Thursday, June 25, 2009

IOU's...oh joy.

Sooooo, IOU's. Next week. Don't you think the California legislators should be the first to receive them?

And Arnie: what's this crap about vetoing a budget bill because it doesn't meet your specs?... because, oh horrors, in order to keep the parks open and health services for children, there are some raised fees in it? If a budget bill passes, you should honor the work the Legislature has done and sign the damn thing; we have another round coming soon enough and it doesn't look any better than this one.

And maybe you should accept the very first IOU, you know, like the Head of State you are, setting an example, taking the lead. Show that as a Captain of the Ship, you'll do the honorable thing, that women and children should be taken care of first, and you'll get by. It's not like you have to pay for health care or don't already have enough money for any Hummer you might fancy. Maybe you need a deep swim in the Sea of Reality that you (and some recalcitrant Republicans) can't seem to imagine.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sing like Handwriting

The Summer Solstice, Father's Day, rich blue sky with warm winds. We gathered: students from every decade, well back into the 60's, admirers from nearby and abroad, friends from every context and almost every continent, musicians of every stripe and creed, family, families, fellow teachers, all of us honored, blessed, downright lucky to have studied with or known such a magnificent musician, such a compassionate teacher.

We spoke of the power of his music, the way one note could break your heart, the way one note, pulled two steps this way, one step that and every shruti (micro-tone) in between, could be melody, the way he could make the hair rise on the back of your neck, the top of your head expand, spin, take off. We spoke of Khansahib's generosity with his music, his willingness to teach anyone, to water our world with the likes of Rag Chandranandan, Desh Malhar, Bhimpalashri. In the heat of a Marin afternoon, thuds and dribbles of red earth, pebbles, roses echoed from the butterscoth-blonde hills as we each marked our last tangible connection with this giant of a musician, this short Bengali with the knowing smirk, the generous smile and the all-encompassing desire for us to learn to "sing like handwriting--not typewriters", our Baba, our Swara Samrat, Emperor of Melody.

The Ali Akbar College of Music that he founded in San Rafael, California, is in the midst of preserving and archiving thousands of hours of his music and teachings. In lieu of flowers, or if you just want to help, the family asks for donations to continue the cause.

Preservation Project

And if you are unfamiliar with his music, this is a pretty decent YouTube video:
Khansahib: Shree

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, 1922-2009

We lost a genius last week, an unparalleled musician with an extraordinary gift of melody and a passion for teaching. He gave to the world music so devastatingly pure and direct that it could ruin you for anything else, while at the same time opening your ears, allowing you to understand all music, to comprehend that music the world over is ... music. As long as it's in tune and in tal (time/rhythm), that is.

Khansahib to most, Baba to his family and close students, he was a generous teacher, dedicated to sharing his music with the world, with you, with whoever happened to be sitting crossleged in front of him, with eager ears and a receptive mind. He gave all he had and then some; more than this, no one can do. The world is a much better place for him being in it; music the world over is richer.

But, darn it, Baba, we miss you.

Marin IJ
SF Chronicle
Ali Akbar College of Music

Friday, June 19, 2009

Letter to Arnie Published

After some thought the other day, I took a section of my Dear Arnie letter (see below), slapped it around a little, trimmed and tightened, took out the obvious slurs and sent it to various newspapers. Lo and behold, SF Chronicle ran it today: Shut Parks? Danger!

A nice little surprise with the breakfast coffee.

p.s thanks, Lucia for your encouragement!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dear Arnie

With all due respect, you've had your share of ridiculous schemes, social gaffes (remember the Nurses?) and ill-conceived programs. But closing the State Parks? Not only is it impossible to enforce (closed road? no problem. We'll just four-wheel over or hike in from down the road) but it's truly dangerous. Of all your hare-brained ideas, this is the worst I've ever heard.

First of all: the State Parks are a tremendous resource for the stressed-out populace whose non-existent incomes can no longer provide other forms of relaxation and entertainment. This is a time when we need the parks the most, where folks can exercise or be in nature to relieve their economic worries. It is not only healthier to be at the beach, but even with parking fees, it's cheaper than movies, or walking around a mall stressing out about what you can't buy. And camping is a much less expensive alternative to Disneyland or other travel vacations.

Secondly: have you tried to book a camping vacation? Most of the parks are already full, meaning income, Arnie, income. Parks bring in money. Maybe not as much as you'd like, but it's money coming straight to the State. Why turn off the spigot? What the bleeep are you thinking?

Thirdly: With no rangers or staff around, who do you think will be the first to populate empty campsites and avail themselves of bathroom facilities? Will a closed fire-gate keep the riff-raff out of beaches or wilderness? I think not, Arnie. Without supervision, parklands and campgrounds will become squattervilles and party-down HQ's. Who's going to patrol the parks? The Rangers you just fired? Certainly not the over-stretched police and fire forces. Can't you see the scenario? Alcohol, drugs, impulsive, thoughtless behavior, and worst of all, un-monitored camp fires. You thought last fire-season was bad; wait until irresponsible riff-raff have unfettered access to our treasured woodlands. And fighting fires, of course, cost money. Now where's the savings?

This idea might look good on paper, Arnie, but it will only cost us, not only in the long run, but as early as next month. Myself (and others I'm sure) would rather see increased fees and better tax schemes, as painful as it might be, than lose our parks and woodlands. It makes more sense for legislators to take the same 15% pay cut, lose their perks and pay more for their healthcare like the rest of us than close parks, an act that punishes everyone in California.

Legislators need to accept the fact that when prices go up and income goes down, sometimes the adults in the family have to get another job. It's time for the legislators to grow up and admit that California needs more income in order to maintain the basic functions as a government.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Heathens in the House

A sharp ping: the doorbell. Who could that be, 1 pm on a dull Saturday afternoon? We haven't been getting many Solicitors for Jesus since we posted that "We're Finnish Pagan Unitarian Buddhists" sign years ago. Friends and family tend to walk in the back door with maybe a rap on the door frame and a quick "Yoo Hoo!" --if we're lucky.

I opened the front door, swathed in XX-Large grey and red bathrobe, blue-striped pj legs just showing above my bare feet. (It was that kind of dull Saturday.) And instantly and infinitely glad I was swathed; three men, all in gold-edged kurta-paijama, with snug round brimless topis on their heads, stood at staggered heights down the narrow steps. Muslims from the mosque a few blocks up and over. Yes, there is one in our fair town, in a church building purchased from a Pentecostal private school that went bust about five years ago.

"Is the Khan here?" the nearest and oldest said through the screen, as all of them averted their eyes, turning half around in their confusion to avoid looking straight at me.
"No, no, he's not." The nearest, in white, turned back towards me a bit and raised his eyebrows. He'd had some practice dealing with the likes of us.
"I was married to a Sanauddin Khan once, but no longer."

Now they all sort of glanced back toward me without actually looking at me, truly askance; though the youngest, maybe in late 20's, in a lovely blue outfit, then snapped his head back around, having already retreated to the sidewalk.

"He's in Pakistan. But thanks for coming by. Have a nice day!"
"Oh," the oldest fella said, nodding a bit. The two still on the steps glanced at each other, then waved their hands and walked down.

"Salaam Alaykum," I said, hoping to break the ice.
"Alaykum Salaam," I think they muttered as they left.

I closed the door, quick-like. Obviously, this was not what they came for. I'm sure they were hoping to rope another Khan into their mosque. But Sonny (as he preferred to be called) wouldn't have been a good prospect anyway; he hadn't been that good of a Muslim when he lived here. He moved to America for a reason.

At least I wasn't in frayed jean cutoffs (above the knee!) and a ratty tee-shirt (a cleaning-on-a-hot-day sort of Saturday) when I opened the door, like the last time this trio of Muslim men came by, scouting for the Khan in the little house on B Street. In micro-seconds, they had completely turned around, scuttled down the steps in their soft-soled shoes and stood with their backs to me, talking very briefly from the safety of the sidewalk. All of us were furiously blushing.

Yes, once again, there be heathens in this house.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Pushing Pedals, Digging Clams


So ...what do you call those mid-calf pants, the ones that are neither proper knee-and-above shorts nor proper to-the-ankle pants? They seem to show up every decade or so, sometimes closer to the knee than the ankle, sometimes closer to the ankle than the knee, fitted or baggy, with pockets, without. No matter what, they are for people with good ankles and a well-turned calf (i.e. not me). I've heard them called toreador pants, calypso pants, pedal-pushers, capris, clamdiggers and, most recently, cropped pants. But for all those names, aren't they describing the same style of pants? Or are there differences? and if so, what are they?

Perhaps those with a better sense of fashion or fashion history can set me straight. Not that it would convince me to wear them; I just want to know. I wouldn't want to insult a pair of pedal-pushers by calling them clamdiggers. Lord knows I have enough trouble with putting together get-ups and outfits; I don't want to incur the wrath of the Fashion Gods or Gremlins with misplaced references. A Clothing Curse I can do without.

And if I should ever dig for clams (not very likely, just saying) I'd simply roll up my jeans.

Monday, June 1, 2009

8 Things About Books on Tape

1. Can fully appreciate the cadence and rhythm of beautifully written prose.
2. On the other hand, the horrible clunkiness of language is revealed as well. Some authors really can't be listened to.
3. Let's say you miss an important detail the author so craftily slipped by you. Trying to "re-read" a passage is a far different proposition: rewind, nope, rewind, nope, rewind, wait, this is before that important bit,, not yet...FF, too far! rewind, FF, rewind, where the heck is it, end up listening to the whole second chapter in reverse order of the scenes...oh, drat, just hand me the book. Over there, under the chair...
4. You can get dressed, feed the cat, wash dishes all while listening to a fabulous story! As long as there's no one to tease you when you scrub a pot for five minutes at the good part. And better check the mirror before you leave the house. Just in case.
5. Be forewarned, people will think you are demented if you start sobbing for no discernible (to them) reason. The pantomime explanation of "earbuds,listening, big woman shot by crass ex-lover, fell in canal, ....oh never mind!" only seals the deal, in their opinion.
6. Can't answer the phone. That's what voicemail is for.
7. All the aural pleasure of talk-radio without annoying callers or knuckleheaded hosts.
8. More mentally engaging and creative than tv or video. You can dress the characters anyway you want (until the author tells you otherwise), even vary it from scene to scene...who cares? You can have your own interpretation of wine-dark sea or bowlegged or flinty-voiced; maybe the Snopes's have an uncanny resemblance to your ex-spouse's cousins by marriage.