Monday, November 30, 2009

Murder in the Woods

During the summer I found an ad on CraigsList from a composer looking for musicians to start a lounge music band. I replied to the ad and made plans to meet with the composer, Alexis Crawshaw. It turns out that Alexis and I went to UCSB together (I am a flute performance major, she as a composition major). Though we never had any classes together (Alexis is two years my junior), we have many mutual aquaintances. What a small music world, even here in Paris!

The band, called Murder in the Woods, has been rehearsing regularly since September. We had our first gig on November 3rd at the club/restaurant Le China. We opened for the band Venus Gets Even, which is the side-project of the lead singer for pop band Nouvelle Vague. The small club was packed and we had a great time. Here is a video of Murder in the Woods performing "Deconstruct Me," written by Alexis Crawshaw (lead singer).

You can also visit Murder in the Woods' MySpace page to hear more of our awesome songs! Click here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

November Update

It has been a long couple of weeks without updates and we are sorry about that! Since that time:
  1. Carla flew back to California for her cousin's touching funeral, and then on the flight back to Paris met Buzz Aldrin.
  2. We have found a place to live in Copenhagen for the first six months of next year, and have found someone to take over our lease in Paris.
  3. I (Bobby) have been working extremely hard on a journal article summarizing the work I have accomplished in the post-doctorate position.
  4. I (Bobby) have cut Carla's hair.
  5. I (Bobby) have had my own hair cut (not by Carla).
  6. I (Bobby) have watched France use their hands to beat Ireland in the World Cup Qualifiers.
  7. Finally, I have found the grave of John Baptiste Joseph Fourier.

Can you believe the condition of this grave? One cannot even read "Fourier" in the stone. On top of this, being at the famous Cimetiere Père Lachaise, one would expect Fourier to be listed on the $2 tourist map of "Famous Frenchmen Buried in Cimetiere Père Lachaise", or even on the map posted at the entrances. Mais no! Mon dieu! Who or what is responsible for this "grave" oversight? It really is disheartening. (Thanks to Ashley for the photo!)

And finally, I found Rodin's bust of Gustav Mahler. The last time Carla and I went to the Rodin museum this was not here. But now it is and I have captured it looking at me. (Thanks to Ashley for the photo!)

Some people have mentioned, after seeing the summer a-little-less-than-blockbuster movie "The Soloist," that they could have sworn they saw Carla playing flute. Indeed that was her, and the evidence can be seen above. We recorded her screen time to about about 2.7 seconds through two panning shots. And because it exceeds 1.5 seconds, she is now a member of a guild!

I (Bobby) have also had the chance to go through some very old photos on my hard drives. The one above is so old I have to use "circa" to date it to 1996. To the right of me is my best friend Fil! We spent the entire day helping clean a bowling alley in Boulder Colorado for a rave. I am indeed wearing a dog chain as a wallet chain. And apparently I am drinking a Pepsi. Or is that a TAB?

Here is a fun photo! From early 1999 I am standing with Max Mathews at Stanford. We are holding two "radio batons" of his musical instrument.

Isn't it incredible how nature can be so cute and gross at the same time!?

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Duet for a Rainy Sunday

Ominous, multinefarious, or just plain scratchy. This turtleneck sweater my mom sent is a bit short in the arms and long in the neck, but that is OK because it does not compete with the mysterious story unfolding in the background. I hope you enjoy the arrangement and video experimentation! And maybe pay more attention to the wonderful fluting than the hopscotch diato maneuvering.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Roma, day 4

On our final day in Rome we decided that we must go to see the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's Basilica. We had heard that the lines to enter the Vatican can be extremely long, so we went at 9 AM to make sure we would wait a long time with everyone else. (When we left several hours later, the line was completely gone and there was no wait to get inside.) We were all funneled through an organized system of rooms, each one seemingly grander than the previous. Above is the long hall of the Map Room, where the most current maps of the Vatican's possessions in the 1580's were painted for ligurstical reasons.

Many of the paintings through the rooms illustrated particular important events in the rise of the imperial power of the Catholics through Europe. Here we see the crowning of Townsend-family relative Charlemagne in 800 A.D. in St. Peter's as the first Holy Roman Emperor, which served to cement his duty to protect the Pope.

We eventually ended up in the incredibly tall Sistine Chapel, which Michelangelo painted many of this masterpieces. Though there were many guards swarming the place forbidding pictures be taken, I was able to slyfully take this blurry photo.

After the Vatican museum, and walking through the treasury where they have locked up so many holy relics (including St. Luke's skull!) from being mercifully dispensed throughout the world to spread their incredible healing powers, we headed over to St. Peter's Basilica.

This humongous temple (it can hold about 60,000 people) is built on the sight of the bones of St. Peter, who is recognized as the very first pope. In the picture above you can see a bronze statue of St. Peter holding the keys to heaven. Supposedly you rub the foot and kiss your hand to win favor. Let's see what happens since I did not get a chance to rub the foot.

In its present form, construction of the church was started in 1506, but before that there had been many other churches since the 4th century. In fact, to partially fund the building of this church the Catholics began to sell indulgences in the 16th century, which led to some controversy, a splitting of Europe, the founding of the American colonies, and so on. Things have never been the same!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Roma, day 3

No visit to the ancient city of Rome is complete without coming face to face with the remains of some of its former citizens, and in particular the past members of the controversial Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, i.e., the Capuchin monks. Underneath the relatively normal church Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini lies the remains of some 4,000 former monks, as well as poor Romans, buried between the years 1500-1870. In four rooms, most of the skeletal components are used to create designs and pictures. A few full bodies have been kept together and donned with habits and crosses. Some of them even had skin and hair still visible. In the last room there is a plaque reading: "What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be." To which Carla and I said, "Pshaw! Like we are so monks now." Mark Twain has visited this place in 1867 and details his experience in Chapter 28 of The Innocents Abroad.

Rome is of course built upon the remains of an old pagan society. Many of the remains remain, and some of them have been extremely well-preserved because they have been "adopted" by other groups. Perhaps the best example of this is the Pantheon, which was originally built in 60 B.C., but converted in 609 A.D. into a Catholic church. The ceiling was originally covered in bronze, but the church had it removed and melted down to construct a cannon and to fortify the nearby Castle of Saint Angelo. All the pagan statues were summarily destroyed as well. Services are still held there to this day, and the Renaissance artist Raphael is buried there.

We ended our day with a visit to the Castle of Saint Angelo, which provides a beautiful view of of standing in front of the city. Saint Peter's square is behind us. This structure used to be a mausoleum built in 139 A.D., but was later converted into a fortress (401 A.D.), and then a castle for the Pope in the 14th century. Eventually, it was used as a prison, and Giordano Bruno was held there for six years to pay in part (he was to be burned alive to pay for the other part) his heretical views that are to this day still controversial in many parts of the world.

Rome Day 2

Saturday morning, Bobby and I awoke looking forward to enjoying the 'Breakfast' part of our 'Bed and Breakfast' lodgings. We went to the managers room and knocked on the door. George Salvador, the manager of Salvador's B&B, opened the door and told us in his very limited English, "Ok, follow." We followed him out the door, into the street, and into a cafe a block away. He then said, "Cafe? Cappuccino? Tea?" It turns out the the breakfast included with the lodgings is a drink and a breakfast pastry from this local cafe! Not quite what we were expecting, but it filled us up and gave us our required caffeine. We then headed off to the Palatine Hill and Colosseum.

Directly across from the Colosseum lies the Palatine Hill. According to legend, this hill is where Romulus and Remus were found by a she-wolf that kept them alive. It is also where Romulus killed Remus and founded Rome in 753 BCE. Legend also claims it to be the place where Hercules killed Cacus. Whether these legends hold any truth, the Palatine is indeed a remarkable place for its large amount of ancient ruins. Overlooking the Roman Forum, the Palatine was ancient Rome's poshest neighborhood; many of the emperors lived there, starting with Emperor Augustus. Augustus, who ruled Rome from 31 BCE - 14 ACE, was the great-nephew of Julius Ceasar. Augustus built a large palace on the Palantine hill, which remained the imperial residence for over 3oo years. These days you can still see many of the floors and walls of different parts of the buildings. There is also a well-preserved stadio, pictured here, a stadium used by the emperors for private games and events.

Next to the Palantine Hill is the Roman Forum, a shopping mall, civic center, and religious complex all rolled into one. In use from the 7th c. BCE to the 4th c. ACE, there are well-preserved ruins of the Tempio de Antonino e Faustina (a temple built in 141 ACE, which was transformed into a church in the 8th c.), pictured here, the Tempio di Giulio Cesare (a temple erected on the spot where Ceasar was cremated, it was created in 29 BCE), the Curia (where the Roman Senate met, it was also later converted into a church in the Middle Ages), and the Arco di Settimio Severo (Arch of Septimus Severus, built in 203 ACE to celebrate the Roman victory over the Parthians).

Several other ruins of pagan temple have been incorporated into Catholic churches. The Chiesa de Santa Francesca Romana (built during the 10th c.) incorporates part of the Tempio de Venere e Roma (Temple of Venus and Rome, built in 121 ACE, it was the largest temple in Rome). Inside of the church is the skeleton of Saint Francesca Romana, the patron saint of car drivers.

Before we headed into the Colosseum, we stopped for a photo at the Arco di Costantino, which was built in 312 ACE to honor Constantine following his victory during the battle of the Milvian Bridge.

Bobby and I wandered all over the massive Colosseum. We were there on a Saturday afternoon, which was pretty cool because I thought the USC Trojan football team would be playing in the Los Angeles Colosseum during California's Saturday afternoon. Turns out it was an away game, but the thought was neat...

Back to the Colosseum: built by Emperor Vespian, the Colosseum was inaugurated in 80 ACE. The inaugural games lasted 100 days, during which some 5000 animals were slaughtered as part of the games. Truly colossus in size, the stadium could hold 50,000 spectators, all of whom could be entered and seated in a few minutes thanks to the 80 entrance arches. The floor of the Colosseum was a true marvel for its time. Trap doors led down to the underground chambers that held the animals and sets for the battles. The animals and sets would be lifted onto the main floor by a complicated set of pulleys. It took over 200 men to make it all work!

That evening we saw the Vittoriano, a huge white building built to commemorate Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of a unified Italy. Completed in 1935, many Romans dislike it and refer to it as either The Wedding Cake or The Typewriter. Their feelings are very similar to the Parisians feelings about the Eiffel Tower.

As we walked through the winding streets around the Vittoriano and the Pantheon, we came across this street musician. Called the Bird Man, he had an amazing set-up: while playing the accordion, he was also pushing horns, bells, and wood blocks with his feet and making bird calls with a whistle in his mouth! We stopped and watched him for about 10 minutes, then bought one of his CDs.

Roma, day 1

Our first evening in Rome was a bit rainy. Since our Bed and Breakfast was conveniently located near the Vatican, we deposited our luggage, grabbed the umbrella, and took a stroll to Piazza San Pietro (Saint Peter's square). At the center of the square is a giant granite Egyptian obelisk from 1200 B.C., moved to Rome around 46 A.D. by the Emperor Caligula. In front of this is the giant Basilica of Saint Peter, the first pope.

Rome offers many unique sights, including its fountains. Here we are standing in front of Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, or the "Fountain of the Four Rivers," created in 1651. As many of the fountains in Rome, this was created by the Baroque artist Gianlorenzo Bernini --- who also designed Saint Peter's Square. The four main rivers depicted here include the Nile, Danube, Ganges, and Plate (the widest river in the world that is between Uruguay and Argentina). Apparently the Amazon was unknown at that time, as was the Colorado river. Interestingly, Pope Innocent X commissioned the fountain with public monies during a time of intense famine. Naturally there were protests, but he had the rabble rousers arrested.

The second large fountain we visited takes up an entire facade of a building: the Fontana di Trevi, or the Trevi Fountain, which was completed in 1762 and is not by Bernini. It is recommended that if one wishes to return to Rome, he should toss a coin in the fountain. Three coins tossed with the right hand over the left shoulder will bring luck. Each day some 3000 euros are tossed, most unremarkably by dupes, chumps, stooges, fools, and patsies. We saved our coins and found luck in having enough money to buy some real Italian gelato.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Unknowns

It is now official. I (Bobby) have received word from the Dean of the Department of Information Technology at the University in Denmark that I will be an Assistant Professor starting in January. Now we have two problems: 1) Finding all the necessary hoops and jumping through them to obtain the rights to live and work in Denmark for the next three years at least; 2) Finding a furnished apartment in Copenhagen to rent starting January 1, 2010.

In the meantime, I am working on a journal article, a couple of conference papers, and some good old tunes on my wonderful melodeon. I leave you with a nice French tune "L'Inconnu de Limoise", or "The Unknown of Limoise". I have heard two stories about the history of this tune. One is that it was written after the relocation of a cemetery resulted in many misplaced skeletons; and the other is that a skeleton with bagpipes was uncovered with the building of a road near Limoise, France. I decided to go with the first story, and so have superimposed me playing on some pictures we took at our neighborhood Montmartre cimetiere in Paris.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Unbeknown to us, Halloween is primarily an American holiday. Throughout the week, I (Carla) have been asking our French friends, "What are you doing for Halloween?" The most common response was, "What am I doing for what?" Even a New Zealander acquaintance looked at me oddly when I wished him a Happy Halloween. I was a bit sad that we wouldn't get to see children dressed up in fun costumes and pass out candy this year, but luckily Bobby and I were invited to help with the Halloween children's party at the American Library in Paris. The children's librarian, Helen, asked me to help her with the party that the library puts on every year for the young members. Helen wanted me to teach the children an old traditional English Soul's Day song, Soul Cake. The lyrics to the simple song are:

A soul, a soul, a soul cake.
Please good Missus a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.

I asked Bobby if he would like to accompany me on the accordion, and he readily agreed. We arrived at the library early to help set up for the party. Once the children showed up, we helped pass out candy, kept them occupied by helping them draw pumpkin faces and ghosts, and complimented them on their creative costumes. There must have been over 80 children there, ranging in age from infants to pre-teens.

After passing out candy, Helen started the program, which included some spooky Halloween book readings, a ghost-themed crossword puzzle, a costume contest, and learning the Soul Cake song. After learning the song, the kids did a 'tour' of the library, showing off their costumes to everyone while walking throughout the library. Bobby had to lead the way while playing accordion! He claims to have almost poked out the eyes of a few of the kids that got a little to close to him.