Wednesday, January 26, 2011

a box of old audio tapes, part one

As part of my ongoing efforts to completely streamline my media, my archives, my ephemera, and my life, I pulled out a zippered case filled with old microcasette tapes waiting patiently for my administrative care. I hadn't gone through them in years.

Without having to look at the labels, I immediately remembered several of them: Jeremy Butterfield speaking (in a vast echoey room, a church I believe) at a conference on consciousness held in 1996 at Jesus College in Cambridge; why I taped his talk and not any of the others is now a mystery, but it might have been because of his gorgeous, perfect British accent. I knew I'd find taped interviews with my old friends Alan Worsley and Stephen LaBerge, informal sessions which were always vaguely intended to become articles. Many of the tapes were (are) various of my dream accounts, including nights I spent at a lucid dreaming retreat, and even in the psych department sleep lab at Stanford where I was enclosed in a black-walled little chamber, my head dotted with wired electrodes.

And so I began to go through these tiny plastic casettes, rewinding, playing them, writing long overdue labels as best as I could. Many were completely unmarked, several were nearly unintelligible for various reasons. Two were tapes of people now gone: my old friend Scott Gibbs, and my paternal grandmother, Beatrice Cox.

* * *

to be continued

Monday, January 24, 2011

analog digital me

What time is it?
Picture of analog clock on home office computer screen; analog clock in powder room; antique clock on family room wall; iPad app of a ticking analog clock.

I need to write a memo:
Grab a piece of paper, or type on a virtual yellow sticky note on my computer screen. Usually the former.

Take a photograph:
Digital photography only, for the last seven years. It felt very strange to retire my film camera and gear to the attic.

Listen to music:
The iTunes account on my main computer houses nearly all of my music collection. I still have some favorites in CD form to play in my car or in my sleek little bedsite Brookstone CD stereo system, but the majority of my collection I recorded for myself, then gave the original CDs to my dad and sister. This same collection lives on my iPad Classic, which I place in a really cool speaker dock for home use. Unlike my young friends, I rarely put in headphones and listen to music while out in the world.

I do not text on my phone, period. Don't send me texts, please.

Talking in the car:
There is a new law specifically prohibiting cell phone use while driving unless you're hands free. I comply with this (even though my sense is, it's the fact that one is in Thoughtspace while speaking on a phone that makes for lack of focus, not the hands issue as such). I try not to do a lot of phone gabbing in the car, but when I do, I put my five year-old cell phone on speaker mode.

Friday, January 14, 2011

downton abbey edwardian dreams

England's majestic Highclere Castle is the location for the newest Masterpiece Classics multi-episode drama, Downton Abbey. I just watched Episode One earlier this evening, and it was instantly engrossing. I'm not a fanatic or even a regular watcher of period dramas-- even when well done they can sometimes be a bit tedious for my taste once I tire of the art direction-- but this one grabbed me right away.

The story begins in 1912. For some reason I've always been attatched specifically to those few years of the early 10s. It always seemed like such an exceptionally fascinating time, that brief period poised between the old world and modern times.

Besides being set in a beloved period for me, I soon realized this elaborate drama really has it all. If the elaborate soap opera*, great dialog, superb characterizations and solid acting isn't enough to immediately draw you in, there's the overall convincing sense of the Edwardian era including layers of nuance illuminating its extensive class and gender issues, all presented with painfully beautiful cinematography and rich production design completed by excrutiatingly beautiful costumes and museum-piece household items. As a bonus there's an endless array of glittering period-look jewelry I dream of having for myself.

As you may have noticed, I've just used up this month's allotment of adjectives and superlatives, so I'll wrap things up and say, check it out. Oh, and you'll see some familiar faces.

Here's a link to the show's page. Have fun.

* * *

*When the show began, I had a private bet with myself that we'd see a homosexual subplot tossed into the bubbling stew before too long. After all, as the catch-phrase goes, "this... is PBS".

Sunday, January 2, 2011

snow in los angeles

Above photo: no snow, not Los Angeles, not even a recent photo. But it was cold that day. /b

Apparently there is snow right now up in the Los Angeles area, especially through the grapevine on I-5, a couple of hours north of here. I wonder if it's snowing downtown, too? There's nothing quite like the surreal sight of palm fronds weighted down with snow, and the thought of Southern California youngsters hyper with delight and optimism as they try to build snowmen out of dirty sidewalk slush.

Snow would be a problem here, hard on my property's palm trees and other plants too, like the Meyer lemon tree I planted in the front yard last spring. But what an amazing sight it would be to awaken to a true winter wonderland right out of a movie or Christmas card.

As it must be for those So Cal kids, snow is exotic and a bit foreign to me. For the first fifteen years of my life I never saw or touched it for myself, never stepped into the profound cold of a snowy day. I finally felt it crunch under borrowed snow-boots one special day during high school, an exciting day trip with my classmates to snow-covered Alpine Meadows up at Tahoe.

While I was growing up in Concord, our local Mount Diablo was graced with a picturesque dusting of snow every year or two, visible from my neighborhood, and sometimes the snow line would drop down to the foothills. But snow on the streets of my home town happened rarely, maybe once in fifteen years. I'd have to check the records.

Such was the extent of my experience with snow. After that adventure with my friends (complete with heater failure in our bus during the frigid three hours homeward), several years would pass before I'd see the white stuff again.

Eventually I returned to the Tahoe area, this time for a series of ski trips with my new husband (that is to say, he skiied, and I wore ski outfits). We were married up there in March of 1980 with a handful of friends and relatives in attendance. The snow was drifted up around our cabin at Tahoe Donner to a height of nine feet, much to the delight of my father, who had never seen snow himself before that visit.

As interesting as snow is to me-- the way it muffles all sound, the way it transforms a landscape into something magical-- it doesn't occupy a special place in my psyche the way rain does. Rain is a fixed part of my personal iconography, and has an emotional component to it. But except for one set of precious memories of one particular Christmas in Maine-- stunning and unforgettable in its beauty-- snow in general is more of a curiosity.

Come December each year, I'm dreaming of a rainy Christmas. Snow, whether its on palm fronds or pine trees, isn't a part of my personally important dreams.

Even so, I hope the people up in LA are having a good time. Drive carefully, you guys.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Time to reset, begin anew where needed. One bit of cyberhousekeeping I've been putting off is a logical reorganization of my various blogs, groups, and websites...

first blog post of the new year

Tabula rasa. Just what we need.