Friday, August 26, 2011

Some Sights around Colorado

A few things you might see if you came out to the Boulder/Denver area:

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is in Boulder, CO, and does work of all kinds on weather, climate, global warming, and obviously, the atmosphere. There is still a surpringly large amount we still don't know or understand about the atmosphere- no one is yet able to predict weather with 100% accuracy. There are these things called 'blue jets' in the sky that pilots often report seeing, giant flashes of blue laser-like light shooting out from the TOPS of clouds into outerspace, and yet little is known about them. The building for NCAR is very modernist but surprisingly sensitive to its environment. It was designed by I.M. Pei, of the Louvre 'Pyramid' fame. Inside NCAR there is the equivalent of a science museum, but it's mostly about the properties of weather. However, there is also a supercomputer inside the building that takes up a large part of the basement. That computer is Super!

In Denver, about a half-hour drive away, you can find the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. It has a great rooftop cafe and a terrace garden which is my new favorite place when I'm not back at Pittsburgh's Mattress Factory café. There is currently an art piece on the roof that shines light down into the stairwell and bounces sunlight off of a sucession of mirrors, all the way down to the basement several floors below. A complicated take on a skylight, but a beautiful study on light and reflection. (To see it work, best visit on a bright sunny day.)

There are beautiful rock formations at The Garden of the Gods, which is actually about a two-hour drive from Boulder but close to Colorado Springs and definitely worth the drive. A strange outcropping of sandstone and red rock among a lot of granite and harder rocks around it.

The top of Pike's Peak is barren and treeless, but beautiful (except for the tourists and parking lot part). But the view is still spectacular. At over 14000 feet, it will literally take your breath away. Maybe the view isn't really that great, it just feels like it when your body's not getting enough oxygen and you feel dizzy and dehydrated.

There are lots of rock collections in Boulder and Colorado- it is a geologist's dream here (except for maybe Iceland, if you are a volcanologist!). A surprisingly large amount of geodes and sparkly crystals come from Colorado!

There are also lots of ye-olde-America buildings too, some dating back to the Gold Rush, when communities near Boulder sprang up overnight. This also led to a lot of abandoned towns and many ghost towns, when the money ran out (or never materialized in the first place). I can't wait to visit some of these old remnants. For now, I see mostly tavern signs and western facades of storefronts. And lots and lots of buffalo iconography, for the famed bison of an America long ago.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

'The Origin of the Sun and Moon' in production!

Great pleasures await you (and me!) as my upcoming CD 'The Origin of the Sun and Moon' is nearly complete- and should be out by early September. I will keep you posted of course, but a sneak preview will be that the album features about 45 minutes of music written over the course of my year in Iceland, sound collages, collaborations with a Pittsburgh poet, Icelandic landscape photography, and even is going to be made in two editions: a run of the regular few hundred copies, and a limited edition with fancy poster and other secret goodies. You can also download it online, for those who don't like the physical, and prefer the ephemeral. But at the same price (sans shipping, I suppose), you might as well enjoy the hard copy and give to a friend.

Here's the cover and back as a treat, and two unused shots from the photo shoots with the fabulous artist Nicole Pietrantoni. Now I'm just waiting for the manufacturer to ship me back a few boxes, and then it will be like Christmastime in my apartment, and then in your ears!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bedazzled Denim Jacket

A friend of mine came out to his family recently (which went very smoothly, thank goodness, and also congratulations, M!) but I was wondering for a while what their reaction might be. M grew up in a Roman Catholic family surrounded by brothers, likely giving each other noogies and wedgies and wrestling all the time. Thankfully I didn't have to deal with hyper-testosterone world, having only one younger sister (I was more likely the one tormenting her, until we grew out of it and became BFFs).
I envisioned either one of two coming-out outcomes. One, some sadness, awkward silence, plus some interjections about God, then slow acceptance. Or two, the complete opposite:

'Mom, dad, I'm gay. I'm done dating women, and I want to date dudes.'
'Oh, thank heavens. We're so happy for you! We had hoped this day would come so we bought you this bedazzled denim jacket just in case you had good news for us. I just hope it still fits.'
'Gee, thanks.'

(exeunt stage right and the whole family goes out to a disco.)

I guess it didn't go in the direction of God or the bedazzler, but I'm still glad there's love and acceptance in another American family.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Boulder, Colorado

The move has been made! I am no longer living in Iceland and I've moved out west, about 1700 miles west of my hometown, to the town of Boulder, Colorado. For those of you who read the blog for the Iceland posts, you may be disappointed that I won't be posting much more about glaciers or Icelandic grammar. But for those of you who like landscapes, pictures of travels, observations about silly hippies and elk and pine forests and weather patterns and my random comics, then you will be delighted to know that I intend to keep up with all of this.

Colorado has the most different feeling of anywhere that I've ever been in the continental United States. Today I went to the Center for Atmospheric Research (fabulous!) and there were cacti growing out in the wild. There have been heat-lightning and thunderstorms in the distance almost every night. And on a short trip up to the Rocky Mountains, I saw my first moose.

The landscapes here share a bit in common with Iceland, strangely. But the culture does not, that's for sure. Up in the highest altitudes of the mountains, above the treeline, the plant life looks remarkably similar to Iceland, with its windswept and snow-covered peaks, a fragile alpine ecosystem. The air is crisp, and both places are surprisingly arid. There are even hot springs in Colorado, just like Iceland. But up on the top of the Rockies the air is noticeably thinner! I have to drink a lot more water here, and cook with high-altitude rules. And while Iceland was full of mostly families and fashionable worldly types, in Boulder the town seems to be filled with earth-loving types, from startup company execs to hangers-on anarchist hippies and street performers, along with the 30 thousand students from the university (I suppose me included) all vying for the least rat-infested affordable apartment. While Iceland, everything happened word of mouth, Boulder happens via Craigslist. Both places are unsurprisingly exorbitantly expensive, but then you also get a lot of what you pay for in terms of stunning backyard views. I think it will be a good place for me to be, to keep working and thinking.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Overheard in Missoura

Three things heard in Missouri, the most boring state I drove across from New York to Colorado (except for St. Louis, it's cool!) with also the fattest-looking Americans. Also, this was at an Applebees, so not exactly the harbinger of fine taste.

"Do you want smoking or non?" (Didn't this stop in most states by now, at least in family restaurants?)

"Do you want your burger pink or not pink?" (I'll take medium, thanks.)

"If you're tired, you can just rest here, or maybe lay a nap." Lay a nap? New phrase!It reminds me of the Pittsburgh 'needs fixed', whence I have a moment of nostalgia for yinzers, and then we're back on the road.