Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blood Moon Thoughts

When I learned that there would be a "Blood Moon" -- actually an eclipse of the moon by the earth's shadow, not becoming completely dark as light bending around the earth and through the atmosphere would give it a reddish color -- I wanted to see and photograph it.  But the eclipse was to occur in the very early morning hours, around 4:00 AM. 

Any photograph I would take with the 20x zoom lens on my little digital, without a tripod, would render it hopelessly unprofessional, so what's the sense I wondered.  Having planted the seed of getting up at that time to experience the eclipse, I thought I'd get the camera ready just in case I was actually awake.  Hopelessly neurotic though, I knew if I did that, I'd probably be up at 2.00 AM waiting, so my decision was just to go to sleep as usual, set no alarm, and enjoy the professional photos I'd see online.

Nonetheless, being but a mere slave to an unforgiving body clock I woke up at precisely 4.00 AM.  Now I had to find my camera, hope the battery was still sufficiently charged (it was), and would be able to get something meaningful with my hand-held. I opened the door to our home's courtyard in the still of the night and beheld the sight of the blood moon.  Impossible to photograph at 20x zoom just standing there, so I took a chair from the area near our pool and sat down and propped my elbow, an improvised tripod.  Still the "target" jumped around on the camera's little LCD screen, trying to lock in the focus.

However, the best part of sitting there was being in the moment, putting down my camera from time to time just to take in the sweeping quiet of the night, not a breath of wind, no sound whatsoever.  Just the Blood Moon, Mars, and the stars and myself looking at the spectacle.  After a while I thought I identified a faint sound, a steady almost imperceptible humming.  It wasn't traffic far off on I95 or the Florida Turnpike -- too early given its continuous nature. It was the electricity running through the wires and transformers on the street, the only man-made sound, not noticeable above the normal din of day. 

Although there are much better photos of the event almost anyplace one searches, I offer up a couple of mine as they are my own record as posted in this modest blog.  I particularly like the one of the moon and mars (to the far right, a little red dot), as it defines our insignificance in relation to the cosmos.

And I'll add this blog to that definition, just a kaleidoscopic record of one person's late-life journey.  I've been writing this, now, for some six and a half years and this entry marks my 400th.  If one searches "blogging" or "writing" among the labels to the left, there is plenty of content as to why I try to keep this up.  It all stems from the title of the blog, the essence of the word, "lacuna."  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Random Nature of It All

Hat tip (again) to Barry Ritholtz who as a "financial guy" (actually schooled in law) has a logical way of looking at the inexplicable. He puts his spotlight on the recent gyrations of the stock market and the blather of the financial channels --  all constructing a "story" to "explain" sudden up or down moves in what, short term, is really a guessing game.  Media noise --  a  form of cognitive dissonance, contradictory "explanations" some of which appeal to investors and therefore feed the furnace of their convictions.  Which begets even more gyrations. As Ritholtz so accurately puts it: "people create a happy little bubble of delusion."  His article "What's Your Stock Market Story?" is well worth reading and keeping in mind when making one's next trade.

Speaking of the inexplicable, how do we mere mortals understand the consequences of a term that suddenly surfaced on the waters of our online lives: Heartbleed?  Perhaps a binary Loch Ness Monster?  How vulnerable is any online financial transaction or, for that matter, routine things like writing emails or even posting this innocuous blog?  And all of this the result "of a two-year-old programming error?"  Two years and we've all been lulled into a "happy little bubble of delusion" that all those "Secure Sockets Layer" web sites to which we've committed sign-ons, passwords, credit cards, etc. might have all been vulnerable and no one seems to have a full understanding of the consequence.  No consequences?  Armageddon? Somewhere between? A random programming error -- or an intentional one  -- that could have been silently exploited for two years?  Talk about a potential Black Swan. Here's Scientific American's take on it.

On to the random nature of one's career.  Looking back from the so called "golden years" how many can say that his/her career and how it unfolded was one of unsullied choice?  Choices do have to be made, but those are ones circumstances concoct, almost like one's DNA randomly assigned at birth.  I could have ended up as a photographer, a librarian, or even in the insurance business -- there were paths in front of me to each of the foregoing, but I choose publishing, my first job being the result of a chance interview.  From there, I was able to make choices over the next 35 years, but, even then, I was given a random set of options.  Do I choose from behind door #1, #2 or #3?

Once I was running a publishing company, one of the choices I made was to pursue international opportunities.  Japan became one of our largest overseas markets and so I occasionally made trips to Japan, sometimes alone, sometimes with Ann and eventually both of us with our son, Jonathan.  The Japanese culture had a profound impact on us all. 

Fast forward to last night.  All those random choices.  No wonder when our gourmet club was deciding on the next "theme" -- one that was to be held at our home -- we suggested Japanese.  What a feast it was.  Our friend Lois made 3 platters of sushi: delicious fish, tuna, grouper and salmon.  We served a very good chilled saké with that and during dinner which everyone drank and  enjoyed.  Then Susan made authentic Miso soup along with tasty shrimp gyoza.  Gail brought short ribs with a Japanese barbecue sauce and a very refreshing side of cucumber salad. 

Ann made one of my favorites -- a genuine yaki udon dish with a homemade yakisoba sauce, tender pieces of chicken, red pepper, onion, bean sprouts, broccoli, shiitake mushrooms and scallions and of course udon noodles!  She also made traditional sticky rice (enough for twenty people!) along with glazed chicken drumsticks, serving it with a very nice Green Tea in beautiful tea cups that Susan brought.  For dessert, Ann served sweet pineapple and John made Green Tea Ice Cream that was out of this world.  Ann was in her authentic Japanese Happy Coat while our son, Jonathan, had given me some traditional bamboo flute music to play in the background, greatly adding to the evening's atmosphere.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Opening Day

Well, not actually, the Class A Advanced Florida baseball games were already underway.  But last night was the first night for the "Silver Slugger" series of games  -- each Wednesday night a hot dog, soda, and general admission for us 55 and older crowd who subscribe.  Twenty-five bucks for the entire season!  You can't beat that, and our Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL is pristine, a true field of dreams and we've watched many minor leaguers come and go there over the years, some making it to "the show" such as Giancarlo Stanton and most recently Christian Yelich both now starting for the parent team, the Miami Marlins.  St. Louis also fields a Class A+ ball club at the stadium.

Strange to be a "silver slugger" as my own dreams of baseball seem less than a distant memory. By the time I was in college, my playing days were over as a pitcher. But, then I had other priorities -- like getting an education.

The first night welcome-back for us "silver slugger" crowd usually includes a promotional item as well.  This year an umbrella, but my favorites were the hats and the tee shirts of years gone by.  The tee shirt amuses me as a Urologist placed an advertisement on the back.  Talk about knowing your market. You're out!

Last night's game was played after a mild cold front had gone through so it was a breezy, cool night (low 70's at game time I figure), but as usual, I had to hold my breath as we walked to our seats to see the beautiful field in full once again.

The game though was uneventful, a 5-2 loss by the Marlin's Hammerheads, but I enjoy watching the pitchers, in this case Trevor Williams who pitched well enough, hitting 93 mph on the gun, looking very professional in his delivery.  The Marlins have a lot of pitching talent in their pipeline.  Last year I wrote about Andrew Heaney and Justin Nicolino who have gone up the ladder in the minors.  Expect to see one of them with the parent club soon.

But Williams gave up three runs in the third inning, in spite of ostensibly having some good stuff. The Marlins selected him in the second round (44th overall) of the 2013 Draft, so they must see potential there.

Ironically, while we were watching that game our son, Jonathan, was at the Yankee game seeing Masahiro Tanaka's debut in the Bronx, a 5-4 loss for my Yanks.  Tanaka pitched well (in fact, very well after giving up a 3 run home-run) and I thought Williams did too, if you discount the third inning. Frankly, I now enjoy watching Class A+ ball more than going to Yankee Stadium.  It's as professional as the Majors -- this is no bush league other than the contests they invite fans to participate in between innings.  Furthermore, you are right on the field, up close and can watch the game as it was intended, not from nosebleed territory.  And, finally, the last Yankee game we went to cost us almost $100 per seat, and that was from StubHub at a discount (and that's relatively cheap -- try to get seats on the field, near the dugouts).  It's just gotten out of hand, at least in the NY market.

So the Silver Slugger games are now underway.  How did I become one so quickly?  Time to see the Urologist! 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Author! Author! Indeed!

I've written so much about Dramaworks in the past, one would think that's the only thing I do (although other topics in this blog reveal I do have another life).  But back again to Dramaworks, this time seeing one of their "Dramalogues" where they delve more deeply into an aspect of theatre.  Last night's program was Author, Author: Israel Horovitz.  If it was a lecture about his works, we would not have gone, but this was a live intimate interview with Horovitz himself, one of our most prolific playwrights, with 70 under his wing, very capably moderated by Sheryl Flatow

In the 1960s I occasionally went to Café La MaMa and there I might have seen the play that launched his career, Line, This had an off Broadway revival beginning in 1974 and still runs to this day, the longest running NYC play ever!

What struck us about the interview was how engaging and personable he was, not remote like the interview with Stephen Sondheim we attended a few years ago.  Perhaps Sondheim has some disdain for anyone less then genius level and outside the world of the creative arts (not that he isn't entitled to his perspective -- he is the greatest living Broadway legend and I will continue to worship at his feet!)

Horovitz is a remarkable man at the age of 75.  He looks and speaks like a man in his early 60's and has the demeanor, a bounce to his step, of a much younger man.  I'm sorry I left my camera at home and didn't think of taking a couple of shots with my iPhone, but photos of him are abundantly available on the web.  He has a great sense of humor as well, offering that he was born in 1939, "not a good year for Jews!"

He just seems like an average guy, although he was best friends with Samuel Beckett!  Born in Wakefield, Massachusetts, a town of just six Jewish families, he hardly thought of himself as a Jew.  He joked that the Jewish families there all sounded like Jack Kennedy.  However, his first trip to Germany made him more sensitive to his own heritage.

His father was a trucker who became a lawyer at age 50.  Some of the anger issues in his plays are derived from his father's frustrated and abusive behavior during his trucking years while the humor and tenderness come from his mother.  Today, Horovitz makes Gloucester, Massachusetts one of his homes where he founded The Gloucester Stage Company -- still going strong after 35 years.

Horovitz has also been active in the world of films, perhaps his best known being the somewhat autobiographical Author! Author! starring his old friend Al Pacino. That was until now -- as he's just returned from Paris where he wrote and directed My Old Lady based on his own play, not too coincidentally the second play of Dramaworks' next season. The film will be released sometime this fall.

The three main characters are none other than film icons, Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas.  Nothing needs to be said about Dame Smith especially given her recent notoriety in the continuing series, Downton Abbey (our favorite "TV show"). Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas have also been in scores of films but my favorite Kline movie is the idiosyncratic Dave, and I thought Thomas' role in Four Weddings and a Funeral memorable.  Can't wait to see the movie and can't wait to see the play next fall.

I started this entry noting that I have another life other than writing this blog.  Recently I've been trying my hand at some short stories (probably not to be published here), and maybe that's the most important take away I had from this extraordinary interview with Horovitz.  He emphasized that you need not write about the world, but, instead, write about the world you uniquely know.  If you do it right, the world will come to you.  Certain truths are universal.  Actually, he was given that advice by Thornton Wilder.  Ironically, Dramaworks' first play of next season is Wilder's Our Town, a play that we've seen in many venues, and one that we could watch again and again.   

Thank you Israel Horovitz, for your plays and for the very good advice that you passed along!
A beautiful sunset the night before