Monthly Archives: October 2008

Monday Crack – 5 State Fall Foliage Part 1

Mix the old with the new.Beautiful trees guard the Performing Arts Center of Albany.

Rockefeller reflecting.

I’m in anticipation of the fall foliage.  I know it’s all around me, but all of it I’ve seen so far, are the vines that surround the window of my apartment.  They are beginning to change color.  I know this sounds sad and in a way it is.  You don’t get much of a fall in Manhattan.  You know it’s fall because the energy in the city changes and everything becomes more alive.  There’s an excitement in the crisp air and you know things are happening.  But if I’m going to live on the east coast and deal with all four seasons, I at least want to be able to appreciate the most beautiful one we have.  All outside Manhattan surrounding us fall is everywhere and I almost missed it this year.  But happily a friend of mine is renting a car and has asked me to go upstate and experience the season.  Tomorrow perhaps I’ll see my first red tree!


My friend got to my apartment around 10am and we started heading outside of the city.  We had an idea of what we wanted to do but nothing was set in stone.  As soon as we got out of the city color started to float past us.  It looked like a package of flavored lollypops were on either side of us as we drove.  Since I had never been to Albany and it’s in a pretty region and it’s New York’s state capital, we decided to start our trip with a quick glimpse of the city and a nice lunch; after all it is the home of my state representatives and governor.

It was different then I had imagined.  It was much prettier and more impressive, old married to the new, quaint and bold, a combination of opposites that somehow together work.  We walked around some beautiful older buildings and visited the Empire State Plaza (seen in photo) a series of modern state buildings, now referred to as Rockefeller Plaza.  In the middle of this complex sits a funny egg shaped building, that’s a performing arts complex.  I’m told, and I don’t know that it’s true, that when Rockefeller, who oversaw the construction of the plaza, viewed the initial drawings he thought the buildings all of the same design, needed something to break them up.  He was eating his breakfast, and supposedly he had a grapefruit in front of him.  My friend said story has it that he picked up his grapefruit, slammed it down on the table, and said to the people attending the meeting, “something like this!”  And so the “Egg Building,” (seen pictured above) was born.  An Albany landmark like Rockefeller imagined, it sits proudly in the middle of the Plaza breaking up the scene of the other buildings that all look much the same, viewing itself with the others in the reflecting pool that sits in the middle.  After a good lunch we decided to head up towards Lake George, where we would get a nice room, relax, see more leaves and trees, commune with nature and spend the night.

To Be Continued in Tuesdays “Daily Crack”

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My Cats Tail – Hungry Cats

Yoshi and Suki – “We’re waiting!”

\"We\'re waiting!\"

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Daily Photo – Cracks In Sidewalks Not Too Subtle

Cracks that stand out in a crowd.

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Daily Crack – Joan Allen is Always Good

She has played a repressed housewife, the wife of a car inventor, the wife of a President who is forced to leave office; the mother of a chess prodigy, Toby Maguire’s mother, a VP with a sex scandal, a CIA director, and an alcoholic single mother.  You might ask, what do each of these roles have in common?  Joan Allen, and Joan Allen, is always good.

She’s been one of those actresses that I have loved to watch over the years, subtle but strong defining her characters.   She seems to have made wise choices, or wise directors and writers have sought her out for the right roles.

Born in Rochelle, Illinois in 1956, Joan Allen was a very shy child who used acting as a means in which to draw her self out, having the freedom to express emotions and actions she could not otherwise express. And she excelled in doing so, so much so, that by the time she was attending Eastern Illinois State, she was catching the eye of a young actor named John Malkovich, who invited her to come to Chicago and join he and some other actor’s at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company.  Early members of the company already included a young Gary Sinise and a young Laurie Metcalf among others.  In Chicago while with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, she was a secretary during the days so she could afford to perform at night.

Working her way through the theatre she came to NYC eventually landing on Broadway along side Malkovich in her Tony Award winning role in Lanford Wilson’s “Burn This.”  Then came movie rolls in films such as “Peggy Sue Got Married,” Coppola’s “Tucker,” “Searching For Bobby Fischer,” Oliver Stone’s “Nixon,” and the “The Crucible” along side Daniel Day Lewis.  Later I was happy to see her in other memorable films playing roles such as the wife of John Travolta in John Woo’s “Face/Off,” and the estranged wife of Kevin Kline in “The Ice Storm,” a brilliant movie!   And in recent years “The Contender,” “The Notebook,”  “The Bourne Supremcy,” and “The Upside of Anger.”

Joan Allen seems to do all of this effortlessly.  She transparently transcends into each of these parts, and she is always good.  Actually I should say great!  An actress who’s very recognizable as she’s been seen in so many parts and has had a deservedly successful career; but because of her co-star status, a name not on the tip of everyone’s tongue, and I’m here to say if you love film and good acting, it should be.  An exciting actress of depth and dimension I look forward to seeing her again and again.  She’s like a stamp of approval in my book.  With several movies due out soon, I’m certain we have much more to discover from Joan Allen and luckily we won’t have to wait too long.

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Daily Photo – Cracks In Sidewalks Primitive Sand

Sand drawings in cracks.

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Daily Tune On – Hani Naser Music Master for Peace

I thought I was going to be writing a piece on string virtuoso and one of my favorite players David Lindley, but I’ll save that for another day.  Instead I want to write today about an extraordinary Jordanian musician with whom David Lindley has collaborated, and who is both a master oud player and a master percussionist.  For those of you who don’t know what an oud is, it’s a fretless string instrument with a bowl like back and usually 11 strings, five sets of two strings paired in the same tuning and an eleventh string which is separate and tuned low.

Hani Naser’s music would best be described as organic.  It comes from feeling and intuition.  He plays in the moment.  He says his music doesn’t have a perspective or an opinion.   It is spontaneous and it is spiritual.  Known by many musicians Hani Naser has played with the likes of Jackson Brown, Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder, Jim Keltner, Steve Miller, Los Lobos, The Violent Femmes, Don Henley, Jennifer Warnes, Israeli singer/songwriter David Broza, Paco De Lucia, Santana, Quick Silver Messenger Service, John Hyatt, Warren Zevon, Ruben Blades, Lou Reed, Blind Boys of Alabama, David Lindley, and many other great performers.  Without a doubt in one of these recordings or performances you have heard him play, you just didn’t know who it was.

Growing up in the hills of Jordan he likes to tell a story about his grandfather who was the village poet.  Every morning his grandfather would grind his coffee and tell stories at the same time.  Naser says his music and sounds were first developed from listening to these stories as his grandfather made his coffee.  Hearing the words float over this sound and the rhythmic crunching of the coffee created the texture from which he built his career as a musician.  His collaboration with string master David Lindley for seven years produced what critic Paul Harrar called, “One of the best jam sessions in the music business,” and   their album “Live in Tokyo,” was chosen by Guitar Player Magazine as one of the top 100 albums of the last decade.  And if you’re a fan of “World Music,” he was featured on Hamza El Din’s album “A Wish,” which topped the World Music Charts.

Hani Naser’s music is about communication.  He is an active participant in using music to help bridge differences between people and countries, and as a force to help bring about peace.  He collaborated with Israeli singer/songwriter David Broza and together they toured the war torn Middle East.  They were also asked to perform by their home countries at the signing of the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan.  Another way that Naser uses his music is by giving workshops called “The Healing Powers of Rhythm and Music,” where he delves into the spiritual dimensions of music.  He continues to lead these workshops at Esalen in Big Sur, CA.  To Hani Naser, “every drum has its own voice.”  And through his years of playing with other musicians, and connecting to people through performance, he has come to believe that “we are vibrations,” and “sometime vibrations get out of sync.  Music I have found brings back that balance.”

To learn more about this extraordinary player, where he’s touring, giving workshops, his latest recordings, go to his personal website which is listed below.  Just cut and paste the link into your browser and explore.

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Daily Photo – Cracks in Sidewalks and Sand

Sandy cracks.

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Daily Crack – Henry Moore, Art Gallery of Ontario and NY Botanical Gardens

When I was young my parents used to send me to a summer camp 3 hours north of Toronto in a town called Haliburton.  As a result of this affiliation I had lots of Canadian friends growing up and some of those friendships continued into adulthood.  For some reason I always liked Canadians and I loved Toronto and it was during one of these trips that I got my first real taste of Henry Moore.  Of course I had studied Moore’s sculptures in art classes and art history, but seeing so many of them and having the sculptures right in front of you is much different than looking at a picture in a book.  His work truly moved me.

The Art Gallery of Ontario houses the largest collection of Henry Moore sculptures in the world with more than 900 of his sculptures and drawings as well as objects that Moore used as inspiration in his sculpture.  It was there that my love affair with Moore began on a deeper level.  His sculptures transfixed me with their shape and form and all those angles and curves.

Henry Moore was the seventh of eight children.  His father was a mining engineer and although the family struggled at times with poverty, education, music, and literature were very important in his family.  His father did not want his son to grow up to be a laborer.  Moore displayed an unusual ability for art at an early age, earning him a scholarship to the “Castleford Secondary School.”  It was during his studies there that Moore made the decision to become an artist.   Serving in WW1 Moore got a grant after the war to continue his education and attended “Leeds College of Art and Design,” where he studied sculpture.

His early sculptures were of a romantic Victorian style including landscapes, modeling animals, and natural forms.  He went on to study primitivism, which affected not only what he was sculpting but his approach as well.  Winning a six-month traveling scholarship Moore went to Northern Italy and there he studied the masters like Michaelangelo and Pisano.  During this time Moore visited Paris to take some classes.  On one of those visits to Paris he went to the Louvre, where he viewed a plaster cast of a Toltec-Maya figure.  It’s said that this had a profound effect on him and his work, and that much of his work after seeing this cast was derived from that place.

Teaching at the Royal College of Art and later heading the sculpture department at the Chelsea School of Art, Moore would make frequent trips to Paris where he was in contact with and influenced by the surrealist movement and the likes of Pablo Picasso, George Braque, Jean Arp and others.  Moore continued to teach until the outbreak of WW11.

Henry Moore was a lucky man.  He was married to a woman named Irina Radetsky, and supposedly had a very happy marriage.  And in 1946 Irina after multiple miscarriages, gave birth to their long awaited daughter, Mary.  He was a very successful artist and got to live and see his art appreciated by the world.  His art also made him a very wealthy man with many large commissions, including the 1950’s sculpture of a reclining woman for the UNESCO building in Paris.

As his wealth and fame grew Moore stayed grounded and decided to continue to live in his original house, a farmhouse they called “Hoglands,” in Hertfordshire, saying it was big enough.  Before his death he established the Henry Moore Foundation where today his legacy is carried out.  The foundation is dedicated to preserving the works of Henry Moore, promoting public appreciation of art, and providing grants for arts education.  And something you might not know about Henry Moore?  In 1951 he was offered Knighthood but turned it down.  He was afraid that people might perceive him as too establishment.

For those of you who live in the NY area, we are in the last two weeks of a special Henry Moore exhibit at the New York Botanical Gardens.  You have through November 2nd to get there if you’re interested.  It’s supposed to be the largest outdoor exhibit of the artists work.

To learn more about the Henry Moore Foundation either click on the link below or cut and paste it into your browser.

To get information about the Henry Moore NY Botanical Garden exhibit, either click on the link below or cut and paste it into your browser.

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Daily Photo – Cracks In Sidewalks Primitive

Primitive art in cracks in sidewalks.

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Daily Tune On – Bjork, “Wanderlust,” the VMA’s and Iceland

With Iceland setting the tone for the beginning of this week, how could I write a “Daily Tune On” and not write about Bjork?  The answer, I couldn’t.  Having come from Iceland’s punk rock scene and risen to fame as one of their most original and notable singer/songwriter/actress’, Bjork actually began her career at the age of 12 when she recorded her first album of mostly cover tunes.  Born to a father who was a well-known union leader in Iceland and a mother who was politically active, I would believe from a very young age she was taught personal expression was a good thing, and to speak up and be heard, which of course she has.  It’s reported that over her career she’s sold approximately 15 million records.

She is known for her work with the punk band “KUKL” with whom she toured Europe, her work as the lead singer of the band the “Sugarcubes,” whom she helped to bring to “cult” status in both the US and UK, and later as a solo artist, singer/songwriter, and accomplished actress.  Bjork has been nominated for 13 Grammy’s, several Golden Globes, and even an Academy Award for her starring role in the 2000 movie, “Dancer In The Dark” where she was also named “Best Actress” by the Cannes jurors and won critical acclaim for her album, “Selmasongs, her score for the same film.

Her pop music sound is described as a collection of genres put together and assembled in Bjork’s own unique fashion. There isn’t a lot of gray in her music.   What I mean is that I think one either likes her music or they don’t.  I haven’t listened a lot to Bjork, but I believe I’ve fallen into the category of someone who likes her music when I have.  No one can say she’s not original, and that takes courage.  Besides she’s got a great soprano voice, and you can count on a lot of artistic and personal expression in all her recordings.

Yesterday, October 20th, Bjork released her new single “Nattura” through her own label “One Little Indian.”  The single will initially only be available on iTunes, but will be released digitally everywhere on October 27th.  The song is in support of the Nattura Campaign helping Iceland provide sustainable and eco-friendly options for their country and to come up with ways to help Iceland best use their natural resources.  All proceeds from the track are being donated to   Thom Yorke from “Radiohead,” is featured on backing vocals.

And just this past week Bjork’s music video to her song “Wanderlust,” won “Best Art Direction,” “Best Indie/Alternative Video,” and the top honor of “Video of the Year” in the UK’s 2008 Music Video Awards show.  Below is a link to the video and song.   To access it, either click on the link below or cut and paste it into your browser.

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