Monthly Archives: February 2012

Birthday blessings

Thank you

Great spirit, I say “thank you”

For putting life inside of me

Great spirit, I send my thanks to you

For all the blessings I can see

And all the blessings I cannot see



I sing this these resonant words whenever I visit hot springs.  And other times outdoors.  But always at hot springs.  I sang them this morning in the springs at Bodhi Manda as the pre-dawn sky turned from grey to light blue and the still-to-come sun brushed a few clouds with pink, 55 years after the morning I was born into this world.

Originally heard years ago; from a song by Oregon songstress Alice DiMicele (from searching for Alice, I see it’s also a Biblical reference…)

Image from RexWall

50 years of seeing the big picture

320px Mercury Friendship7 Bassett Celestia

Fifty years ago this week, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. While we remember this largely as a technological achievement, one of many steps toward flying humans to the moon and robot probes to the planets and beyond, it was also a profound aesthetic, experiential threshold for all of us down below. By the end of the decade, NASA celebrated our forever-changed awareness with the publication of the first book of space photos, This Island Earth (amazingly, still available for spare change from used booksellers!). Glenn and those who followed him into orbit, and on to the moon, remain a vanguard among humanity; they saw with their own eyes, felt with their bodies, breathed with their souls, something the rest of us can only feel in our imaginations.  Their words and pictures have charted a vision of our place in space that we’re still only beginning to live in to.

Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic put together a short and evocative post that draws on today’s vast library of space images to illustrate some of Glenn’s radioed descriptions of things no American – and only two other humans, Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov – had ever seen:

“In the periscope, I can see the brilliant blue horizon coming up behind me; approaching sunrise. Over.” Mission Control replied, “You are very lucky.” Glenn said, “You’re right. Man, this is beautiful.”


Head on over to read Alexis’s post in full; it’s well worth the couple of minutes it’ll take!!


The living sky

The Earth lives within the larger body of the solar system; every planet a uniquely marvelous manifestation of minerals and gasses, with perhaps some liquid and frozen components or molten rock and volcanism cracking through the surface, each world alive and dynamic in its own ways.  One of Earth’s many wonders is its incredibly dynamic atmosphere; winds carrying seeds and weather and scents, clouds shifting shape from moment to moment and changing color as they slip through the edges of the day and night, stars sprinkled and spinning across the night sky.  At the highest latitudes, where the nights are long and cold, and the highest altitudes, the atmosphere thinning to nearly nothing, the earth’s physicality is expressed in subtle electromagnetic fields, which come alive in dancing waves of light, enlivened ions given color and motion when our local star exhales great gusts of itself in waves of charged particles that sweep past our tiny home of earth, water, fire, and air.

In the past couple of years, several filmmakers have been producing stunning time-lapse films of the natural world, utilizing high-definition cameras, sensitive digital CCDs, and sometimes even slow cinematography-style tracking shots.  Today, I came across (thanks, Dish) the most compelling northern lights film I’ve yet to see; the sheer beauty of the motion and color, as well as a welcome variety of tones and intensities, kept me riveted through the entire five minutes (which, sadly, is quite an accomplishment for online video!).

The one time I was lucky enough to experience a full ribbons-of-light-overhead aurora display, in my backyard in Old Town, Maine in the winter of 1980-81, I likened it to a visual version of the rippling sounds of the Mahavishnu Orchestra….this film captures that blend of fluidity and surprise, intense dynamics, and sheer wonder like no other I’ve seen:

Spotify’s February Gems


As anyone who’s visited me over the past few months can attest, I’m a total Spotify fanboy. Spotifty is the highest profile of today’s streaming music services, a massively well-stocked digital jukebox in the sky!  Unlike radio services such as Pandora, Spotify (and some other similar services, including Rhapsody and Mog) lets you pick the album and the track(s) that you want to hear. Users build an iTunes-like library of music, with playlists for different genres or or however else you want to organize, which is then ready for a simple click and play whenever you feel like hearing something again.

I’ve been loving Spotify for new music discovery, keeping current with recent releases, and simply being being able to hear an album or artist that I see or hear mentioned with a simple search and play (this week, First Aid Kit). In what will become a recurring feature on Bright Blue Ball, today I’m going to highlight a few of the things that have made me bow down before the wonder of Spotify in the past few days and weeks. (Note: Spotify is deeply entwined in Facebook’s “share everything you do with all your friends” approach to life, but you can join and listen without using or linking to Facebook….you just have to make an effort to do so!)

Chimes of freedomWEB

This month’s “Perfect for Spotify” new title is Amnesty International’s Chimes of Freedom, 73(!) Dylan covers from a crazily diverse array of artists. It’s something I’m really glad to be able to hear and even re-hear perhaps once or twice, but there was no way I would’ve felt the need to buy the 4 disc set. In the last couple months of 2011, I had the same delighted response when I found a couple of insanely comprehensive archival releases: the Beach Boys long-lost Smile and The Who’s Quadrophenia, both of which featured a disc or two worth of raw material, outtakes, studio snippets, and the like which shed interesting light on these classic albums, but surely don’t need to fill space in my CD closet.   Rave on Buddy Holly, with covers from Nick Lowe, Patti Smith, My Morning Jacket, Modest Mouse, Lou Reed, John Doe, and many others was also a real blast!  (BTW, all these links go to a page that will let you add the titles or playlists to your Spotify account if you’re already a member….)

My “New Releases” playlist becomes the focus for much of my listening, and is currently stocked with January titles, including the Dylan one, a double disc retrospective from Ladysmith Black Mambazo featuring collaborations with other artists, the new Leonard Cohen disk, a recent Afropop Worldwide recommendation, by Novalima, and Guitar Passions, an album of duets from classical guitarist Sharon Isbin, featuring a wide array of collaborators including Stanley Jordan, Steve Morris, Steve Vai, and others.

Over the past few months, Spotify has helped me begin to explore 20th century classical music, fill in some embarrassing gaps in my rock diet over the past three decades (including my first real immersions into REM,  Pearl Jam,  Derek Trucks, and Wilco),  and discover new and old jazz, singersongwriters, and world artists (check out Balake Sisoko and Vincent Segal’s Chamber Music: kora and cello!).   Of course, this being music and all, everyone’s faves will be different—share some of your highlights below!

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