Archive for Music

Love is Just a Four-Letter Word…

Bob Dylan wrote a song about it. Joan Baez sang it for us, and Robert Indiana turned it into art. Love is Just a Four-Letter Word.

But, as they say, it’s complicated, and no more so than in British writer Ian McEwan’s 2007 novel, On Chesil Beach. Set in 1962, the novel is now a film starring Oscar winner Saoirse Ronan and newcomer Billy Howle as the young couple who hold us spellbound as they attempt to be intimate for the first time on their wedding night.

Theirs is a complicated stew of young love, repression, class differences, dysfunctional family and almost Victorian modesty, and it will break your heart. It’s hard to believe today that 1962 could have been that different, but it had not yet reached the tipping point that launched the sexual revolution. The Beatles didn’t arrive on the Brit music scene until following year, the San Francisco Summer of Love was five-years in the future, and the birth-control pill wasn’t yet in wide usage. read more

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Yankeedom Meets El Norte…

In the midst of today’s political turmoil it’s natural to cast about for reasons. How did we get here? In a post-truth environment have we seen the last of civil discourse, reasoned debate, and bipartisan compromise? Are American values outdated? Partisan politics has created dueling parties where tribal nationalism is at war with liberal globalism. Can our constitutional infrastructure withstand the pressure of a president’s autocratic impulses? Is America too big and too diverse to be governed democratically? Do we have an underlying unifying principle? read more

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Texas Vernacular…

This is Confluence Park, a public/private enterprise, at the juncture of San Pedro Creek and the San Antonio River near downtown San Antonio. Designed by Ted Flato of Lake/Flato Architects, the park is designed to teach students and neighbors about the water and native plants of the area in addition to giving them respite from the residential density surrounding the park. More about that and Ted Flato later, but this was one of the many surprises of our Grand Tour of Texas.

When we left Seattle, we thought the Austin music scene could be a highlight of The Tour. As luck and timing would have it we didn’t hear a lick in Austin, but that’s the thing about Texas; it’s so big and there are so many things to see, hear, and do that they can’t all be done on a three-week road trip. Instead of 12 Bar Blues, our highlights were the surprising three A’s – Astronomy, Architecture, and Art. I wrote about astronomy and “dark energy” last week and Donald Judd’s art in Marfa the week before. Today I want to share what M and I learned in our up close and personal course on Texas architecture. read more

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Traveling with George Sand and Chopin…

This is the Serra de Tramuntana, Mallorca’s* spiky ridge of mountains, running from its southwestern edge near Andratx to its northernmost tip at Port de Pollensa. Razor-like peaks, limestone cliffs, centuries old terraces, hidden coves, and eye-catching villages mark the route, but they are only part of what brings visitors to this World Heritage site. There is more to Mallorca than its arresting landscape, and one of the benefits of travel is discovering its little-known secrets and the local color embedded in its history. read more

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Are We Comfortable Yet?

There is nothing quite so humbling as stepping on foreign soil and realizing that your self-assurance, built over decades, has dissolved—a reminder that when you leave the comfort of home, the security of family and friends, and cross into territory where language, culture, and daily activities are even slightly different, an element of insecurity rises to the surface. There’s no turning back; you’re on an adventure, so drink up. Prost!

M and I are here in Berlin for a month. It feels strange to be out of my comfort zone after living here for almost a decade—but that was 30 years ago. It’s odd that I didn’t feel the same on extended stays in Paris and Rome, but I guess I have higher expectations because of my history here. I should be at ease. I was never truly fluent but I had no trouble being understood or getting things done. I know the vocabulary’s in there and wants out, but for now it feels like a painful dental extraction when the clerk or cab driver stares at me and I can’t find the right word to complete the transaction. It reminds me of an experience in Spain with my son, Brent. He was 8, and I wanted him to be part of the adventure, so I gave him money to buy a Coke at a roadside cafe and told him how to ask for it in Spanish. He looked at me, paused for a minute and then said, “But what if they talk to me?” I know how he felt. Today, my German is so rusty I can’t quite get going, and while the rust is beginning to flake off it’s annoying, frustrating, and embarrassing that things don’t come more easily. read more

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