Morning at Spider Rock

Saturday, December 14, 2019

World ain't so bad.

In these highly partisan and fractured times, we need a good story or two once in a while to keep our heads on straight.

Like the five year old girl in Vista, Katelynn Hardee, who sold enough cocoa and baked goods to retire 123 of her fellow students' lunch debt.

Or the two brothers in Cardiff who drug their neighbor out of his burning house, risking their own safety to rescue the man, who would have surely perished. One of Lena's neighbors.

Lightning on the Pecos

I must be jonesing for New Mexico, I keep coming back to reprocess old shots from the land of enchantment.

L.A. Freeway

White Sands National Monument

I read today that White Sands is on the verge of becoming a National Park. My stepfather worked there when I was young and I will always love the place. I applaud the move. Very cool.

Hope that I can visit again soon!

Dark end of the street

Blast Reader Photos from 2019

New Charleston Bridge - Carol Gammeter
Hiking Buddies - Linda Sherwood
Ready for the frying pan - Steve Eich
New Years countdown 2019, Tha Phae Gate, Chiang Mai - Richard Neumann
Call in the clouds - Renee O'Brien
Best dessert ever - Renee Ingold
One toke over the line - Shawn Mayes

Dyjandi Falls, Iceland - Warren Gammeter
Retired Ore Deck, Marquete, Michigan - Shirley Timberman

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco - Bill Olson
Warren Bishop
Cam Wilde

Last photo - Doug Garn

Gulfstream Buddies - James O'Donnell
Selfie - Jon Harwood

Living room light - Jonathan Hill
Jill Cole
Southwest landscape - Robert Davis
Bob Weir - Mike Reardon
Tanya in Malta Cave - Jeff Nichols
Sun Shades - Kip Peterson
Cardiff Rainbow - Lena Leichtling
Glenn Bray and Lena Zwalve

Keep them coming folks, great stuff!


I come from a linguistic family. My paternal grandfather spoke at least eight languages fluently. My father was fluent in Hebrew, Yiddish and English, with a rudimentary skill in German.

My mother is a mystery to me but I do know that she taught French for a while and had a basic grasp of Spanish.

I am a decent Spanish speaker, not perfect but functionally conversant. Give me a week in Spain and I am thinking and dreaming in Spanish. I also took French and German in school, didn't stick, my second language in college was sign language and I was very good at it back then.

So it hurt a little bit when the native Cuban born Spanish speaker ridiculed something I said in Spanish at Glendale last week. Most Spanish speakers are very tolerant of those who try to converse and I guess I murdered a sentence. Oh well. With a little work and study I think I could tune it up quite nicely.

The name for a person who speaks multiple languages is a polyglot. There was an excellent article in the New Yorker last year about the phenomenon that I encourage you to read, The Mystery of People who Speak Dozens of Languages.

Lately I have been following a couple polyglots on YouTube. There are quite a few of them. The first guy I watched was Xiamon and his pal, anglos who converse very well in Mandarin, Cantonese and the Fuzhounese dialect.

Then I found Laoshu. Laoshu is a black guy who has a rudimentary knowledge of so many languages that it is beyond count. I have watched him speak Japanese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Cantonese, Mandarin, Szechuan, Macedonian, Polish amongst other languages. He is self taught.

I have to tell you that these people make me jealous. Because I think that I have the linguistic ability to do it myself, if only I had the opportunity and discipline. I have the ear and the memory. Would have been fun to be immersed at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey and take a six week foreign language intensive. I honestly think that I could do it.

A Liberian man, Ziaf Fazah, claims to be fluent in 59 languages although some question his actual facility. Sir John Bowring, Governor of Hong Kong from 1854 to 1859, was said to understand over 200 languages, and was reportedly capable of speaking 100. Cardinal Giuseppe Caspar Mezzofanti, born in 1774, spoke 38 languages and 40 dialects. The 10th-century Muslim polymath Al-Farabi was reputed to know 70 languages. The German Hans Conon von der Gabelentz, born in 1807, researched and published grammars of 80 languages.

Alexander Arguelles currently demonstrates a high degree of facility with 39 different languages. In the following video Emanuele Marini speaks 16 languages at the first polyglot conference. Marini speaks Italian, English, Romanian, Hungarian, German, Russian, Turkish, Polish, Icelandic, Slovenian, Portuguese, Farsi, Spanish, Dutch, Macedonian, and Serbian.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Call for submissions

We have had an end of the year Blast group photo post every year since way back in 2012.

I encourage all of you to send me a meaningful picture that you have taken in the past year.

Even you lurkers out there or old members who have gone dark along the way. Time to chime in and be recognized.

If you can't decide on one, send me two and I will decide.

Your year may have sucked, your year may have been great, here is the chance to express yourself.

You may have taken a great vacation, you may have been stuck at a desk or in a breadline. It's all good.

They don't have to be arty, professional, witty, good or any other adjective of your choosing, as long as they mean something to you and you feel like sharing.

If you are a painter, send in a painting, if you are a poet, send in a poem. We don't have a lot of time, pick something and send it in.

send to: azurebirds at gmail dot com

Fascist pedestrian guy

Dillard & Clark - Don't Let Me Down (1969)

I was listening to this on the radio this morning and thought that it was such a fabulous cover. Dillard and Clark were very under rated, the guitar and musicianship is so good on this. I bet the Beatles liked it, at least Ringo and George, who were both big country fans.


Antelope Canyon

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Scaly breasted munia

photo from ebird
The other day I noticed a large flock of these birds at my feeder and didn't remember ever seeing them before. Smaller than a house finch, they were attractive and making quite a racket.

I emailed resident bird maven Ken Weaver and he told me, without even seeing a picture, that from my description they were scaly breasted munia, aka nutmeg mannikins or spice finches.

I looked them up and he was of course, right. Linnaeus first chronicled the species in 1758.

The species is actually native to Asia, living from India and Nepal to the Philippines. Cage escapees have now established flourishing populations in Hawaii, California and Florida. A delightful little bird!


Help on the Way - Swing Auditorium

This night changed everything for me. You had to have been there. Amazing show.

Thursday mail call

Ricardo and Pla send a picture from their home in Thailand. Now that's a big dog.

Michael Loughlin sent two pics, his two puppies Butch and Scout...

And a coyote cruising the eleventh green at the Olympic Club, where he is a long time member.

Somebody in New Mexico area code sent a pic of what appears to be a new Michael Bloomfield book...

Shawn sent this profound wisdom over, said he knew there was a good reason to live a slightly twisted life:

Some anonymous soul sent a picture of a heavily crystaled Koh Tao-y Wowie cross. Wowie is right.

Paul M. sent a cartoon.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Jackson C. Frank - Blues Run The Game


One of the dangers of being a wordsmith is my tendency to embellish and over dramatize certain situations. So I have cancer? What's the big deal? The dangerous tumors in my bladder have been resected, the renal cell carcinoma in my remaining kidney is still relatively young, slow growing and treatable. In the worst case scenario I lose a bladder but people function quite well without a badder, it is not a death sentence. Wanda's brother did it.

I have a bit of discomfort a few days a week but so what? I know people right now suffering from oral cancers that would make me wither. In 2009 I spent six weeks with a stint connecting bladder and kidney that kept me in constant excruciating pain, one hundred percent of the time. And I drove to Miami and back, foolishly. This was prior to me losing the rest of my left kidney, a non laproscopic procedure that I can proudly say I forsook any pain medication for upon gaining consciousness and for the length of my entire recovery.

I am an old hand at this shit. Having first encountered what my friend Evelyn calls the Cancer Monster at the tender age of twenty five, I did the math, I have been in an off and on dark dance with this nasty bitch for thirty seven years or 59.6774193548 percent of my entire lifetime. Perhaps I have learned something? Who knows.

Having faced my own mortality since the tender age of 14, remember Abby? You learn a few things. Nobody has the commitment and skin in the game of life like you do, so one must be careful in ceding power to others. Certain people that you have long counted as friends will suddenly disappear from your horizon line but know that their numbers will be vastly outnumbered by those that legitimately care. Are they forgiven? It is a legitimate question.

And you will have to surrender at some point along the way because there is not a lot that you can do except take a breath and see what's rolling down the track. Debilitating disease is like a large piston coming through your engine block and energy conservation is paramount. It takes precedence over everything, life is put on hold.

Do I feel like sharing all this negative stuff day after day? No fucking way. But the people that love me demand that I stay in touch, we've come way too far to cut them off. This Cassandra like bleating is a drag for me and a drag for you but if I stop writing for a week, Shawn and Ricardo back in Thailand get scared and I have loved them far too long to trouble them. Can't feed you a pretty diet of daisies and finches right now.

I thanked my doctor today, for listening and at least letting me try to save my bladder after the three other doctors demanded its removal. Will be eternally grateful, or at least to the time of my dirt nap anyway. We are getting along much better, the walls are coming down.

It is permissible to piss your pants at three junctures in your life, when you are under the age of five, over the age of eighty and dead drunk. I confess that I shared none of these conditions today when I soaked my new levis in pee.

I had my immunotherapy at about 9:30 and drove up the coast to my pal's home to do my required forty five minutes of body turns. Afterwards I decided to get the new car waxed, doing a quick calculation that I would be able to get back to my office in time to pee. As I have noted previously, my urine is a biohazard and can be harmful to pregnant women who come into contact with the BCG virus. Didn't want to bother Dominick again after the last fiasco, another friend was too busy. So I gunned it back to my office. A fatal error in time management. Didn't make it, almost made it, soaked my new front seat with the toxic cocktail. Sixty two years old.

I couldn't risk hurting anybody, didn't have bleach or time to get it and instead took one for the team. Would never be able to live with myself if I hurt someone. Came home early with my wet tail between my legs, totally chastened and humiliated. Took a shower and threw up in the tub.

When you join the ever growing family of survivors, you feel a certain responsibility to the new members, or at least I did. Met a friend of Leslie yesterday, who having fought ovarian cancer, was getting her bladder cancer operated on today. Veteran that she is, she cried a little bit and I don't blame her a bit. It is scary as shit. Tried to help her as best as I could and I am sure that she will carry it forward too.

Love to you all, we will all get through our troubles and dance with the precious eagles in the sweet bye and bye.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Bobby Darin - Work Song

Los Angeles Show - Glendale

Finished a two day antique show at the Glendale Civic last night, one of my favorite venues. The Los Angeles Show is a fledgling affair and I think that it was very well received.

I believe that it is the only current general line antique show in the entire Los Angeles area. The show featured forty three exhibitors and they represent the best show dealers still left on the west coast.

Obviously the production needs to gently massaged and slightly altered, takes a while to get the word and the kinks out. Rome, and antique shows, are not built in a day.

It was well attended and it is apparent that the Los Angeles collector
was hungry to scour the premises for treasures and swag.

I think most of of did reasonably well and were fairly pleased with the nascent effort. I did okay, covered expenses and a little more but was aware going in that it is going to take a while to establish a beachhead and audience for my work.

I did meet some wonderful people and real characters! Now I need to go unload the van and try to find time to chill this afternoon.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Vladimir Horowitz Playing Scriabin 12 Etudes Op.8 No.12

I got a letter from David A. this morning. If you like Messaien, you'll like Scriabin. I know little about music but my son Jacob teaches music composition at ASU and both are heroes of his. Some of it rubs off on me. Your story reminded me of a concert Jacob performed earlier this year called Death Poems.

This Horowitz guy ain't so bad either.


Yesterday was a very tough day for me. My experience with the BCG this round is very different than my earlier one of decades past. I guess the effects are cumulative and the nausea and discomfort was pretty extreme. And I am only in the middle of this drug regimen. Wednesdays are going to be a bitch for the foreseeable future. I guess it works by inflaming your bladder, gives the cancer cells a hot foot.

Thankfully I feel much better today.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Quatuor pour la fin du temps

I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of classical music is minimal at best. Which means that I still have the capacity to be captivated by something extraordinary.

We were listening to Stravinsky at Kip's yesterday when Blackburn asked the two of us if we were acquainted with the great French composer Messiaen? I had heard his name but was not really too familiar with his compositions.

Olivier Messiaen was a composer, organist and ornithologist. He was influenced by birdcalls, by gamelan, by Japanese music, Shakespeare, Greek and Hindu, amongst other things. He literally saw music as colors, a rare phenomenon known as synesthesia.

During the fall of France in 1940 he became a p.o.w. and composed the piece I heard yesterday while he was held captive in a German prisoner of war camp, the Quartet for the end of time. An amazing and revelatory work, especially when looked upon in context. This was a quartet for cello, piano, clarinet (in b-flat) and violin. He managed to secure instruments from his captors, no small feat, and performed the work with fellow prisoners for an audience of inmates and prison guards.
From Wiki: Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered World War II. He was captured by the German army in June 1940 and imprisoned in Stalag VIII-A, a prisoner-of-war camp in Görlitz, Germany (now Zgorzelec, Poland). While in transit to the camp, Messiaen showed the clarinetist Henri Akoka, also a prisoner, the sketches for what would become Abîme des oiseaux. Two other professional musicians, violinist Jean le Boulaire [fr] and cellist Étienne Pasquier, were among his fellow prisoners, and after he managed to obtain some paper and a small pencil from a sympathetic guard (Carl-Albert Brüll, 1902–1989), Messiaen wrote a short trio for them; this piece developed into the Quatuor for the same trio with himself at the piano. The combination of instruments was unusual at the time, but not without precedent: Walter Rabl had composed for it in 1896, as had Paul Hindemith in 1938.
The quartet was premiered at the camp, outdoors and in the rain, on 15 January 1941. The musicians had decrepit instruments and an audience of about 400 fellow prisoners and guards. The cello was bought with donations from camp members. Messiaen later recalled: "Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension."
Brüll provided paper and isolation for composing, and he also helped acquire the three other instruments. By forging papers with a stamp made from a potato, Brüll even helped the performers to be liberated shortly after the performance. After the war, Brüll made a special trip to visit Messiaen, but was sent away and told the composer would not see him.
The work is approximately fifty minutes long.


I had my immunotherapy dose this morning. The previous infection is now gone so I was good to go. It was very rainy this morning, long ride to and from Hillcrest. Everything went well with the treatment.

On the way back I stopped at Ron's and did the required turns on my side and back so that the bcg virus could permeate all the nooks and recesses of my bladder.

Afterwards I went to New Balance to look for shoes. Didn't buy any, too expensive and the last pair are falling apart. I ate lunch in Carlsbad and then drove inland to the Nordstrom Rack to see if I could find anything cheaper.

Hopefully not getting too personal but at this point I really had to pee. You are supposed to keep the immuno stuff in for two hours and I was way past that. But I can't pee just anywhere. Why? Well, let me tell you.

Because my pee now officially qualifies as a hazardous material.

The paperwork I was given stressed that upon relieving myself, said toilet has to be disinfected with bleach. Pregnant women are at a slight risk for picking up tuberculosis if left untreated. I learned my lesson after the first session with the drug.

I stopped at a friend's restaurant and ate, then used the facilities. I suddenly remembered, asked for bleach and gave the toilet a cursory cleaning. But I reread the instructions when I got home and the bleach is supposed to sit for at least fifteen minutes. I frantically got a hold of my friend that night and he said not to worry and his son went over and sanitized the place with the full blown treatment. This is serious business.

It was an hour ride back to my office but it felt more like forever with a full bladder.

On my way to the store for Clorox.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Johnny Too Bad

Danny's Doughnuts

Once upon a time the New York Times said that Danny's Donuts in Vista had the sixth best doughnut in the United States, its blueberry. That was in 2013. Unfortunately, its founder, Danny, never lived to see the review.

Amazingly, it has taken me six years to check the place out. Mostly because they have screwed up the roads in Vista so bad, it is hard to navigate. Danny's is off Eucalyptus, near the old Pepper Tree Frostee.

I showed up on a Sunday two weeks ago and they were all out of the vaunted blueberry, all out of pretty much everything. The girl said that they had sold out three trays of the Times' favorite doughnut. I bought a couple pistachio instead.

They were very green, very cakey and very good, with a slight almond flavor.

Leslie and I went back on Sunday. They still had everything. The very nice girl helping us pointed us to her favorite, the custard filled cream puff, finished with powdered sugar. It was heavenly. We then tore apart another favorite, the apple betty, which is simply beyond words, it is so good. Bought some blueberry and pistachio too. Leslie, a chocophile, had to have a chocolate cruller. The lady misheard her, she got a chocolate cake instead. Next time.

Blueberry is good but the apple betty is the bomb. Their best selling doughnut, New York Times be damned. We are definitely going back to do a more thorough review in the near future. If you like to indulge in the gluttonous sin of doughnuts, Danny's is certainly worth the trip.

Danny's Donuts
102 Eucalyptus Ave
Vista, CA 92084
(760) 724-4637

Sunday, December 1, 2019

This wheel's on fire

Ditch your android?

So Apple is helping subjugate the people of China while Google chronicles your every fart, what is a responsible person to do?

Seriously, read the Roger McNamee article from the current issue of New Yorker, Big Tech's Big Defector. I am acquainted with Roger, have sold him some art, and he is definitely an amazing guy with an important message.
Androids are commonly equipped with a gyroscope, an accelerometer, and a magnetic-field detector; their sensors can calculate heart rate and count steps. This constant flow of information allows your phone to track whether you’re sleeping or awake; whether you’re driving, walking, jogging, or biking; whether you’re in the Starbucks on the ground floor or the lawyer’s office on the tenth...All modern smartphones—including iPhones—contain hardware that monitors users’ activities and locations. But McNamee and many experts argue that Androids are unique in the extent to which they collect and retain user information. Much of this data is collected even when a phone is off-line, then uploaded to Google’s servers and integrated into an archive that includes your search, Gmail, and Google Docs history. The Android platform finds information in your apps and your online activity, and often makes this information available to third parties, like advertisers. A user agreement also gives Google Assistant the right to record conversations that occur within earshot of the device’s microphone.
This is a clarion call, a very scary article regarding data collection and how our lives are being negatively shaped and recorded by our phones.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Beware Of Darkness - Acoustic

End of November

It is odd but due to the most recent illness, I have lacked the motivation, passion and drive to do three important things in my life, those pursuits being writing, photography and eating. I have never been one to fake it so I have slowed down.

It is no big deal. There is certainly enough of me out there in terms of pictures and words to take a long break and I could also obviously drop a few more pounds. One day I will get all three appetites back, I am sure. Already have a bit of an itch to start shooting portraits again...

So I will wait until I am feeling it, things may go on a bit of a hiatus until I meet the muse again. Or you folks can pick up the slack and I can play editor for a while, which is something I really enjoy.

Warren Gammeter sent me this picture of a foxy visitor to his Northern California home.

Pat liked this apostasy of a youtube clip from Lewis Black, which is rather sacrilegious and not to be viewed by the easily offended.

Steve S. got a new rescue dog, Ryder. Not sure who is rescuing who.

Jerry H. sent over a picture of his four year old granddaughter, Jude.

Bob Booth is taking some nice pictures, like this shot near Carmel and a pet spider.

Jonathan Hill sends along some award winning panos.

Hudgins offered this: Scientists: Earth Endangered by New Strain of Fact-Resistant Humans

A 1995 drawing of the lovely Claudine by Millard (John Fillmore).

One of Shawn's amazing bromeliad flowers in Thailand.

Speaking of plants, I am really smitten by the agave in front of the art center. I love its compact shape and variegated petal color. Believe that it is the Japanese variety kissho kan. There are pups but I don't think they would take too kindly to me...

Keep them coming. folks!