Monthly Archives: March 2003

Singing Lessons

If you want to learn to sing,
learn to breathe below the neck;
let the air fill your belly,
do not tense the throat and chest.

When you let loose the sound,
if it buzzes only in your head
it will sound small and strained;
if you do not feel the vibrations

through your toes, it is not singing.
Before you exhale through your open mouth,
remember, once your jaw is dropped
your Eustachian tubes will crimp;

so be sure to listen long and hard
first – do not rush into the first note.
Leave aside your theatrics and gesticulations!
There is time later for that circus.

To sing is not to entertain, but to fill.
Believe in the song, do not choose lightly;
for singing is sustained speech,
and the overtones will echo long after

you pause for breath.
Do not try to own the song;
just let it carry you.
Do not try to add anything

just try not to take too much away.
Now: inhale deeply and begin.

31 MAR 2013

Praying for the Living

Everything that draws breath will some day stop;
No eternal life past the here and now
will cause anything to live forever.
Each new day brings another to an end.

The sun is not infinitely shining;
like us, it too requires a fuel supply.
There is no take without returning give,
though some fight against this equal exchange –

saying, they were gone too soon (or rather,
they did not get to take nearly enough);
some think they deserve much more than others
(though their payment is the same, maybe less).
If you want to live, seek for balance now;
but remember, no one has exact change.

31 MAR 2003

Rediscovering Gitanjali

For the first time in my life, I have discovered a poem that perfectly describes my experience with Truth (god, goddess, the infinite, the universe, or whatever you wish to call it):

The song that I came to sing remains unsung to this day.

I have spent my days in stringing and unstringing my instrument.

The time has not come true, the words have not been rightly set; only there is the agony of wishing in my heart.

The blossom has not yet opened; only the wind is sighing by.

I have not seen its face, nor have I listened to its voice; only I have heard its gentle footsteps from the road before my house.

The livelong day has passed in spreading its seat on the floor; but the lamp has not been lit and I cannot ask it into my house.

I live in the hope of meeting with it; but this meeting is not yet.

— Rabindranath Tagore, from Gitanjali, 1911

Thought from the Dalai Lama

Perfection is not perfect actions in a perfect world, but rather, appropriate actions in an imperfect one.

Desert Storms and the Battle of Anghiari

No winding caravans, trailing behind
the despoiling route of a conqueror,
have had to slow in their lumbering tracks
to scatter their spoor against detection,

hiding the broken lances and spent shells
that might make their way through the sifted sand
to the silt bed of Mother Euphrates
before their blood-smeared edges have been dulled

and baked away by the blistering wind.
Never have heavy-foot heroes trod here
and found their imprint even the next day.

In this place, time is a meaningless farce;
no lasting triumph can be long achieved.
The faceless dunes know no empire builders.

Beyond this edge of the world there exist
no monsters; no great devouring evil
ruminates out in this barren wasteland.
Only its scored skeletal shards remain,

crumpled into obscurity and dust
now lost to the infinite sagacity
of endless sand, the edge of an hourglass
whose shattered fragments mark the worn ends

of some desolate, clutching foothold
desperately proclaimed civilization
by the collectors of temporal might.

In this place, strength is a fleeting shadow;
no permanent kingdom can be maintained.
The shifting desert has no memory.

25 MAR 2003

“Tell me if anything has ever been achieved; tell me.” — Leonardo da Vinci, Notebooks

NOTES:
“…You will give a reddish tinge to the faces, the figures, the air, the musketeers, and those around them, and this red glow will fade the farther it is from its source…Arrows will be flying in all directions, falling down, flying straight ahead, filling the air, and bullets from firearms will leave a trail of smoke behind them…If you show a man who has fallen to the ground, reproduce his skid marks in the dust, which has been transformed into bloody mud. And all around on the slippery ground you will show the marks where men and horses have trampled it in passing. A horse will b e dragging behind it the body of its dead rider, leaving traces of the corpse’s blood behind it in the dust and mud. Make the vanquished look pale and panic-stricken, their eyebrows raised high or knitted in grief, their faces stricken with painful lines…Men fleeing in rout will be crying out with open mouths. Have all kinds of weapons lying underfoot: broken shields, lances, stumps of swords, and other such things…The dying will be grinding their teeth, their eyeballs rolling heavenward as they beat their bodies with their fists and twist their limbs. You could show a warrior disarmed and knocked to the ground, turning on his foe, biting and scratching him in cruel and bitter revenge; there could also be a riderless horse galloping away into the enemy lines, mane flying in the wind, causing great injury with its hooves. Or perhaps some wounded man, lying on the ground and trying to protect himself with his shield, while his enemy bends over him to deal the fatal blow. Or a pile of men lying on the corpse of a horse. Several of the victors are leaving the field; they will move away from the melee, wiping their hands over their eyes and cheeks to remove the thick layer of mud caused by their eyes watering on account of the dust…Take care not to leave a single flat area that is not trampled and saturated with blood.” — Leonardo da Vinci, notes for the sketches of “The Battle of Anghiari”, MS 2038, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, 30v; 31r.

“Apart from Poussin’s Massacre of the Innocents, Goya’s Tres de Mayo, and Picasso’s Guernica, there has probably been no picture in the history of art as violent, brutal, and terrible as The Battle of Anghiari…Unfortunately, only traces of the painting remain – in the lines quoted above, in a few of Leonardo’s sketches (in Windsor Castle and the British Library), and in partial copies of the fresco by Raphael and Michelangelo.” — Serge Bramly, Leonardo: The Artist and the Man

The Second Coming

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

— William Butler Yeats

Ozymandias

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

-Percy Bysshe Shelley

Diva Las Vegas? Come on …

Someone, please explain the appeal of Celine Dion. While you’re at it, convince me that she is to Las Vegas in the 21st century what Elvis was to the Strip in the 1960’s/70’s. And then, try to help me overcome my disgust with anyone who didn’t flinch while listening to Celine warbling through a Stevie Wonder cover, pondering her youth as a “nappy headed baby boy”.

Yes, I know she is the highest selling female artist of all time. But we all know that sales don’t prove you are any good, they just mean you are well marketed.

First off, and of course, these are only my opinions, she is NOT an entertainer. She’s not funny, she can’t dance, is not sexy, sensual or alluring. And the Mary Martin haircut doesn’t help, either. She looks like an anorexic Enya trying to be all things to all people – but she’s not Liza, Barbara, Aretha, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Maria Callas or even Joel Grey. And she DEFINITELY isn’t Elvis. That comparison to me is insulting. She sounds particularly stupid trying to be funky. And I have never liked her over-the-top oh won’t someone hand me a torch caterwauling. Her voice, which I have NEVER liked, sounded thin, whiny and grating at its BEST in the live broadcast the other night.

And interestingly enough, she didn’t speak a word of French during her show’s US television debut. Wonder why? Are they serving Freedom Fries at Caesar’s Palace, too?

The Cirque de Soleil parts were of course overdone, as well. But that’s to be expected. To be honest, I also expected Celine to be one of the clowns onstage – and I was not disappointed. Three years and $95 million for that pile of crap show?

And you know what’s really irritating? No one, not a single reviewer of this monstrous catastrophe, seemed to be put off, bored and/or nauseated by the experience. Which means, of course, that I must be the only person in the world whose bullshit detector is still working properly.

The Calms of Capricorn

Only five degrees to the north or south,
shifted just slightly from this present course
(here where the still air hangs in the mouth
and even expelled shows no sign of force)

and the trip would have been much different,
without all this vain waiting on the wind,
sitting drenched in sweat, no course apparent,
sails limp and useless as light to the blind.

At the horizon the edge of the sea
is flat and motionless; it does not stir
nor show signs of life in its murky deep.

The paralyzed air tastes stale, hard to breathe;
reason’s vision, exhausted, seems to blur
as towards a foul darkness the hours creep.

24 MAR 2003