in my back yard as watch out (I suppose).

Raven-on-car will start vocalizing if I don't notice if soon enough and give it food. Their usual breakfast is a hot dog. When I toss out one dog, car-raven hops down and grabs it, bites it in half and then proceeds with delay tactics. At this point tree-raven is starting his dramatic swoop down--he always does a lovely spiral-down instead of a perfectly acceptable straight down approach. Car-raven will still be in delay tactic mode waiting to see if I will lose patience waiting for it to take off with the dog, because IF I toss out the second hot dog she always beats the tree-raven to it. Sometimes I will have to stand there on the deck for several minutes, a cold, dripping hot dog in my hand while she plays a game of picking up and putting down her hot dog pieces.

So a few days ago, I tossed out the second hot dog to the left of car-raven, far as I could to try and speed things up and get TR his dog. I watched CR fly/dive over to the new dog and the TR (now sitting on the mailbox post across the street) dove for CR's original dog. Win Win. I didn't have to stand there in the cold waiting for CR to fly off and they both got one hot dog.

The next day ditto. I was able to do a bait-and-switch with them and get outta the cold promptly.

This morning CR did not bite the dog in half. I didn't think too much of it. TR had done his swirl down and was sitting on the mailboxes...and note WHO is the smartest one here:
I tossed the second dog to the left, expecting another baitnswitch scenario. CR immediately made the short fly to the left for the second dog. TR flew off the mailboxes and headed straight for the area in the driveway where the usually abandoned (original) dog would be. He landed perfectly in the right spot and I was suprised to see he did not have the dog in his beak in a matter of seconds. I looked left. CR had two hot dogs in her beak. CR had taken her original dog (not bitten in half) with her on the fly to get the second dog, too, instead of leaving it as had happened two days in a row. She learned within two experiences the routine and thought ahead as to not have to deal with two pieces of hot dog, keeping it whole, knowing she would be doing this.

It's not the first time I've had to dole out three hot dogs (CR is good and I am sometimes impatient) but the thought process here was pretty amazing.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Plath Profiles. Indiana University


I had a Plath inspired poem published at Indiana University's online publication, "Plath Profiles" whose 2009 (Vol. 2) issue went online in August.

I was so busy with work at the time, other than reading the index and my poem (of course!) I'd not had a chance to read anything else. This morning I read Peter Steinberg/Gail Crowther's piece about dealing with the archives of Plath which are literally scattered in places known and unknown around the planet. Excellent read and in parts the tangible minutia made me want to cry. It is afterall a sad story. Even if I'd read it before: "...in the end, she dies."

It was about twenty years ago I first read Plath's poetry, when I was taking my first college English course in my late twenties. Since then I've been a 'fan' (not scholar) immersed in the beginning by reading the bios available at that time and the highly edited Journal--which is now available in its original version. You start out getting angry, because there was so much blame to be laid on Hughes' shoulders, you do so with vigor, because someone has to take the fall for this brilliant poet's decision to kill herself. It was easy at the start to simplify and point a finger and unrealistically wish that you could change history. But then, more info becomes available and time gives way to a more complex reflection of life not being black or white. Ted&Sylvia become more human and less characters in a dramatic play we've watched over and over again.

I'm thankful there are "scholars" out there making this all 'right.' Correcting any errors, weaving together the pieces of what really did or didn't happen. The plain, 'hair washing' details and the important facts of when/where/how something was written. It is a labour of love interspersed with the intellect and care required to fill in the dots when it comes to the life and art of Plath.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

What happens in Canada, stays in Canada...

Went to Vancouver, BC on August 20th to attend two concerts by The Dead Weather, Jack White's newest band.

It's been difficult to assimilate that something as simple as a rock concert (or two) could end up seeming life transforming. That sounds like hyperbole and I suppose in the big picture of life it is. But to wait until fifty to experience something like this was pivotal on the leaning-down end of the seesaw of my life. I have a fucking AARP card. The concerts cancelled out the implications far as I'm concerned. I mean, I'm still fifty, but it is less of a burden because the things that ended up annoying me (rude peeps who cut in front of me on the dance floor while the band was playing and the Major Asshole who was literally screaming as loud as he could directly into my right ear) were the same things what would have annoyed the shit outta me twenty years ago, too. I guess I was fearing some sort of disconnect with a majority youthful event (although my friend and I were def not the oldest folks there) that would make it seem like I was an old fogey playing with the kids and it wasn't like that in the least. I know. I know. It was just a couple of rock concerts, but I was dubious about how it was going to be, aside from the music, just being in a club setting--being 'olde' and never having had done anything like this before. It fucking rocked!

I had 'early entry' so we didn't have to queue up in line before the concert(s) and got in five minutes before everyone else. It was great to go in the dark club with a small group of folks (ten) and scope the place out a bit before the masses poured in. First night, we chose a table right next to the wooden dance floor that is right in front of the stage. You could tell even when the place was empty we'd have to squeeze into the dance floor crowd when the DW started...and we did. After a couple of failed attempts to get a good view my friend and I separated and didn't see each other again till it was over. I ended up compressed between bods, up pretty close but still with too many tall heads and raised-hand-cameras to have an excellent view. No matter. Soon as the lights went down the pot lit up and the floor was sort of bouncing as if you were on a boat and there were strobe lights here and there and the whole thing was like being in an alternate reality. Part of that shift was the sheer loudness of the band; you could feel it in your bones. The band was amazing. The highlight being when Jack comes out from behind the drums to play guitar and duet with Allison on, "Will there be enough water." It's a bluesy-sexy piece that improves exponentially Live vs. the album version. Every song was a huge improvement from the studio version, which doesn't suck or anything, but this stuff needs to be heard live...from a rolling dance floor with pot wafting freely and your bones echoing back the beats. Good times.

My ears rang loudly for nearly two days afterwards. The next day, I wasn't sure if I'd make it to the second concert I was so dizzy from my ears being a mess and stayed in bed most the day (something that 'might' have been an age related phenom...or not).

The second night, again early entry, I grabbed a table on the one balcony, near the middle and had a fantastic view of everything this time. Had my earplugs and a lovely glass of merlot that I was warned beforehand came from a Can. It was actually okay. This time, I was more a spectator than participant and knew I was in for another fantastic concert experience. And it was.

So, I'm hooked. I came back to Juneau and the next morning looked for another concert I might be able to attend. Turned out that New Orleans fit my work schedule just swell. Then, that same morning a Dallas concert was announced, so I'm going there too.

A month after that, I have a front row ticket to see Leonard Cohen in Nashville. I love travelling for music. In the past, it's always been for classical/opera. It's unusual that I am travelling so much these last few months of the year...But it's all for a good cause...no make that Great Cause.

I'm thinking maybe it's time for a new tattoo.......

Saturday, August 01, 2009

pottery. blahblahblah. pottery

I'm too tired to do dishes...so my only other choice in life is to post pics I took the other day of some of my other pottery outputs. Okay. I could read a book. Crochet a doily. Watch tv. Vacuum (but, why start now!!??). Learn a new language...But the pics are already on my computer and so am I, soooo, this is it.

This guy started out as an exercise in doing 'relief'. I liked the bubbles a lot so I ended up doing a couple of pieces and joining them together. I think it looks sort of organic. Kinda like a frog. Or a fish. Or a seashell even.
I'm learning that the lease bit of non-perfection in glazing really stands out in the end.

The base of the raven was supposed to look like stone. I think I came pretty close. Made this for a friend's birthday, who happens to be of the Raven-clan. Coincidence? I think not. I had to hollow out (somewhat) the head when the clay was still damp, because solid masses of clay won't fire well in the kiln. And enclosed airspaces won't work in the kiln either (I think they tend to explode from pressure), so he had to be glued onto the base in the end.
The ''highlights" in the pic don't exist in real life. He is a high-gloss black that wanted to reflect Everything once I turned on my camera.

This is the very first item I made back at the start of June when I began. The glaze is a random dabble of three different colours. I didn't glaze the eggs, which are about the size of two olive pits (for size perspective). Glued in a few feathers (raven and blue jay) after all was done being fired.

A gondola hook on a moderne art background. Satifies my Venice-fetish.

I had a hard time trying to capture the way the thin wires near the face, curve towards the front. He's actually Waaay cuter in person.

His 'Yeah, I'm cute, but don't touch me' pose.

Pine-less porcy.

More pine-less porc. Before glazing him, I had to fill every one of the pre-poked holes with toothpicks to keep the glaze from filling them in. He looks pretty rustic, but it was a time consuming project. Each of the wires were basically custom cut by trial-and-error, placed in the body then taken back out, one-at-a-time to be dipped in glue and replaced. AND some of the holes I poked all the way through the body when it was soft clay, so some wires would fall through. So, I ended up buying some mole-skin and gluing it on the inside to support the 'pines.' I guess he is actually a Molkypine.