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Friday, June 24, 2011

Wet, verdant, barbacua jazz

Friday slipped in quietly this morning, following a noisy and torrential downpour during the night. A light steady rain accompanied me on my drive in today and the forecast is using that quintessential PNW weather symbol, the everything-weather icon. A sun overlaid by clouds, part of which have rain falling from them, driven windily at a 45° angle. Translation: we don't know what the hell it's going to do today, so we're predicting pretty much anything short of frozen stuff.

It's definitely a hot mate sort of morning. Iced drinks don't ward off the wet gray of our very-verdant weather, it takes a warm mug. For me, make it a strong smokey pot of barbacua yerba mate to go with yoghurt and homemade granola.

The iPod was again in a singular mood this morning, shuffling up three pieces of jazz. (in fact, almost everything it has shuffled up since I got into the office has been jazz as well, with only the occasional exception.) The playlist was short, but given the last song clocks in at 11:00 minutes, that isn't surprising.

- David Benoit: CabinFever
- Billie Holiday: Without Your Love
- Ludovico Einaudi: Oltremare

- Posted via Hermes.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Cockburn-Guayaki sort of morning

Thursday, and wet again. Top up, wipers passing over the windshield periodically, cranky weather-bummed drivers. This being Thursday, the great pretender of the week, I can catch a glimpse of the weekend from here, but there is so much to get done before I can call this week done that the weekend I glimpse still feels a long ways out.

Today we have a rep from Guayaki on campus. A colleague and I are doing a workshop on yerba mate as part of our campus Food Revolution series, and Guayaki was kind enough to come up and participate with us. Looking forward to sharing a gourd with Mateo and sharing mate with some of my colleagues. I think we will start carrying some of the Guayaki products on campus, which is groovy with me! I brought in a loaf of whole wheat mate bread I made this weekend, so do join us if you're in the neighborhood.

The iPod was in a very definite mood this morning, with three of the four tunes from Bruce Cockburn and the lone exception a well-matched Van Morrison. Déjà vu, the last track playing when I pulled onto the campus, is a beautiful, languid bit of coffee house jazz from the 1973 album Night Vision. It's one of my favorite of the early Cockburn albums. It also features on of my favorite pieces of cover art, a darkly powerful painting that pits horse against iron horse, front and back cover:

Deja vu
Glass cafe faces
Fade into the wash
Of brick-dust-yellow afternoon

Deja vu
Slow lines on pages
Shape words like echoes
Of a ball bounced in an empty street

Deja vu
Sun on hair dancing
To breeze-borne snatches
Of a lost music box melody

Yes, very good stuff. The album link above will allow you to sample the tunes from this album, if you're interested.

Today's full playlist:

- Bruce Cockburn: Berlin Tonight
- Van Morrison: Have I Told You Lately
- Bruce Cockburn: Scanning These Crowds
- Bruce Cockburn: Déjà vu

- Posted via Hermes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Missing musicians

Wednesday, overcast with a bit of a breeze. Like the other day, I was going to pull to pull the top up before driving in, but once I got out of the garage the overcast seemed thin enough to risk leaving it down. The temperature is a balmy 57° F (14° C) here in the bustling suburbopolis of Lynnwood, so it felt very slightly refreshing slicing through the wind.

For subconscious reasons I can't parse I slipped the transmission into manual mode and rowed the gears myself on the drive in. I don't usually, since there is little joy in shifting gears through a short plodding suburban commute but, like keeping the top down this morning, it seemed the thing to do.

This morning's soundtrack kicked off with a great bit of jazz guitar from Ron Affif. The Lebanese/Italian son of a boxer, Affif recorded five highly regarded albums in the 1990's, then appears to have disappeared from the music scene. There is a scant Facebook page that simply quotes the short Wikipedia article on him. The few sites I could find on a recent search to see what he was up to recently peter out with little more-current information. He was playing and touring in Russia and Turkey as recently as 2004, but that's all I can find. For such a talented and acclaimed jazz musician, it's rather odd.

Blue Merle is another group that no longer exists. They released one very good album (Burning In the Sun) in 2005 (and a couple of EPs) and then the band members all went their respective ways. Their last show as a band shared the stage with My Morning Jacket.

The only other band in this morning's playlist, Toto, reformed in 2010 and I believe is still touring. Not quite one of the rockers-with-walkers set, but certainly a nostalgia act.

The full playlist:

- Ron Affif Trio: Bohemia After Dark
- Toto: Hold the Line
- Blue Merle: Boxcar Racer
- Eugene Maslov: Living In The Past

- Posted via Hermes.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The bully's shadow smiled sunshine

Tuesday and beautifully sunny already this morning! The Olympics were out, basking warmly in their front-lit beauty. Highs are not expected to crest 70° F (21° C) today, though I suspect we will see higher temps than that. Sometimes experience provides a better forecast than meteorology.

If Monday is the play yard bully nobody (in the weekday work-a-day world) wants to see, Tuesday is like the bully's tag-along friend. The lingering shadow character that follows the bully all around the playground. When he shows up you're relieved simply because it's not Monday, but Tuesday is almost as far away from the next weekend. Still, when any weekday kicks off with this much golden sunlight they're welcome in my book regardless of their distance from the next weekend!

Pearl Django perfectly captured the top-down sun-filled spirit of this morning's commute with the lively bit of Django Reinhardt swing Bella Savoy.

Marco Benevento's piece this morning is a percussive bit of piano solo that I can't honestly say is in any way beautiful to listen to. It is a technical indulgence on the part of the musician, sounding like an angry young man has been told to take his tantrum out on the keyboards. The only giveaway that this is a talented musician is that the arpeggios stay within a chord structure and this tantrum has rhythm. In places.

Benevento gave way to the beautiful tune Alibi by David Gray as I write this up this morning. Totally opposites as tunes, but for some reason the one followed the other perfectly, with Gray making musical order on my ears where there has just been discord. I also hear something in these lyrics that reminds of the felt-fragility of life:
Stone blind alibi, I will eat the lie
Find the word, could break any spell that binds you
Prayers like ammonites, curl beneath the lights
How I long to bite any hand that feeds you more
Where'd it all go wrong
My Friday night enfant?

But that is a story from a different time and place, thankfully.

Today's full playlist:

- The Guggenheim Grotto: Cold Truth
- BMW Band: Gentle Man
- Pearl Django: Bella Savoy
- Marco Benevento: Bye-Ya

And, in the office:
- David Gray: Alibi

- Posted via Hermes.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Calling Monday's bluff

Today's forecast calls for partly cloudy and a high of 66° F, with a 22% probability of no rain. Looking out of the house this morning, I had purposed to keep the top up and latched for the drive in. However, the Miata was still wearing the top down from Friday night's post-commencement drive home, so I left it that way. The cloud cover was an ominous grey, but it was also thin. I could see the blue sky just beyond it in the thinnest patches. It was clearly a bluff, trying to look tougher and wetter than it really was. I called it.

And it's Monday. Which signifies pretty much nothing of note this morning. On the other hand, it is the start of the summer quarter break, which signifies a quieter campus for the next couple of weeks. Normally, I prefer the bustle of a busy campus, but I'm ready for things to slow down a bit and for the chance for some of us to get caught up (or closer to, at least).

The music this morning was good, but the playlist was short. It didn't feel like a quicker commute than usual, but since none of these tunes is especially long, it must have been.

The full playlist:

- Anna Nalick: Satellite
- Bruce Cockburn: The Mines of Mozambique
- Robert Walter: Cabrillo

- Posted via Hermes.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

An open letter to my children on Father's Day

Hi kids,

You probably know what I'm going to say, because you well know my aversion to the hype of the "Hallmark holidays." They create obligation where it isn't needed and drive consumerism that isn't healthy. Please don't participate on my account. It isn't necessary because you both are my reward. Nothing you could ever purchase will top that, so don't even try.

I have the joy of being a father year round, but I like to take Father's Day as an opportunity for me to think back on the rich gift you have both been in my life. Without you I wouldn't be a father, and would have missed out on all the things that have made this journey so worthwhile. I learned more from the two of you, I think, than you will ever learn from me.

Yes, there have been difficult moments and places for each of us, but those only make the joy of being a father that much more precious. I take nothing for granted.

Now that you are both grown I have the joy of being your friend, less guide and mentor, and that is a comfortable place for me. You are both worth the world to me; your love and friendship conclude an elegant sufficiency.

- dad

- Posted via Hermes.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Here's to the path carvers

Friday: sunshine, top down, brisk spring birds-a-chirp commute, Sigur Rós playing mezzo-loudo, and the weekend approaches. What more could a poor working lad wish?

Commencement this evening. While I'm not usually inclined to "give up" my Friday evening for something work-related after a full week of giving-at-the-office, Commencement is a worthy exception. A celebration of why we put the hours in here that we do, it is great to see so many of our students achieve their academic goals. For some, it has been a relatively easy series of steps toward a future already thought out and readily achievable. For many, though, getting to this point has been a series of challenges individually overcome. For many, it has not been the traditional path of university straight out of high school, of fraternity associations that will pave the well-connected way through life, of college simply as a rite of passage or fulfillment of the obvious expectations of friends and family.

I know that feeling, too. I was not a traditional-path college student, but a first-generation graduate who didn't complete his degrees until later in life and only after a long circuitous path. I didn't take college education for granted, but also didn't overly value it's importance as a measure of my worth (which had much to do with how long it took me to there, alas). I respect the struggles, internal and external, that many students face to get to this point.

So I will don my decorous dress, with it's complimentary colors indicating my degree (location and flavor) of academic accomplishment, but will wear my tennis shoes, too. In so many ways, these less-than-professional-standard shoes are my roots and they, too, are part of my journey-story.

I salute all our graduates this evening, those who walk, those who don't, and especially those who had to forge a unique path through a tradition-oriented process that still favors those who were born to it, and who made it through to this accomplishment. I sincerely hope we were there to help create those unique paths for and with each of you.

Today's full Sigur Rós playlist:
- Hjartö Hamast (Bamm Bamm Bamm)
- Mea Blóanasir
- All Alright
- Gong

- Posted via Hermes.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Happy freshly-showered good morning

Wednesday and wonderfully conflicted early-morning weather. Blue skies blaring through low-hanging misty clouds that seem intent on clinging to the pine tops rather than be blown away. The roads are wet from rains just past and the air has that freshly washed morning scent. Mr. Malleable has just stepped from his morning shower with a scant piece of white towel clasped about him for modesty's sake.

It's a comfortable 50° F (10° C) already this morning, so the top goes down. Apart from the risk of a little wet road spray from the single-occupant-conveyance diesel monster-truck growling and lumbering ridiculously in front of me, the clouds are spent and getting wet on the drive in shouldn't be a worry.

This morning's first tune couldn't be more appropriate to the day. Cockburn sings:

Good day to you
Fat balloon man
May you always have air
You sing a song everybody can believe

Good day to you
Uncle tom cat
Out to trick the whole world
You carry a tune for nobody but yourself

Bonjour a toi
Herr policeman
May your boots always fit
Someday you'll find a song you can believe

Good morning good people
The sun is long sailing
The only clouds you see
Are carried within
Soon they'll be blown all away
Wind's gonna rise and blow those clouds away
Wind's gonna rise and blow your blues away
Your sun's gonna shine in my back door some day ...

Truly a mixed bag of music, as conflicted (on the surface) as this morning's weather. Moon River end capped by Fountains Of Wayne on the one side and My Morning Jacket on the other? Genius, really. Hat tip to the iPod shuffle's magic mixology.

Today's full playlist:

- Bruce Cockburn: Happy Good Morning Blues
- Fountains Of Wayne: Baby I've Changed
- Henry Mancini: Moon River
- My Morning Jacket: What a Wonderful Man
- Harry Nilsson: Many Rivers To Cross

- Posted via Hermes.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday, just like Greta Garbo

Wow, yesterday was only Monday. All of it. One of those days that seems to cram so much into it that you just know half the week went with it. It wasn't that the calendar was all that crammed, just ordinarily full. But there are busy days and then there are brain-busy days, and I think yesterday was one of the latter.

Today is Tuesday, that slip of a day-in-passing, the overlooked weekday. I'm going to make a concerted effort to dial today down and focus on things like clearing up the pending items in my inbox and to-do list. Don't call. Or, as Van Morrison says in Just like Greta Garbo:
If anybody asks you have you seen me
Please just tell them no

Well I guess I'm going A.W.O.L.
Disconnect my telephone
Just like Greta Garbo
I just want to be alone

Oh, it's sprinkling and cloudy again this morning. Yesterday the sun came through late in the day, and today has a chance of doing the same. Top up on the way in, top down on the way home. I can live with that.

Great soundtrack this morning! More songs fit into it, too, for whatever reason. Lightfoot is more than comfort food to my generation, he is an excellent songwriter and Carefree Highway is a good example. Madeleine Payroux's cover of Dance me to the end of love lead me to explore Leonard Cohen more deeply, for which I will be forever grateful. With her Billy Holiday-esque timing and languid vocal gait, Payroux is a fascinating singer and songwriter, and would be a favorite even if she hadn't lead me to re-discover Cohen.

Finally, there is the Guggenheim Grotto. If you have never checked out their music, I can't recommend doing so more strongly. There is no such thing as a "typical" GG tune, but today's number is as good a place to start as any. Dial it up in Pandora, sample it on iTunes or Amazon, listen through the whole album (The Universe Is Laughing) while you're at it. Good, as they say, stuff!

- Gordon Lightfoot: Carefree Highway
- Madeleine Payroux: Dance me to the end of love*
- The Bestles: Revolution
- Big Head Todd & The Monsters: Silvery Moon
- The Guggenheim Grotto: Wings and Feathers

*I use the capitalization convention of each artist/label when I list songs, rather than standardizing. Some capitalize every word, others just first words, and still others think they're e.e. cummings.

- Posted via Hermes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

It's wet out, therefore iPad

It's Monday again and it's raining again. However, the weekend afforded some great weather, especially Sunday. When Monday brings rain after a rare taste of sunshine in what has been a record-breaking cold and wet spring, he really does live down to his image as least popular kid on the playground. The forecast does call for some more sunshine this week, in between clouds and wet.

I missed posting a couple days last week, again for early morning meetings. This week looks mostly normal, so hopefully I can get back on track. Not that the world is any poorer for the lack of a couple days of this blog, but because one year of consistent daily recordings of the commute music was the reason I started this in the first place I still feel compelled to stick to the rules and goal.

Before I get to the music, a couple of recommendations for fellow iPadians. The first is really for iPhone 4 users: Camera+. Camera+ adds several enhancements to the iPhone and gives it the potential to take professional quality photos. It means that not only is the best camera the one you have with you (as goes the old saying), but the phone you have with you really may be your best camera. The ability to do some very powerful editing of each image in a lightbox before saving them is especially powerful when you want to get just the right result.

On the iPad, Photolog and Filterstorm combine to give you, first, an excellent way to create, manage, and upload albums of photos to Facebook, Flickr, Picassa, and other popular photo sharing sites, and second a strong set of image manipulation and adjustment tools to ensure each photo is as good as you can make it.

Finally, a non-photographic app, Venus for iPad. Venus is a solid Facebook client for the iPad. I've played with all of the FB clients available, and each has it's strength (well, some have very few strengths, to be honest!) but each one fails to something well. Some don't update reliably, other won't let you comment on posts, some don't see all entries, some won't let you download pictures, some are sloooooow, etc. It's early days yet, but this one appears to be quite solid as well as very nicely interfaced. It looks like you've opened a tabbed notebook and, while scrolling up and down on what looks like a page of an opened paperbound book is a little strange to the eyes, the layout works quite well for presenting and organizing all the things one does on FB.

This morning's music was very good, though it started off a bit like cartoon hour with a couple of silly tunes. Speaking of what could be silly but is actually nicely done: how often do you get to hear Robert Palmer doing a cover of a Gershwin tune?

The full playlist:

- The Beatles: Rocky Raccoon
- Bela Fleck & The Flecktones: Flight Of The Cosmic Hippo
- Franco de Vita: Mira Más Allá (Live)
- Robert Palmer: I Got Rhythm
- Peter Doherty: Palace of Bone

- Posted via Hermes.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Startlingly small world

Wednesday, wet, and... something. I'm not quite sure what, though. I have referred to Wednesday as Mr Malleable before, a lump of mid-week clay waiting to be shaped into either a half full or half empty whatever. Today feels that way. Still early in the day and it feels like it could go either way.

That being the case, and in the hopes that I can give the day a tip into the half-full side of being, I'm starting the day with comfort food for the ear, mind, and body: Sigur Rós and a gourd of mate.

To be honest, the iPod got dialed into my Sigur Rós playlist yesterday afternoon and I forgot to flip back to shuffle for the drive in. Had I thought about it, though, I probably would have left it on Sigur Rós anyway.

Funny how, through the magic of the shrunken world, Icelandic ambient rock and a South American beverage have, over time, become comfort food to someone living in the US. From geographic near-polar opposites, no less. Small world.

This morning, as I was pouring hot water into my gourd, a colleague popped into my office bright and early for a quick good morning chat. Us early birds are like that. For the first time he really noticed a painting I have hanging in my office, and it really pulled him up short. Art can do that, of course, but this was clearly a very deep reaction to the painting.

I have two paintings hanging side by side, intentionally grouped because, like South America and Iceland, they are such a compelling contrast:

The small image size here may not do either justice, but hopefully gives the flavor of them, at least. For my colleague, the one on the left took him back to a very different time and place, a housing project in Chicago. The image evoked by this painting was so similar to a building he had lived in growing up that he could even see which of the windows was his unit; he pointed it out on the painting. He then showed me the real place on the Web, now closed up and ready for demolition. The similarity was startling.

Both paintings are from my daughter, each painted a number of years ago. The one on the left was based on a smaller version she did about the time she was serving in City Year (Americorps), where she did a stint in.... wait for it... Chicago. Small world.

Today's full playlist:

- Gobbledigook
- Starálfur
- Go Do - Live
- Straumnes

- Posted via Hermes.

PS: I love how the iPad's adaptive on-screen keyboard makes typing a wide variety of accented characters so much easier than a traditional fixed keyboard. Just press and hold a vowel, for example, to get a whole pallet of accented versions of same to select from. Brilliant!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Misting, smokey, and then it's over

Tuesday and the return of the clouds. It looked touch and go as to whether I would get away keeping the top down on the drive in. In the end, I raised it and did get lightly misted on along the way. Nothing I wouldn't have survived top down, but why get wet at all if you don't have to? Especially on a Tuesday.

Busy morning, so I'll keep this to the musical point. Today's playlist was smokey vocal jazz (mostly) with Kurt Elling giving voice to the Bob Mintzer Big Band number. Elling's amazing vocal style often leaves me wondering if there are any fixed notes or if he is just completely extemporaneous in his vocal wanderings. ELO closed out the commute by declaring "It's Over" just I pulled into a parking spot.

Today's full play list:

- Rod Stewart: Someone to Watch Over Me
- Bob Mintzer Big Band: All Is Quiet
- Norah Jones: Come Away With Me
- ELO: It's Over

- Posted via Hermes.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sun, bear, Bruce, wedding, and Morning Jacket

Monday after the beautiful weekend, and it's still top-down weather. The forecast gives us this one additional day of sunshine before assigning sun mixed with rain to us again. Makes for a beautiful commute and a strong desire to play hooky from work.

My commute started with a phone call to my cell phone just as I was pulling out of the driveway. A bear was was being tracked by police about a block or two from our campus. It was cornered in an abandoned shopping plaza and, by the time I got to campus, they had shot and killed it. So the campus is safe from bears, but the bear wasn't safe from us. For this end it was born?

It was a busy weekend, but in a fun sort of way. Saturday night was the Bruce Cockburn concert in Seattle.

My one or two even-occasional readers know that I'm a big fan of Bruce's music. Nobody provides such a rich mix of lyric depth and poetry, instrumental virtuoso, and wide-ranging musical styles and influences. If you missed the show and want to see pictures from the show (from the Vancouver and Victora BC shows) or listen to a bit of the concert from the CBC site: look and listen. The latter is from a concert in Banff, and the playlist is very similar, but not quite the same as we heard on Saturday.

Then a wedding on Sunday. The daughter of a good friend, a Producer for KING 5 News in Seattle, married another KING 5 Producer on board a moored ferry on Lake Washington. A beautiful day and a beautiful setting for a beautiful wedding. And, yes, several station celebrities were among the guests celebrating the union of their two employees.

My Morning Jacket just leased a new CD last week, so this morning's commute was limited to listening through the first few songs from the new disk (Circuital):

- Circuital
- Wonderful (The Way I Feel)
- Slow Slow Tune

From what I have heard so far, this is a welcome return to their usual sound (that last disk being an interesting departure) and songwriting. I occurred to me this morning that lead singer Jim James's voice reminds me of early Larry Norman. So far, good stuff.

- Posted via Hermes.

Friday, June 3, 2011

It's been a week, it's a wrap

Friday is back like he just ran around the block. What, Friday already again? How can this week possibly be gone?!? No complaints, mind you. The Popular Dude, harbinger of the weekend, is a most welcome sight right about now. A short week, but a very condensed week in the thickened-reduced down-dense-intense sense of the word. Dense enough to generate extra gravitational pull that whipsawed me from issue to issue with little regard for my already-crammed calendar.

So while this imminently-approaching weekend is on the obligatedly-busy side as well, at least it affords some little space to call my own. I sincerely hope so, this week particularly.

But lest that sounds too much like a complaint, know that the drive in this morning was refreshingly top-down, infinitely blue-sky capped, wind whistling through my hair (well, sweeping the top of my scalp, anyway), bird song cutting across the iPod-driven soundtrack, and sunglasses absolutely required. I treated myself to coffee from the favorite coffee kiosk (something I realized this morning I haven't done in some time), and have a solid block of unscheduled morning in which to get a bit caught up. Add a strong gourd of Barbacua mate to follow the coffee and things are really looking up.

Like the Gottfried Benn poem Tracing, the morning is mine to create, within reason:

So you faced the day: the font
without bubbles, dawdling
buildings and staircases; the houses
locked up, it was for you to create
the morning, early jasmine,
its yelps, its incipient aboriginal
stream—still without end—O those years!

Interesting soundtrack this morning. It ran quietly through the drive, since I didn't want to overpower the birds or shatter the relative quiet of the neighborhoods I passed through. What can you say about a short playlist that pits Stafrænn Hákon directly against Oscar Peterson, having kicked off with David Gray?

The full playlist:
- David Gray: Lead Me Upstairs
- Jump In The Water: Saint Teresa
- Stafrænn Hákon: Iodine (live Birmingham 2004)
- Oscar Peterson: Con Alma

- Posted via Hermes.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Purchasing: about those missing hours

Wednesday, good ol' Mr. Malleable, is back. So is the rain, though the forecast suggests today's weather may also be a bit of all things to all folks. It's this point in the holiday-shortened week that I most feel it. Everything I have planned to get done this week (ignoring for an unrealistic moment all the things that come flying unexpectedly at the week's scant few hours of productive time) should be half accomplished by noon today, and I can clearly see that's not going to be the case. Purchasing Dept: quick - order me up a couple of extra hours for today!

My mate gourd is settling back on it's haunches and producing the deep intense flavor that only comes from the first couple of fills of mate by the gourd. Maybe if I do a couple more gourds this morning I can compensate for those missing hours?

Great commute soundtrack again today. In a contrary spirit I upped the volume on So Quiet In Here because I love that song and that album. If I had a quickly accessible steering wheel button for directing the iPod to play the album the current song is from I would have tripped it.

Cher breezed through a sultry rendition of the Gershwin tune It Ain't Necessarily So, from a collection of Gershwin tunes covered by an very varied all-star cast. A fun rendition of a witty tune.

The full playlist:

- Van Morrison: So Quiet In Here
- Duke Ellington: Stompy Jones
- Cher: It Ain't Necessarily So
- Fountains Of Wayne: Baby I've Changed
- Blue Merle: Either Way It Goes

- Posted via Hermes.