Saturday, April 30, 2016

Marina And The Diamonds

A week ago I caught a televised musical performance by a relatively-new singer. I was instantly hooked by her melodic songs, their deeply-personal lyrics and the singer's fabulous costumes. I went right to Amazon and bought her latest album, "Froot." Her stage name is Marina and the Diamonds. (Diamonds, a play on her actual last name, Diamandis, is a reference to her fans.)

Marina grew up in Wales. Her mother is Welsh and her father Greek. After growing up poor but happy, she moved to London a decade ago to pursue a musical career. She's largely self-taught and her songs ooze authentic emotion. She became a singer to express herself, not grab fame.

In the old days (Seventies), we respected singer-songwriters who wrote their own songs, explored their personal lives, and connected with fans in a direct way. Today, that's disappeared. Current pop-stars sing songs written by other people, they dance to choreography designed by other people, and their music is produced and auto-tuned by other people to a ridiculously-artificial degree. It's hard to connect to such fake art.

Marina's music is different. The lyrics are honest and interesting. Her melodies are sweet and engaging. Best of all, though, are her costumes. They've been described as "retro, surreal and cartoonish." They definitely have a 70s-vibe and are beautiful works of art. Marina has her outfits specially designed and made for her, with their aesthetic appeal being the motivation. They vary widely in style.

In the past five years, Marina has attracted a devoted cult following. She hasn't achieved pop stardom but it doesn't appear that she wants it. Her music is too genuine and she doesn't want to compromise it. I respect that.

If you haven't heard of Marina, give her a chance.




Sunday, April 24, 2016

Lake Ronkonkoma

Lake Ronkonkoma is on Long Island where I live but I've never gone there. My entire life. So I visited today and took these photos.




Saturday, April 23, 2016

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Notes From The Road

Observed on the road during my recent trip to Beantown:

- Nothing lifts your heart higher than having a little boy wave at you the intense enthusiasm.

- I always experience a primal thrill riding my bike over big bridges. Without a metal cage around your body, you instantly sense the immense scale of the world as you, a tiny dot, pass through it. The world feels majestic and you're lucky travelling through it.

- I find it feminine and irresistibly attractive when women, sitting in a passenger-seat of a car, slip off their shoes and lift their bare or stockinged feet onto the dashboard or window. Extra points for bright nail-polish.

P.S., The above view is famous to anyone who's visited Boston. It's near Kenmore Square with Fenway Park being the building on the right side.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Art Art Art

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is one of the largest museums in the world. Over a million people visit it each year. I spent a joyous morning there on my trip to Beantown.

That's the museum shown above with art (an inflatable flower-sculpture) in front. The sculpture is beautiful and moves gently with the breeze.

There were three exhibitions I wanted to check out and all were great. The first is an exploration on how fashion is merging with technology and will become curiously different in the future (#techstyle). The second is a collection of fashion illustrations by Kenneth Paul Block, the most important fashion illustrator of the past century. The third is a group of art photographs (mostly about women) by Hiro. Of course I also wandered around and saw sculptures and paintings. They have a room full of Picasson paintings on loan.

The #techstyle show is fascinating. It presents multiple different mergings of fashion and technology. There is clothing embedded with sensors that respond to the environment, garments with built-in lights and computers, and ready-to-wear pieces made by a 3-D printer. One dress has solar panels -- two hours in the sun will charge your cellphone. (It's shown third-from-last below.) Leather treated with a special dye changes color depending on its surrounding. Items made using laser-cutting of metallic materials are weirdly beautiful. As odd as these creations are, they are a sneak-peek at our future.

Here are some pictures I took. What's your favorite art museum?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The City On A Hill

It's always nice to get away, especially when your destination is a fun place. Boston qualifies as one. It's a vibrant city with lots to do and a terrific transit system (the "T").

I rode up Friday; the trip took six hours. I spent Saturday enjoying activities in the city. I'm riding home today. The trip was a last-minute thing but I've learned how to quickly put together a motorcycle adventure. I even have a "go bag" ready so I can leave at a moment's notice.

My hotel was well-chosen. Despite being outside the city, it's right next to the beginning of the  T (Green Line) so I'm able to walk onto the train and take it everywhere. Unlimited rides are only $12 a day which avoids hassles and hefty parking fees.

Boston is the largest city in New England; it's almost 400 years old. European settlers arrived in 1630 looking for baked beans and baseball. The history of the place is palpable. On prior trips I did historical-site walks and looked at old buildings. This time, I focused on fine art.

My main goal was to visit the Museum of Fine Arts which has three exhibitions up I wanted to see. Two are on fashion and one is on photography, my favorite subjects. The exhibitions are terrific. I have so much to say (and show you) about them that I'll do a separate post tomorrow.

I didn't know the Boston Marathon is tomorrow which explains why the city is swarming with runners. In addition to the museum, I walked in Public Garden and sat on a bench made famous from a scene in "Good Will Hunting." I ate a tasty lunch of lobster bisque and lobster roll on the 52nd floor of Prudential Tower (Top of the Hub). I paid tribute to Fenway Park (where the Red Sox play) and milled around Faneuil Hall to observe tourists in their natural habitat. "Daddy! I dropped my ice cream!"

My favorite part of the city isn't downtown, however; it's Back Bay. Particularly Boylston Street which is full of nice stores and restaurants. Back in the 1980's when I lived in Boston, I once walked down Boylston Street with a clueless acquaintance from school. We went past a popular gay bar named "Buddies" and, on a Saturday night, it had a long line of men outside waiting to get in. My friend turned to me and said, "That's so sad! None of these guys could get a date."

For a last-minute trip, I had a great time. Here are some pics...

Friday, April 15, 2016


I'm going to Boston! Today!

It's going to be a beautiful Spring weekend. Yesterday, I pondered how best to enjoy the nice weather. I considered various destinations for a motorcycle trip and remember how much I love Boston. I spent three years there in the early-1980's when I attended law school at B.U. Back then, I loved to roam the city but had no money. These days, I have piles of cash falling out of my pockets. The difference means better food and more opportunity to pursue fun activities.

I developed a plan in just a few hours. I'm going to view fashion and photography (Hiro) at Boston's Museum of Fine Art, savor pretty flowers strolling through the city's Public Garden, and eat delicious lobster rolls at my favorite spot, Faneuil Hall.

Have you ever been to Boston? Do you have any suggestions for me?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


A simple story, beautifully told. This film from last year received three Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actress. It deserved them.

The story is about a young woman who, living in Ireland in the 1950s, sees no future there. So she leaves and emigrates to America. At first, she's terribly homesick but after falling for a young Italian fellow, she adjusts. Tragedy follows, then choices.

The depiction of Brooklyn in the 1950s is surprisingly accurate. The main character's makeup and clothes are incredible. A scene depicting Coney Island was actually shot in Coney Island.

The film stars Saoirse Ronan and includes veteran actors Julie Waters and Jim Broadbent. It's a treat to spot Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) from "Mad Men" in a cameo role.

Have you seen the movie? Did you like it?

Stories of immigration resonate with me 'cause my father came here on a boat from Europe in 1950. Struggling to survive in a new land, starting off with no friends and little money, is an epic challenge. You have to admire those who faced it.



Monday, April 11, 2016

New York

I went into the city today to see an old friend who was visiting. As always, the city was awash with interesting visual sights. Here are some...







Saturday, April 9, 2016

What Is Old?

When you're young, you don't know what old is. You don't. Believe me, I was young once and like most twenty-year olds, I thought old was 50. The video below accurately and beautifully dispels that misconception. Please watch it; it's short.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Truffaut on Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock is now considered a master of the cinema. And deservedly so -- his 53 films are among the best ever made. Hitchcock had exceptional knowledge of the many technical aspects of filmmaking and a singular gift for creating suspense.

But he was not always lauded so highly. In the beginning and middle of his career, Hitchcock made films that were successful at the box-office but not praised by American critics. Those critics complained his films were too simple and they resented his commercial success. In France, however, astute critics saw the artistry in Hitchcock's films and extolled their virtue. One French critic (and filmmaker), Francois Truffaut, decided to make the case for Hitchcock's cinematic mastery. Truffaut spent dozens of hours in 1962 interviewing Hitchcock on the creation of his work. He published the interview in a book that became instantly and enduringly famous.

Truffaut cogently demonstrates Hitchcock's exceptional talent. My favorite line from the book is this one: "The nature of Hitchcock's cinema is to absorb the audience so completely that the Arab viewer will forget to shell his peanuts, the Frenchman will ignore the girl in the next seat, the Italian will suspend his chain-smoking, the compulsive cougher will refrain from coughing, and the Swedes will interrupt their love-making in the aisles."

Do you have any favorite Hitchcock films?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What I've Learned About Identity

When I was a child half a century ago, I knew I was female. I felt it in my bones. My identity was as certain as if someone says you are a dog and you know you're not. "Get off the couch!" they yell. Cowed, you might wear a collar but in your heart you know you're human. That's how it was with me.

As much as one can know anything, I know I'm female. I asserted that gender-identity at every turn. I told my parents, playmates and teachers that I am a girl. They disagreed -- and pushed back hard. Given society's failure to grasp trangenderism at the time, my protests had no chance. I was forced to be a boy, present as male, and live a life that wasn't authentic. The experience didn't alter my self-image; it merely caused me to distrust society. If a group doesn't recognize you for who you are, you play along but develop psychological distance from the group's tenets.

When I was a young man thirty years ago, I aspired to a career in law. The profession encouraged me to groom and clothe myself in a particular way. The legal system rewards conformity and punishes deviance from expected norms. I conformed and obtained benefits from a successful legal career.

Twenty years ago I tired of the company of lawyers. Boring conversations with people wedded to Procrustean views left me cold. My relationships with colleagues felt empty and unsatisfying. Propelled by dissatisfaction, I looked outside that circle and found new friends in an activity that offered me another identity -- I became a biker. This new identity supplemented and didn't replace my prime social identification as a lawyer.

Seen by others as a mid-life crisis, I dove into motorcycling for its intrinsic joys. Speed! Physical thrills! But as exciting was the opportunity to socialize with a wider circle. I met riders who are car-mechanics, cable-workers, cops and criminals. When meeting other motorcyclists I learned to downplay my work as a lawyer because that identity often stokes embers of class-hostility; instead, I offer myself as simply another rider and our mutual passion opens the door to friendship. Once I become friends with people, they don't mind that I am a lawyer; they accept it as a facet of someone they trust.

Finally, a decade ago, I revived my long-abandoned effort to be seen as female. I candidly revealed my true nature to friends and strangers. I adopted a female name. I posted pictures of myself online presenting as female. I blog about my life and soul.

Some friends now accept me as female; some cannot. New acquaintances find it easier to view me as I am; older ones struggle to reconcile the new identity with the old. I discovered that young people are also more open to gender-fluidity; older ones cling to the binary understanding they were taught.

I am still the same person I always was, but how I am viewed by others has evolved over time. Valuable lessons can be learned from why people do and don't accept the reality of other people's existence. What those experiences taught me are, first, we exist separate from limited understandings of others; second, conformity and deviance carry rewards and punishments; third, nobody has authority to overrule our own perception of ourselves; and, finally, the path to genuine relationships is embracing, explaining and seeking acceptance for who we truly are. It took me five decades to learn these lessons. Their truth is enlightening.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Requiem For A Beast

I said goodbye to my beloved Yamaha FZ-1 yesterday. Actual tears came to my eyes.

This powerful sportbike was the first motorcycle I ever bought new; previously, I'd only had used bikes. In 2003, I plunked down $8,000 and brought home a sparkling, intense monster. Not only was the bike my first new machine, it was my first high-performance vehicle. Designed for racing, the motorcycle had the fastest engine available at the time, pumping out 160 horses on a lightweight body of 450 lbs. It accelerates faster than the laws of physics allow -- riding it is like being shot out of a cannon. Space and time warp; your perception of reality distorts. The experience is not unlike the effect of hallucinogenic drugs.

Of course, I got addicted to the thrill of riding it. While I keep a touring bike in my stable for comfortable long-distance rides, the Yamaha is what I wheeled out for Sunday fun. The bike amazed and delighted me with its capabilities. Trying to stretch to reach its limits, my riding-skills improved dramatically. I leaned further into curves, I developed more refined control of the throttle, I learned to brake in astonishing time. In fact, if it wasn't for the peak-level brakes on the Yamaha, I never would have been able to extricate myself from numerous dangerous situations that its power got me into.

No motorcycling experience will ever top the day I took my Yamaha to a racetrack. Riding with the best motorcyclists around, I exercised my beauty and let out its beast. Not only did I reach 140 mph on the straightaway, I dived deep into S-curves and scrapped hard-parts on the turns. I came perilously close to crashing once but pulled out of danger through guts and sheer will-power. (Five guys did crash that day; it's common at the track.)

Those of you who follow my blog know that the Yamaha was stolen last September. Out of my backyard in the middle of the night. I was crushed. The police advised me to abandon hope of its recovery; stolen motorcycles are rarely found. But the next month, the police arrested the thief when he ran out of gas on the side of the road. As they pulled up, he ran; they chased and got him. A 30-year old drug-addict who doesn't live far away from me, the thief has a long criminal record so they charged him with numerous offenses, including resisting arrest. His court case is pending.

It was because of that criminal prosecution that the police impounded my motorcycle until now. They called on Friday to say the bike was being released. So I went to the impound lot Sunday with a riding-buddy of mine who has a trailer and we brought it home.

It was so sad to see my bike -- its beauty had been destroyed. The thief didn't have a key so he hot-wired the ignition, broke a locked gas-cap and sawed off the muffler. A careless tow by the cops destroyed the rear-wheel. Sitting outdoors all winter in an impound lot rusted parts. The bike was essentially trashed.

Despite its ruined condition, when I posted it on Craigslist Sunday I instantly got three dozen responses. This model is very popular and many guys are eager to buy it cheap and try to restore it. I didn't want to invest thousands to do that so I passed it on to someone else. I sold it to a NYPD cop who lives in Queens and wants a mechanical project to play with. I gave it to him for practically nothing because, when it comes to my hobby, money is unimportant. I'm glad he'll enjoy what's left of the bike.

Let me close with a few pictures. The first one is me astride the bike in red heels. The second shows Pandy, a friend I picked up in Long Beach at a summer festival.

I spent many wonderful days basking in the radiant glow of a special machine. My Yamaha and I were dancing partners. We explored and enjoyed life with an intimacy that can't be accurately described.