Another Poem About Spring

We all went to a Poetry Jam in Perry, New York last night, hosted by our friend Jordan; College student, poet, and the son of our friends Rich and Lara. It’s such a neat thing to see a kid you’ve known since he was about six grow into a creative, thoughtful, confident young man at the threshold of a life of boundless possibilities!

The venue was small, but for poetry reading, intimate is nice. Several people read their creations; some who had published poems and others who had not. And a couple of young guys and a woman played guitar and sang. It was very enjoyable.

At the last minute I thought about bringing some of my own poems to read (after all – it was an open reading kind of thing). I have one book with stuff going back about forty years; but of course, I couldn’t find it! Other poetry is scattered around in various notebooks and on the computer. But since the family was now in the car waiting for me to go, I left empty-handed.

On the drive to Perry, however, I wrote down some words. But when we got there, I didn’t think it was poem-worthy enough yet to read out loud. I kind of wish I had, now.

Poetry is a funny thing. It’s very interesting to hear other people read their work. For my own writing, the only important thing is that I like it. Some of my poems I definitely like more than others. It’s nice when a poem can express something beyond the words. So here is what I wrote last night:

Squinting sun shines down ancient avenues of glowing grass; down a corridor of newly clothed trees, shedding Spring light on memories of camp-outs, Lord of the Rings and youthful adventures.

Sweet April is fading into sunset across new-plowed fields; a glinting tractor; cows ambling home over rich dark earth.

Apple blossoms never grow old, their creamy white fists bursting into leaf.

I consume the evening air like a succulent dessert; even the far-off scent of manure brings delicious reminiscence.

Cool pine shadows point their fingers toward the night; sky leaps over shining mirrors of open water.

A goose regards me with mellow recognition and says “What a wonderful moment in which to be alive!”

Onward, moving onward; rolling hills meld into evening, clothed in forests growing verdant with possibility.

I welcome the Spring night; the chilly stars or maybe a gentle rain; and the blooming flowers that morning will bring.

Changing; everything always changing; moving onward through our lives, across the seasons of experience. Onward until it finally flows me away.

I hear the voices of my children shrieking with delight in the distance; in the bright playground of Springtime.

What a wonderful moment in which to be alive!

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Categories: Writing Tags: ,

A Little Music for Spring…

I was just sitting in the kitchen on this Saturday morning looking out at the new leaves and gentle Spring rain. And I’ve been listening to a great music CD I made a while back especially for this time of year. It got me thinking about a few songs that are just so damn wonderful (to me) that I want to share them. (I’m putting youtube links to all of these songs below) So here goes!

The song ‘Be Free’ by Loggins and Messina was on my CD, which I hadn’t listened to in a long time. Man, what a groovy tune! And it’s 7 minutes long; but back in the day (early 70s) they would play stuff like this all the time on over-the-air radio stations (like WCMF in Rochester, NY). I remember having a rather profound peak experience from really listening to this song! But then I remember having transcendent experiences listening to a lot of songs back then; and I still do whenever I listen to them. ‘Watching the River Run’ also gives me cosmic goosebumps, after listening to it one sunny day beside a creek when I was about twenty. Isn’t that the greatest thing about music in general? It’s a direct emotional connection to another time and person that you were. Another tune that is just eternally fun and cheery on a Spring day is ‘Chelsea Morning’ by the immortal Joni Mitchell. That’s about all I can say about that. Joni is a musical goddess in so many ways!

And speaking of powerful songs with a Spring connection; ‘Greenman’ by XTC is another song on my CD that blows me away every time. The lyrics are awesome, as is the mesmerizing complexity of the music. And the subject of the Greenman/Pan is especially near and dear to my spirit at this time of year. The power of this archetype is so strong and deep, I can see why it persisted through the architecture of medieval cathedrals and small country churches; as well as in stories, music and popular culture. Another of my favorites by XTC is ‘We’re All Light’. And I just thought of another XTC tune that is about this time of year (if you don’t mind the unsubtle sexual references – hey, it’s spring!), ‘The Wheel and the Maypole’. This band was incredible!

Next I must add something from two of my favorite (among many) British bands. First is  Pentangle, in all of it’s incarnations. Everyone in this band has made numerous albums over the past forty years; and Jaqui McShee’s voice is amazing. Treat yourself and check out some of their other videos on youtube. And speaking of the music of my soul, Strawbs is one of the best! I’ve had the pleasure to meet Dave Cousins and many of the other band members on numerous occasions. They come to Rochester quite often! Go see them if you’re nearby!

And last up for today is perhaps my favorite singer/songwriter of all time, Cat Stevens; or as he is known today, Yusuf Islam. Whether making music under either name, this man’s musical career from the sixties right up to the present has been extraordinary! Yusuf’s new songs are as beautiful, intricate, insightful and heartfelt as anything he’s ever done. I don’t think he’s ever recorded a song I didn’t like, and almost all of them are perfection, in my opinion! In the early seventies Cat Stevens music was the soundtrack of my youthful, searching, romantic soul. I think his entire body of music speaks more directly to my heart and soul than any other performer. Now; the trouble is there are so many of Cat’s songs that are like the breath of Spring to me, I can’t pick which I love more. ‘Morning Has Broken’ is one of his most familiar tunes, and one which will always remind me of camping with my friends when I was 16; waking in my sleeping bag in the chill April air to see the red ball of the sun just coming up while this played on my little radio. But, I’m including a link here for a very old Cat Stevens song, that at a very young age says a lot about who he was to become. Go on youtube and listen to more!

Joni – Chelsea Morning

Loggins and Messina – Be Free

Loggins and Messina – Watching the River Run

XTC – Greenman    XTC – We’re All Light

XTC – The Wheel and the Maypole

The Pentangle – Springtime Promises

Strawbs – A Glimpse of Heaven

Cat Stevens – If You Want to Sing Out

Arthur’s Artwork

April 15, 2012 1 comment

Just a quick post to show some artwork that my son Arthur and I have collaborated on recently.

I took a couple of pencil drawings he made and scanned them, then opened them in GIMP and added some color. I love the results! We’re thinking of maybe using some of these as illustrations for stories or poems. The possibilities are endless!

Although I’m not sure what kind of story would go along with that first picture! I’m reminded a little of Kandinsky’s later works when I see Arthur’s style.

Arthur is constantly drawing stuff; he’s got lots of them in his room. He’s colored many of his own with more traditional methods (marking pen; crayon) but lately he’s been doing a lot of drawing with just pencil. When I look at them, though, I’m always visualizing them with more intense colors; so using the Gimp was tons of fun for me. I’m looking forward to collaborating on stories as well as artwork.

Fiona has also been doing some very interesting and expressive artwork; both drawing and acrylic paintings. I can’t wait to get outside and do some painting with her when the weather gets a little warmer!

Also check this out: Wassily Kandinsky (Youtube) And Joan Miro

Categories: Art, Kids/Parenting Tags: ,

Why Digg Cracks Me Up!

Hi. Just a quick observation about the world of online information. My God; there’s so much ‘information’ flying around on the internet! Opinions; breaking news; horror stories; scientific advancements; political extremists; conspiracies; the latest technological toys; the ravings of lunatics; and then we have Digg.

I don’t look at Digg every day, but this morning I happened to check it out and saw this:

Coincidence? I think not!

I would also like to share this under

The Most Bizarre Headline of the Day: Researchers create robotic rings to turn your hand into a blinking, anthropomorphic face

That is all I have to say for the moment, gentle readers. Have a nice day!

The Voice of Life

March 28, 2012 1 comment

This afternoon the children and I went out to my sister’s property to do a little ‘nature study’ for our homeschool work. It warmed up again into the mid-sixties, with some hazy sun and a gusty Spring wind. We checked out the pond and found  a lot of frog eggs that looked like long, transparent worms filled with black dots wound around weeds and sticks under the water. I don’t recall seeing long, stringy egg sacks like this before; usually frog eggs are in big globs. They were cool looking!

Fiona brought her notebook and a pencil, and we sat now and then as she wrote down the names of things we saw. By the time we went home she had written: willow pollen; frog eggs; fragmitis; cattails; deer tracks (lots of those); giant hill; lamb’s ear; holes; dandelions (the first we’ve seen this season); stones; May apples. After leaving the pond we’d climbed the tall grassy hill nearby that has many woodchuck holes in it. Arthur and Fiona both liked standing on top, enjoying the lovely view of green fields and being buffeted by the ferocious, not-quite-chilly wind. We also saw what I’m pretty sure now were coyote tracks in the mud beside the pond amid hundreds of deer prints.

Then it was off across the wide, short grass of a hay-field and into the woods where I’ve gone for over forty years. May Apples were popping up all over, and Trout Lilly and little white flowers whose names I forget at the moment. We explored the ancient piles of big rocks where long ago I buried my Guinea Pig Guinevere. No sign of Trilliums yet, though. By May they are usually all around the forest floor. After finding more deer prints and raccoon tracks near a swampy place, we finally headed back toward the house and our car, just as it began to get cloudy. It was a most  pleasant afternoon!

This reminded me of a few things I wrote last Friday, when I went out alone to some other woods where I spent time with my friends as a teenager. Here is what I wrote:

The voice of life is all around me; whispering, creaking, hissing; breathing through branches laced with budding new green. I reach down to touch a cluster of unfolding leaves; small and soft as velvet feathers. Their life force tingles through my fingers; a sensation of GREEN that is not a color but a taste; vibration, electricity tickling my skin; flowing like honey up through fingers and arms. It makes me laugh out loud! The voice of the forest speaks through a hazy aura of sun through high treetops; delicious air that moves and mingles with my own breath. Everywhere, among dark shadow and brown earth there is GREEN; subtle, vibrant, unstoppable GREEN of life returning; igniting the forest within me and without.

Categories: Kids/Parenting, Nature

John Carter (of Mars!) Reviews

March 26, 2012 2 comments

Yesterday my son Arthur and I went to see a matinee of the Disney Studios film ‘John Carter’. I must say right off the bat: I really enjoyed this movie. And the day after viewing it, with the images and characters still bubbling around in my mind, I’d have to say that I loved it! Perhaps partly because I read the first three Barsoom novels as a teen, and this film wonderfully captured for me that nostalgia; the feel of reading the Burroughs stories for the fist time.

If you’re not familiar with ‘John Carter’, the movie, (as opposed to the rookie doctor from ‘ER’) it is director Andrew Stantons adaptation of the first of Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom novels, ‘A Princess of Mars’. Burroughs, who also wrote the ‘Tarzan’ series, created a bunch of stories about the world of Barsoom (that we call Mars) about a hundred years ago. The first novel is about Civil War veteran John Carter who is mysteriously transported to Mars and his adventures with Dejah Thoris, Princess of the city-state of Helium.

Since the movie first came out I kept hearing about what a disappointment it is; how it didn’t make a billion dollars the very first weekend it premiered. I read a couple of reviews that said the story was incomprehensible; the acting was bad, and so on; even though the previews looked pretty darn cool to me! But Arthur wanted to see it very badly, so I went with not very great expectations. And I was very pleasantly surprised. The movie was just great fun! I actually liked the actors and how they portrayed their characters. And it was apparent to me that the filmmakers spent a lot of time and attention to detail. The scenery and special effects are gorgeous; from the ancient cities, the details of Martian airships and machinery, the costumes, to the amazing CGI creation of the four-armed, green-skinned Tharks. I think Stanton’s film did an admirable job capturing that steampunk/swashbuckling/science fiction-fantasy spirit of those Burroughs stories, while actually improving on the original (like the explanation for Carter’s transportation to Mars, and bringing in elements and characters from the second Barsoom story, ‘Gods of Mars’). I thought the pacing, the interaction of the characters (even the computer-generated ones) and the story-within-a-story was very well done. It’s got battles, action, romance! It takes itself quite seriously, but with a nice balance of humor in just the right places. And I loved the ending! Every change that was made to the movie definitely improved the overall story.

I don’t know: maybe people who didn’t like or understand the film were not familiar with the source material; or maybe they were just a lot younger than I and found elements of the story too familiar? Even though the original story is the template, along with the works of Robert E. Howard and a few other writers, for most of the Fantasy/Sword and Sorcery stories that have come out in the past century! Edgar Rice Burroughs and others inspired much of the books and films that have come after them, not the other way around! I think ‘John Carter’ is a worthy homage to the spirit and imagination of those early pioneers of imagination.

So please go see the movie while it’s still in theaters (we did not see the 3D version, and it was breathtaking). Because the ending made me really hope that they make the next movie in a proposed trilogy about John Carter of Mars. I enjoyed my time in that mythical Mars called Barsoom, and would like to explore it further. (I like to pretend that this story takes place in an alternate universe where Mars still harbors life). Also the possibility of the Therns making mischief on Earth of the 1880s could be a lot of fun!

Update: Because I received a comment on this post with links to a Facebook page and a website of people who loved ‘John Carter’ and, like me, want to see another film made in this series, I’m adding these two links: https://www.facebook.com/groups/backtobarsoom/ and http://backtobarsoom.com/.

Below I’ll leave you with some of the numerous favorable reviews that really do more justice than I have here.

http://www.mountainx.com/movies/review/john_carter#.T2–z7ujHRY

http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolpinchefsky/2012/03/11/4-reasons-why-john-carter-was-surprisingly-awesome/

http://blogs.indiewire.com/leonardmaltin/john-cartermovie-review

http://www.americanprofile.com/articles/john-carter-movie-review/

Spring Movie Madness… and Science!

Can you believe the weather these days? Around Western New York it’s been in the high seventies for over a week. Most years we’ve had snow on the first day of Spring; this year we had record high temperatures; the flowers are blooming and leaves are popping out already! It never looks like this until late May around these parts. What’s going on?! We’ve been enjoying it immensely, but I’m afraid what may happen if we get snow in April!! Will it be in the nineties by May? Welcome to the future!

But right now I’ve run across a mess of movie trailers for upcoming films that are knockin’ my socks off! And I also have a couple of links to videos of my hero, Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tysonwhich I would like to share before the kids and I head out to enjoy another glorious day.

First up: Joss Whedon has made a new movie that at first looks like a horror story you’ve seem a hundred times; but which I’ve heard is something completely different and insanely original: Cabin in the Woods. Whatever Joss gets involved with, you can bet it will be thoughtful, mind-screwing fun! His other film, ‘The Avengers’ is also coming out shortly. Man, he’s a busy guy!!

There are a couple of movies debuting soon that are based on the ‘Snow White’ story. One of them; ‘Mirror, Mirror’ with Julia Roberts looks very fun. This other one looks incredibly creative and insanely cool: New ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ Trailer is like Middle-earth with Dopey and Grumpy. And it stars Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman, who coincidentally stars as Thor in ‘The Avengers’, and is in ‘Cabin in the Woods’.  Talk about busy!

And speaking of creative and insane; Tim Burton is at it again, this time with a comedic re-imagining of my favorite soap opera of old: ‘Dark Shadows’. It stars Johnny Depp (of course!) as the sort-of lovable vampire Barnabas Collins in some truly outrageous make-up. New Dark Shadows Trailer. At first I was pissed that they weren’t doing a ‘serious’ remake; but this take on ‘Dark Shadows’ could be a stroke of genius. And the original was often rather funny, though not intentionally.

And if you haven’t heard about Ridley Scott’s sort-of re-imagining of his classic ‘Alien’ story, ‘Prometheus’, where have you been?! I’m very excited about this flick. I give you the European trailer, which is a bit less frenetically mind-numbing than the American one. Prometheus Trailer. I’m really looking forward to seeing this!

From Science Fiction to Science; I’ll leave you with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the Voice of Scientific Discovery for a New Generation. (He’s also going to be hosting a new version of Carl Sagan’s old show ‘Cosmos’)!

The Most Astounding Fact (Neil DeGrasse Tyson) 

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson speaking at the U.S. Senate Commerce Hearing on the Future of Our Space Program.

One last thing I’d like to add. As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve started a separate blog to focus on Linux and Open Source topics. Here’s a link to it if you are interested: The Fearless Penguin.

Enjoy the weather!