Thursday, June 30, 2011

Scrabble Time!

OK, now it's summer and the Fun & Games promised have not made an appearance.
But July, at least for me, has been the month when I turn to the fresh calendar page and see not a deluge of busyness but inviting pools - visits from friends, a picnic, a long weekend fishing.
So, on with today's game:

The letters were coming my way, and I put down JESTINGS (good for 92) to get things going with a bang.

Two turns later I put down FUNKIER, for 97.
Fred made ZAP, ZA, AG and PE for 49.
I made COX, OF and XU for 47 plus an aesthetic point for landing the X on the double word square.
At some point my letter luck was annoying Fred, so in the corner he ODd multiple times, his way of asking for an end to it. I gave him a sad point for that.
At the end I had tray-dump potential but could never pull out the word.
Letters: AINUSD & blank. The only place to put it was across the N on the right edge.
Even with the blank I couldn't get a word out of it, which would have propelled me beyond 500, in the rarefied air where I have not yet climbed.
Had to settle for 465, and Fred was happy to have 313.
So if you see the word I couldn't find for that final flourish, add your comment!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gong Bath Review

Sounds like the newest literary mag, doesn't it? But a gong bath is actually a sonic/ vibrational experience. When I read an article about it in the Denver Post a couple of weeks ago I knew Fred and I had to go. It was held in a large high-ceiling yoga studio with hardwood floors, and the pair of gongs (38" in diameter apiece) were set up in the center. Blankets and mats set edge to edge filled the room, and when people settled under their covers it looked like a giant slumber party.
Preparations took awhile but finally Richard Rudis spoke briefly about what we could expect, and what we should not busy our minds thinking about during the gong bath: Expect vibrations, a connection between physical and transcendental selves, calming, healing, clarity. Don't worry about the mechanics: how sounds and vibrations are being produced, the characteristics of the bells, bowls and gongs. Make sure not to place your feet where they will be in line with the head of anyone in the next row (in order to prevent purged energy from passing into someone else).
Then Rudis struck a small bell three times to signal the beginning, played a bowl to deepen the vibration, then proceeded to play the pair of gongs. Since I didn't watch him I can't tell you how he produced the tides, clouds, blizzards of sound - but I felt the results.
At first, the air in my lungs vibrated, then my muscles and bones. These waves increased and diminished with the intensity of sound for a while, then quite abruptly I felt them cease, and my spirit, clear and clean, captured my awareness.
The gonging is not melodic or musical, it is cascading sound, rising and fading in power. Sometimes I could hear hissing (as if he was using a brush against the gong surface) or a patting sound, but most of the time I heard not muffled hammers striking the metal but only the vibrations resulting from that contact. Sound traveling to walls and back, through people, between gongs, added to the wave complexity. A deaf person would have essentially the same experience as a hearing person, because it's physical not aural.
To conclude (after 90 minutes), he played the bowl again, then the small bell three times. Speaking quietly in the dimly-lit room while we settled back into our accustomed selves, he suggested taking a hot epsom salts bath followed by a cool pore-closing rinse, and drinking plenty of water. He talked about sacred sound, differentiating it from music and from dogma.

The next morning son Heinz and I took a high-altitude hike up Twin Sisters (we'll be climbing Long's Peak later this summer so we're getting in shape for the distance and altitude), and were surprised by my looseness, ease of motion, lightness and energy. We hiked about 4 miles from 8700 ft to 11,400 in 2 hours, then after a snack and rest at the summit, hiked back to the car in another hour and a half. Arriving at the bottom, I wasn't even tired. My shoulders, which have been tight as guitar strings for weeks if not months, are quite relaxed.

So if you have the opportunity to be in a room where a gong bath is taking place, do it!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mavis Staples and Dr. John & The Lower 911 at Denver Botanic Gardens

Mavis Staples wows the crowd. She got us dancing, and when she did her final number, "I'll Take You There" she had us all singing back.

And since I was down in front boogeying, she shook my hand!
Her tight band: Guitar Rick Holmstrom, Bass Jeff Tweedy, Drums Stephen Hodges, and backup singers Vicki Randle and Mavis' sister Yvonne Staples.

During intermission there was time to wander the Botanic Gardens - pools, flowers and sculptures.

But no show is complete without the parking ticket - in the Highly Specialized No Parking Zone!
Ever see a sign quite this specific?
And somehow I overlooked it.

At least the car wasn't towed away...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Swimsuit Issue

Everybody does one, right? It's a way to increase sales & attention as the season turns.
Today's featured model is a 1/5 page ad in the New York Times Book Review, putting publishers on notice that they're in danger of missing out on the next Faulkner, Joyce, Angelou or Tolstoy, if they don't publish his books.
If I read the advertising charts for NYT correctly, he spent upwards of $10,000 to beg for publication. Perhaps it will pay off. One wonders why he didn't just self-publish.
But whichever side he approaches from - client or DIY-er - it's the same uphill struggle, climbing Mt. Recognition.

This goes a long way toward explaining the preponderance of reviewed books by or about famous people. Today's NYT Book Review features books about Bob Dylan, Metallica, Queen, Robert Redford, Dick Van Dyke, Barbara Eden, Cary Grant, Derek Jeter, Joe DiMaggio, Hank Greenberg, Stan Musial... You get the picture. And fiction captures a diminishing share - out of dozens of books in the Summer Reading issue, only 6 are full-length reviews of novels. Really, don't people read fiction to escape the grind?

The competition for readers' eyes is fierce - while more books are being published every year, people are spending less time with them. But diving into a full-length novel, whether your pleasure is a P.D. James mystery, a John Le Carre spy tale, a re-read of Lord of the Rings or a comic novel by P.G. Wodehouse, is the best celebration of summer.

If you're headed for the beach, a pool or a mountain cabin, don't forget the books!