Sunday, May 31, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
Mozart, Frank Sinatra and Jimi Hendrix supposedly all had perfect pitch -- the ability to identify or reproduce a musical note without any reference notes. The rare skill is often thought of as a mysterious genetic gift, but researchers at the University of California at San Diego have found that perfect pitch is significantly more common among fluent speakers of Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese and other languages that use tone to distinguish between words.
In a study published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America and presented at an ASA meeting last week in Portland, Ore., UCSD researchers tested 203 music students at the University of Southern California for perfect pitch by asking them to identify 36 piano notes. The students self-reported their musical education and ethnicity, and which languages they spoke and how fluently.
More than 90 percent of students who began musical training between ages 2 and 5 and spoke an East Asian tonal language very fluently had perfect pitch, compared with less than 30 percent of Caucasian speakers of non-tonal languages who started to learn music at the same ages. Within that early-onset musical training age group, the "very fluent" tonal language group also blew away those who spoke East Asian languages "fairly fluently" and "non-fluently."
Because the East Asian non-fluent tonal speakers and the Caucasian non-tonal speakers had similar test results, the researchers concluded that their performance was based on language skills rather than ethnicity.
"It also raises the interesting question: What other exceptional abilities might be latent in an infant that we could bring out if we only knew what buttons to push?" said the study's lead author, Diana Deutsch, who has perfect pitch.
(From The Washington Post -- Rachel Saslow)
Sunday, May 24, 2009
"We arrived in Delhi on Thursday evening May 14, where we spent our first night at the lovely, lovely Shangri-La Hotel in the heart of New Delhi, just off the central Connaught Circle close by the nearby seats of government , India Gate, and myriad embassies. The Shangri-La, aptly named for the famed paradise of the popular book and Hollywood movie LOST HORIZONS by one Lord Hilton (no relation to the hoteliers of that name, by the way), is not unexpectedly a modern Chinese-born deluxe chain, akin to an Asian Four Seasons. Happily, the hotel in Delhi is truly a veritable traveler's utopia.
The next day, we were off to Pushkar itself, a few hours south of Jaipur. Pushkar is best known to many in the world for its famous annual "camel fair" -- usually held in November. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pushkar_Fair
Jaipur is considered by many urbanists to be one of the best planned cities. In an era when most of the rajputs were busy fighting with each other, Jaipur's kings diplomatically broadened their control sphere maintaining good relations with the Mughals.
The city was planned according to Indian Vastu Shastra (Vedic or Pouranic Planning for the comfort and prosperity of the citizens). The directions of each street and market are east to West and North to South. The Eastern gate is called Suraj (Sun) Pol, while the Western gate is called Chand (Moon) Pol. There are only three gates facing East, West, and North including the Northern gate (known as Zorawar Singh gate) which faces toward the ancestral capital of Amber, while many gates face South.
Although the present city has expanded from outside of its walls, the original planning was within the walls. The gates used to be closed at sunset and opened at sunrise. Almost all Northern Indian towns of that period presented a chaotic picture of narrow twisting lanes, a confusion of run-down forts, temples, palaces, and temporary shacks that bore no resemblance at all to the principles set out in Hindu architectural manuals which call for strict geometric planning. Thus, for Sawai Jai Singh II and the Bengali Guru Vidyadhar (who was a 'Shaspati' - Hindu Priest Architect), the founding of Jaipur was also a ritual and a bronze opportunity to plan a whole town according to the principles of Hindu architectural theory.
The town of Jaipur is built in the form of a eight-part Mandala known as the 'Pithapada'. Nine signifies the nine planets of the ancient astrological zodiac. It is also known that Sawai Jai Singh II was a great astronomer and a town planner, and hence the 'Pithapada'. Also, the commercial shops are designed in multiples of nine (27), having one cross street for a planet.
Back in Jaipur however, we ensconced ourselves in the sister property of the SAMODE PALACE, known as the SOMODE HAVELI, basically a city palace built by the same royals that built the magnificent country estate in which we had earlier stayed two nights before. Like the palace, the city residence HAVELI, is now run as a truly deluxe hotel, with every amenity that a global deluxe traveler seeks, but also with all the grandeur and character of a "heritage" experience. As only one example, the grand swimming pool at the HAVELI had the currently de rigeur poolside canopied beds, along with enormous bedside standing fans (sadly or more aptly -- mercifully, there are no servants with animal-hair fans anymore!) to keep guests cool as a cucumber in this desert state of Rajasthan. Of all the sites to see in Jaipur (including such highlights as the famed Palace of the Winds, or Hawa Mahal, and the grand Amber Fort outside of town), the most unusual is undoubtedly the JANTAR MANTAR, an improbable, larger-than-life, Vedic astronomical/astrological park just off Jaipur's main City Palace. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jantar_Mantar_(Jaipur)Its giant instruments, which dwarf a man, feel like one has entered a giant's chess -- or similar game -- board. Just extraordinary! For a modern understanding of these fantastifcal intruments from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, see http://www.vedicobservatory.org/
The next day we headed "home" to Delhi, where we returned to our utopian Shangri-La again. While Delhi abounds with urban pleasures, we chose to pursue our spiritual aims still, and visited several of the city's lesser-known (at least to the typical tourist I think) temples that honor the Indian version of the Virgen Mary -- known as DEVI, or translated into English as MOTHER DIVINE. To many, there is no more powerful Devi temple in Delhi than the KALKA JI temple ( see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalkaji ), virtually hidden next to the modern architectural masterpiece, the Baha'i Lotus temple, built to resemble a giant marble lotus flower (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_Temple ). While the Baha'i temple is gorgeous visually, the KALKA JI temple offers amazing "darshan," or blessings, to those who come to receive the beneficence of Mother Divine. This power is related to the fact that it is one of the famed some-64 SHAKTI PEETHA temples, which are natural power centers emating from the cosmic power of the cosmically divine mother.
We also visited another lesser known temple (to toursits at least, that is), called YOGA MAYA Mandir, (very close to the tourist hot spot of the KUTUBH MINAR. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qutb_Minar ). The Yoga Maya temple is also a temple to Mother Divine, in this case the sister of Lord Krishna, of Bhagavad Gita fame. This temple's beauty is more settled, with a serenity that is enveloping -- a very good place to settle in for some deep meditation, taking with one the motherly protections of Krishna's sister, Yoga Maya herself.
RUDRAKSH HOLIDAYS B- 602, Ansal Chamber - I, 3 Bhikaji Cama Place New Delhi - 110066
Fax :- 0091 11 2619 8702 Mobile :- 0091 98103 21044
Sunday, May 17, 2009
"I arrived in Bolivia via my home in South Beach, FL, on AA's nonstop to La Paz (the capital city). To most bright young things coming of age in the 80s, Bolivia perhaps is most famous in the U.S. for its "Bolivian marching powder," celebrated in Jay McInerney's 1980s novel, BRIGHT LIGHTS BIG CITY. Because the city is so high, altitude sickness is a real problem for many visitors coming from lower altitudes. Happily, the most effective cure for this malady is a tea (mate) made from the dried leaves of the famed coca plant (FYI, the coca plant must be heavily processed to produce its famous medicinal derivative, cocaine). All of the top hotels have the tea available round the clock in their lobbies, in order to alleviate their guests' discomfort from this potential altitude malady. Another side note is that the local natives still chew the fresh leaves of the coca plant, for energy in this rarefied atmosphere, where the air is truly thin and the heights vertiginous. The current president, Evo Morales, is the first, non-European, descendent of the ancient pre-Colombian civilizations that inhabited this part of South America before the Spanish arrived in the 1500s, conquering the last of those early civilizations, the Incans. For more on Bolivia's current political scene, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolivia.
La Paz is a modern city of nearly a million people, built in a spectacular bowl ringed by the majestic Andes. I stayed at one of the city's most notable 5 star hotels, the Radisson, which is a fine place that has hosted most of the political and entertainment celebrities that have come to town in the last few decades, although I would say that the place is in need of a facelift soon. I understand the Latin American luxury chain, Camino Real, has a newer all-suite, 5 star property that has recently opened, so it may be a nice alternative for those seeking top notch accomodations.
The main tourist attractions within the city may be enjoyed easily in a day. There are many spectacular and/or charming 1500s and 1600s Catholic churches to view, plus some unique markets for the folk art and products of the local campesinos (the indigenous population), who to this day wear the internationally well-known garb of ponchos, multi-petticoated skirts, and bowler hats -- the latter worn exclusively by the women, and seemingly too small and thus balanced improbably on their heads a la a Jackie Kennedy Onassis pillbox! The most famous of these campesino markets is the Witches Market, known locally as the Mercado de Hechiceria, where one can buy many an unusual thing, including the de rigeur dried llama fetus for good luck when building one's new home. It's an interestingly peculiar variaton on Harry Potter's Diagon Alley.
There is also the aptly named Valley of the Moon, a unique, wind-carved, veritable moonscape at the bottom of the city's bowl. The peaks of the Andes, ever so high, maintain their majestic snowcaps year-round.
From the port of Copacabana, one can (and I did) take a boat out to the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun), so named by the the Incans, and attributed by them to be the birthplace of their revered Sun God. This is also home to a reputed Fountain of Youth, which -- at the very least -- is a lovely hill-fed natural spring. Thanks to my tour guides, I enjoyed a private luncheon in a charming private garden on a local cliff, overlooking the lake and the nearby Isla de la Luna (the Island of the Moon), having locally grown, organic, vegetables, as well as fresh trout from Lake Titicaca itself. Gorgeous views and fine lunch!
After returning to Copacabana, I was handed off to my Peruvian tour guides at the border just a few miles north, where we set out for another 4 hour trip to the principal tourist town in Peru -- Puno. Puno boasts a population of well over a million, however where they all are, I could not say, as what I saw looks not too different than the charming Copacabana, Bolivia, which has a population of only some 6,000! There are several deluxe properties in Puno, especially a few miles out of town. One is the 5 star Libertador, while I stayed very closey by at the also very charming, very new Casa Andina, Private Collection (not to be confused with several other Casa Andina properties in downtown Puno). http://www.peru-hotels.com/puncaspvp.htm.
Most of the rooms at both the Libertador and Casa Andina Privada have gorgeous lake views, and private docks from which one can enjoy one of many lake excursions. I was flabbergasted to discover that my hotel, the Casa Andina had a first rate restaurant. In fact, I enjoyed a meal there my first night that I would count as one of the very finest I've had in a long time. The chef used local Kingfish, fresh from the lake, and complimented it with the freshest vegetables prepared in an ethereal tempura that was as light and crisp as any I've encountered in the world. What a delightful surpise indeed!
The next day on the lake, I went to see the unique "floating" Uros Islands, home to the Uros Indians, who some 500 years ago, allegedly for defensive reasons, moved onto the lake itself, building their own low-tech version of Venice. These artificial islands are actually woven by their inhabitants from the naturally abundant local totora reeds. There currently are some 40 reed islands loosely linked into a community, and accessible only by boat. The Indians also weave those same reeds into navigable boats, as well as homes on top of the islands. The locals even include the totora reed in their diets, supplemented by local fish and fowl. Astounding!
In the afternoon, I was off to visit the Peruvian equivalent of Egypt's pyramids, the Sillustani tombs, just off nearby Lake Umayo. These unusual, inverted cone-shaped pyramids were built by the ancient predecessors of the Incans, the Aymara people.
The next day, I was off for a long drive back to the Bolivian border, where I was again handed off to my La Paz guides, en route to the most ancient of locally discovered archeological sites, Tihuanaco or Tiwanaku, which significantly predates the more famed (and admittedly more scenic) Macchu Picchu. The pre-Colombian culture developed here is the foundation for the later-to-come Aymarans, and even later Incans. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiwanaku
One of the focal points of early architecture here is the massive Gateway of the Sun, which was so perfectly constructed, situated and aligned with the heavens, that each solar equinox -- to this day even -- the rising sun shines through this gateway on that day only. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Zonnepoort_tiwanaku.jpg "
Many thanks to our intrepid traveler,
(photos courtesy of Wikipedia)
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Here's what Ken had to say about a few of the recent drawings:
"The series is called "Notes From The Edge Of The World" and is inspired by the Ireland trip. Below is a statement I wrote about this work, particularly the last paragraph. The title of the series was inspired by the view from our cottage. I told someone there that it felt like the edge of the world, and they said actually that if you drew a line straight north from where I was standing, I wouldn't hit land until the Arctic.
My relationship to abstraction has been changing in recent years. Sources in the physical world have become more prominent as catalysts in my process of making a painting or drawing. The first manifestation of this in my work came after a trip to Tulum, Mexico.
This connection to the coral was sustained and evolved through a series of paintings and drawings aptly called the Coral Series (2005 - 2007).
Paying attention to the natural world is not a new thing to me in my work, but with the Coral Series, there came a departure from the way this interest had manifested itself in the past. “Process” became a direct guide (as opposed to a discreet image) and this new focus seems to have revitalized my studio practice.
This impulse continued to evolve during the past summer as I spent a month on an artist’s residency in Ireland. There I worked along the northwest coast, in daily contact with the fascinating tide pools, and the marine life and fossils that are a part of that environment. Soon this experience was filtering into my work.
Since I couldn’t really bring it home with me, I photographed and filmed extensively the layered images created by waves, creatures, and vegetation flowing over a substrate of amazing geological forms.
Though I have not resolved this new body of work enough to include it in my application, the nature of this new influence is turning out, as with the Coral Series, to be more experiential and less imagistic in its import.
In addition to the direct visual stimulation of the environment I encountered in Ireland, I was energized by the tangible presence of the ancient history that literally simmers right at the surface there - in the form of Neolithic tombs, ruins of castles and abbeys, abundant fossils, and a vivid geological history.
I felt a strong sense of a time on earth when all was not charted and documented - when the “terra incognita” of the world left mapmakers and scientists with only the option of imaginative and artistic speculation.
Lesley Heller Gallery N.Y.C.