Music Monday: Silk Stalkings

When asked what musician gets the most residuals, or whatever it’s called, for times his song has been played, particularly on TV, you’d be hard pressed to come up with the name Mike Post, but fact is, every time a rerun of any of the Law and Orders comes on, he gets some cash because he wrote the theme song, along with many other TV themes. He also has a connection with last week’s Classical Gas mention, but that’s besides the point and only included to whet your appetite.
Some years ago there was a TV show called Silk Stalkings, about a cop duo set in Palm Beach. Lotta sex, lotta flirty banter between the leads, one of them being the exquisite Mitzi Kapture {she was so much hotter than her name leads you to believe, trust me}. And one of the most lasting features of the show was its theme song. According to the composer, the show’s creator said the key word for the song was “humid,” then told him to lock himself in room and not come out till the music was “sweaty.”
Yeah, you don’t have to know anything about the show to get that when you hear it. . .

;o)

Travel Thursday Encore: Chilly Spain, Part 3

The Patio de los Leones–Patio of the Lions–is the most photographed place in the palace, therefore the first likely to pop up on a Google search. If you haven’t seen it, describing it is kinda hard: an arcade of horseshoe arches and white marble columns along the borders, while at the middle is a fountain supported by twelve marble lions tinkles. The fountain leads off in thin canals, and because the arches take the place of real walls, there’s no real inside.
I almost wasn’t in the mood to appreciate it, because like the previous patio the entrance was weirdly angled and I almost broke my nose again. One book said the architects wanted to woo the visitor with lush and mysterious effects, but I stopped being wooed a long time ago.
Taking a deep breath–the loud “whoosh!” immediately afterward a dead giveaway–I opened my eyes to take in the vista with a new perspective. . . mental perspective, that is, not with the camera, at least not yet. It didn’t take a genius to see why this place was named after lions, though the dozen statues supporting the fountain barely looked like cats. They appeared to be kinda snarling as they spit out the water, but I think the sculptor had only heard of this animal, never seen one, and even then it was just a rough description based on the tiny pet version.
Straddling one of the small channels that flowed symbolically to the four corners of the earth, and more literally to the surrounding apartments, feeding the small fountains inside–if you could call it an inside–I felt like something was missing, though I couldn’t tell what it was. Since I’d be here for three weeks, I figured it would come to me on its own, but it never did.

Nina Murdoch (“puritanical Australian”)
IT SEEMS CROWDED AND UNATTRACTIVE WITH ITS 124 COLUMNS, ARCHES, TILED PAVILIONS, LARGE FOUNTAIN, EIGHT SMALLER ONES, AND TWELVE FUNNY LIONS.

Sure sounds puritanical, doesn’t she? And according to history, this patio usta be a garden, which probably complimented the architecture better than what it looks like now. With flowers, trees, and plants, I can imagine it looking crowded, but right now, with pebbles that make it look like a Japanese garden, it seemed eerily desolate, despite all the tourists. Did I say Japanese garden? How ‘bout a kitty-litter box? For these goofy lions.
Staying in that same part of the world, it occurred to me that these dozens of skinny columns and thin archways, with their honeycombed decorations, reminded me of Thailand, some multi-roof Nepali pagoda style of architecture that spread to East Asia. {I’ll spare you my research on the erotic art on the roof struts, especially since there weren’t any here.}
But then I finally stepped on the pebbles, and found myself looking down in surprise: the softness, the way the pebbles allowed the weight of the body to sink in, was cushioning my feet, actually relaxing them. Energy flowed into my body, right through the material under the soles of my boots. New-agey awesome.
I went inside, so to speak, and when I turned around to gaze at the patio and the fountain of lions, it finally looked awesome. The columns brought shadows in, making it seem like a forest as I stood next to the small fountain inside. With the sun toward me and hitting me in the face, it was very difficult to see the fountain, let alone photograph it, as it was in full shadow. The smaller fountain next to me was fed by a channel that came from the lion waterway, so I followed it with my eyes and finally made out the big fountain in the strong shade.

Here’s a quote I really liked:
A STRUCTURE SO OPEN TO THE ELEMENTS AND INCORPORATING SO MANY POOLS AND FOUNTAINS MIGHT BE ALL VERY WELL FOR THE SUMMER, BUT WOULD HAVE BEEN RATHER LESS INVITING DURING GRANADA’S COLD AND DAMP WINTERS. IT IS A BREAKDOWN OF THE TYPICAL WESTERN BARRIERS BETWEEN EXTERIORS AND INTERIORS. ROOMS OPEN UP INTO LANDSCAPED COURTYARDS AND AN ABUNDANCE OF WATER FLOWS FROM OPEN TO ENCLOSED SPACES, ECHOING THE SOUNDS OF RIVERS AND SOFTENING IN ITS REFLECTIONS THE HARDNESS OF MAN-MADE LINES.
They missed the chessboard on the floor, but I forgave them.

;o)

Music Monday: La Chanson de Claudine

Those of you who are fans of the 60s—or even remember living it, you druggies—might recall a song called “Classical Gas,” by Mason Williams. This is the same musician, who was a writer on the Smothers Brothers show, and this is really such an amazingly lovely song. . . as lovely as the name. Soothing and romantic guitar instrumental with string highlights. . .

;o)

Travel Thursday Encore: Chilly Spain, Part 2

AUGUSTUS HARE (describing the Alhambra)
THE MOST PERFECTLY BEAUTIFUL PLACE IN THE WORLD

After the surprisingly uninteresting Patio del Cuarto Dorado–Golden Room, as you no doubt figured out–I found myself in a dark passageway that climbed obliquely to the Court of the Myrtles, at least according to the map. At the end of the hallway I instinctively took the turn to the left and. . .
“What a stupid place to put a wall!” I muttered as I rubbed my nose. Probably put there to foil assassins, since it makes a lot of noise when you break a nose. My mood was helped, though, when I turned around and looked in the right direction, where the wall opened to show flowers, or so I thought.
The Patio de los Arrayanes–Myrtles, if you didn’t know; I didn’t–was a wide-open space with a long goldfish pool surrounded by fragrant shrubs, but no real flowers, strangely enough. Even worse, it was incredibly bright after that dark corridor, so I spent too much time rubbing my eyes to appreciate it fully. On the other hand, it allowed my other senses to kick in, and for someone who’s allergic to perfume, I have to admit I’d never smelled shrubs like these.
Once my eyes were back in play, I walked along the pool, concentrating on the arches while checking the book and glancing at the water every so often. “The long central pool helps not only to cool and refresh the surrounding rooms, but also to dissolve all the courtyard’s diverse and potentially discordant elements in a glittering surface where visitors can observe at night the shining of the stars and the moon, and enjoy by day the spectacle of goldfish swimming in between the reflected arches of the galleries.” I frowned at the book (the book didn’t seem to mind): Why couldn’t the writer keep it simple? Did they really feel such a need to make the prose match the decorations?
Next up was the Hall of the Ambassadors, which the book told me was the place where King Ferdinand and Columbus discussed the route to India that ran into a roadblock–or is that seablock?–called America. {“The only thing Columbus ever found was that he was lost!”} It was a perfectly square hall that was supposed to be one of the most magnificent rooms in the palace, every surface intricately wrought with inscriptions and ornamental patterns and topped by an incredible carved wooden dome which represented the seven heavens of Islamic Paradise. Even better were the latticed windows, which permitted dots of light to enter and make a pattern on the floor, practically the only light in the room. The book told me those windows usta have stained glass, which was incredibly hard to picture, but would have been awesome to photo.
I spent a few minutes looking around, thinking of angles and then realizing they wouldn’t work, then saying the hell with it and shooting anyway with barely a grumble. From there I went on to the Torre de Comares; yeah, don’t ask me what that one means. This place had even funkier windows, enormous rounded holes that offered views in all directions. I liked them, and shot them over and over. After all, there’s no rule that says windows have to be square or rectangle.
According to the book, this tower was the tallest in the whole place, but looking up you wouldn’t know it. Not impressed, I moved on.

Washington Irving
FOLLOW ME UP THE NARROW, OBSCURE SPIRAL STAIRCASE. . . WHERE THE PROUD MONARCHS OF GRANADA AND THEIR QUEENS HAVE OFTEN ASCENDED. . . TO WATCH THE APPROACH OF INVADING ARMIES, OR GAZE WITH ANXIOUS HEARTS ON THE BATTLES IN THE VEGA.

I am not buying Washington Irving on this one: having been on the battlefield, what the hell’s so romantic about people killing each other? Why couldn’t he have just mentioned the great view?

Richard Ford
THE ALADDIN GORGEOUSNESS WHICH
ONCE SHOWN WITHIN, WHERE THE
OPENING OF A SINGLE DOOR, AS IF BY
THE TAP OF A FAIRY’S WAND, ADMITTED
THE STRANGER INTO AN ALMOST
PARADISE.

This actually made me a little uneasy, as I’m used to symmetry, focal points, logical sequences. Everything about this place screams secrecy, intrigue; your imagination tends to run wild, and not in a good way. I know that’s part of the Alhambra’s charm, but it’s. . . too much. Fun to look at for a while, but the thought of living here makes me shiver. I’d always be wondering if someone was hidden around the corner, waiting to jump me, or even just watching me from the tons of latticed windows on the upper floors.
Or maybe it’s just so different than the culture I grew up in. Islam doesn’t like real representations; you not only can’t show Allah, but any human or animal forms at all. Maybe that’s what this place really needs: some artwork inspired from something other than flowers and vines.

This quote, on the other hand, I can totally go for. . .
Washington Irving
ON ONE SIDE IS HEARD THE REFRESHING SOUND
OF WATERS FROM THE FOUNTAIN OF THE LIONS, AND
ON THE OTHER SIDE THE SOFT SPLASH FROM THE BASIN
IN THE GARDEN OF LINDARAXA.
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO CONTEMPLATE THIS SCENE
SO PERFECTLY ORIENTAL
WITHOUT FEELING THE EARLY ASSOCIATIONS OF ARABIAN ROMANCE,
AND ALMOST EXPECTING TO SEE THE WHITE ARM OF SOME
MYSTERIOUS PRINCESS BECKONING FROM THE GALLERY.

Yeah, the princess part, they know me well.

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Written in the Mountains

By Kuan Hsiu, ninth or tenth century China.

A mountain’s a palace
For all things crystalline and pure:
There’s not a speck of dust
On a single one of all these flowers.

When we start chanting poems like madmen
It sets all the peaks to dancing.
And once we’ve put the brush to work
Even the sky becomes mere ornament.

For you and me the joy’s in the doing
And I’m damned if I care about “talent.”

But if, my friend, from time to time
You hear sounds like ghostly laughter. . .
It’s all the great mad poets, dead,
And just dropping in for a listen.

;o)

Travel Thursday Encore: Chilly Spain, part 1

For the next few weeks the travel spot will be taken up by stuff that I saw and happened to me while on assignment shooting one of the marvels of the Middle Ages and before, the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, which I recently listed as my favorite place in the world. But two weeks in the dead of winter. . . sunny Spain my ass!
It’s from a few years ago, so don’t whine if things have changed.
{I was going to add “don’t try some of this stuff at home,” but since it’s impossible to unless you live in Granada. . .}

The road into the Alhambra from the south was designed so the visitor would end up at the starting point of the palaces, with those buildings to the right. But being a contrary individual I instead turned left, into the Alcazaba, which was once a separate palace, all the way to the western edge of the grounds, with its own entrance from town. Napoleon stationed his troops there, but before leaving he blew up enough of the place to keep it from being used that way again.
Okay, enough bare bones. I walked through the Torre de Homenaje, the Tower of Homage, as if you couldn’t figure it out yourself, which dominated the eastern end of the keep, but more impressive was the Torre de la Vela, Tower of the Candle, topped with a few flags and a bell that still rang every year to commemorate the taking of the Alhambra by the Christians. . . which is so incredibly Christian of them, I know. Ever hear about the American Secretary of State who told the Arabs and the Israelis to stop fighting and behave like good Christians?
Then I saw the pretty wisteria and forgot all thought about religion, bringing the camera to my eye. . .
Between the two main towers extends what in all other known medieval fortresses would have been an empty space for troops to maneuver in times of war. However, this Plaza de las Armas was turned into a miniature township complete with paved streets, residences for the army elite, and a public bath right below the Torre de la Vela. Since I’d just walked through it, I didn’t think it was possible, being so small, so I turned around to make sure, and yep, it was damned small. What I at first thought was something like the remains of a labyrinth turned out to be the foundations of the previous buildings. Those were probably bedrooms, and this bigger one was a living or meeting room; as you can tell, I always have fun playing archaeologist. Bending down, I picked up what I first thought was a piece of pottery, wondering how old it could be, but quickly realized it was probably just a dropped coffee mug. Still, that didn’t keep me from my usual flight of fancy, thinking about how different, or more likely how alike, those inhabitants had been to us modern types. When it comes down to it, they loved and hated and fought wars and planted seeds and had kids and, who knows, maybe they found relics from an even more distant past and wondered about those ancients. . .
And as always when I had such thoughts, I remembered a movie called “The Gods Must Be Crazy,” where some guy in a plane throws a Coke bottle out the window, and a tribal boy in Africa finds it. No one in the village knows what the hell it is, and everyone uses it for different things: rolling bread or a flower holder or a ton of other things. Before you know it they’re fighting over it, and the formerly peaceful village is ripped apart.
And then I wondered what some archaeologist a thousand years from now would think of a Coke bottle. . .
A sign pointed toward the barbican, but since I’m allergic to heights, I passed.
{to be continued}

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Across the Swamp

By Olaf H. Hauge, some time in the twentieth century in Norway.

It is the roots from all the trees that have died
out here, that’s how you can walk safely over the soft places.
Roots like these keep their firmness,
it’s possible they’ve lain here centuries.
And there is still some dark remains of them under the moss.
They are still in the world and hold you up so you can make it over.
And when you push out into the mountain lake,
high up, you feel how the memory of that cold person
who drowned himself here once helps hold up your frail boat.
He, really crazy, trusted his life
To water and eternity.

;o)