Tuesday, November 27, 2007


It is amazing how I can get drawn into people I have never met. One of the strongest influences in my life is Diana Rigg, both from her role in the Avengers tv series and from being a strong and creative being who has led a life courageously distant from the norm. She's one of a kind and definitely a pioneer. She's been with me ever since I saw my first Avengers telecast in 1966!

So it is interesting that this year I've bumped into someone else I've never met. It started when I decided to do the video "Secret Agent Gal" for youtube. I had never done a vocal before. In fact my only real training, other than singing in the shower, was chanting ancient Shinto rites of purification in ancient Japanese. Still, I'd always loved the Johnny Rivers song, and by altering a few of the words, thought I could turn it into something for some fun footage of Diana Rigg. I found that for me a Johnny Rivers type delivery did not work for a Secret Agent "Gal". Finally I tried just whispering in the words into a microphone to the background music, and by accident achieved a sound that I thought was closer to what i wanted. It was much more laid-back, even understated. And I didn't at the time understand why this sound fit.

A couple of weeks after i had posted the video(which,by the way, is approaching 10,000 views) I happened to be at a Starbucks and was looking at cds they had on sale. One that got my attention was "Too Cool" featuring jazz trumpet and vocals by Chet Baker. Having played the trumpet in middle and high school, I was sort of grabbed by that. So I bought the cd, went to my car, and put it into the cd player with no expectations whatsoever. The first song on the cd was "Let's Get Lost". Imagine my surprise when it got to the vocal when it hit me that this was the "sound" I had been searching for. So I learned a couple of vocals, started doing them with a couple of friends. It was great fun. A bigger stretch was when in May I decided to give the trumpet another try. When I'd played earler it was with a faulty embrouchure, so I had to not only get back in practice, I had to completely re-learn how to play. So I would listen to Chet and to align to his flow.......

Chet was born in 1929 during the start of the great depression in Yale, Oklahoma. At a young age his family moved to Southern California. Coming from a musical family, he took the trumpet up about age 13 and pretty much taught himself how to play. Throughout his life he relied mainly on his ear and instinct for playing over any great understanding of musical theory. In the '50's he was one of the founders of the West Coast "cool" school of jazz. In his early twenties he was voted by Downbeat Magazine's readers as the top trumpet player over such luminaries as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong. His playing is marked by a deep lyricism. As much as he could play straight jazz, many of his most memorable songs are ballads such as "Time After Time" and "Tenderly". He came out with a vocal album"Chet Baker Sings". His vocal style was unique, soft, understated, almost androgynous. Unfortunately, his life was filled with drugs and turmoil. He died in 1988. It is ironic that he was 59 when he died and that is the same age that I discovered his music.

Just as Dame Diana and I share very strong astrological connections, so do Chet and I. His Pluto in Cancer conjuncts my Cancer moon. My Neptune in Libra conjucts his Libra moon.His Uranus in Aries is right on my Aries ascendent. He has both Venus and Mars conjuncting in Sagitarius. According to Andrea Mallis(www.virgoinservice.com) this can confer an androgyny that can produce a major star. When in this twenties he possessed matinee idol looks. Many in Hollywood thought he could become the next James Dean. While he never became that, he is still someone whose life has a captivating quality. Currently Josh Hartnet has been signed to play him in a biopic entitled "The Prince of Cool".

Lately, it has come to me that it is very possible that Chet and I were in a past life in early 19th century Japan(ironically the Nemuri Kyoshiro era). I feel we were both swordsmen. In fact the way Chet holds the trumpet is the way a samurai sword is gripped. I am including a video from youtube of "Let's Get Lost", the first Chet song I heard. Notice how some of his trumpet notes(especially in the second solo) are like sword cuts:

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Old Friends

The first half of November has been full of renewing conncections with old friends. Friday November 2nd I went to the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology to attend Bob Frager's 50th anniversary of being in martial arts. He gave a very spirited enbu(demonstration)as well as a very moving talk, which featured stories about Osensei, Moshe Feldendrais, Anno sensei, Master Choy and others. There is a film entitled "Meetings with Remarkable Men" by Peter Brook based on the life of Gurdjieff. I've always thought Frager sensei's life could share the same title. I've always wanted to see the film but I've always seemed to miss it. I'm glad that I have not missed being a part of Bob Frager's life. In addition to the Frager celebration, I got a chance to spend time with two dear friends as well. I got to spend the afternoon with Beth Tabakin. And I got to talk to Sue Ann McKean over a late dinner. It was so special to see them both. There was a Mike Collins siting. He was out and about and was able to attend the Frager Celebration. It was nice to see him

This past weekend was spent at black belt exams and a teaching gig in Sebastopol at Betsy Hill sensei's dojo, Tenchi Aikido. On route I was able to see my friend Della, whom I met on the way to Iwama during last years Japan trip. Andrew Wagner took a very fine shodan exam, and the training Saturday was really fun. And there was the rain to make everything even more interesting. It was special to hang out with Betsy and her partner, James. Incidentally, Betsy is the first person I ever met in Aikido. She was manning the Aikido Club booth at UC Santa Cruz before a demonstration by Robert Frager and Robert Nadeau that kicked off the campus Aikido club and ignited my aikido career. It was also nice to see Mary McLean sensei, who has re-opened her dojo, Centerfield Aikido.

It continues to be a busy fall, with dan exams at ASJ on Saturday, Dec. 1st. The day will start with training from 11am to 12:30pm, then exams starting at 1pm.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

frite nite '07 and other things

Our annual(third) dojo Halloween costume party was a huge success. We had a turnout,childdren included, of over 40 people. And a good time was had by "children" of all ages. I am in the process of transferring the video footage taken onto my hard drive, and then there will be more pictures. Special thanks to Linda Holiday sensei, who dropped by on her way back from teaching a seminar in Sacramento. I want to thank Mike Brown, Mary Fortino, Harry Concepcion for helping out with the behind the scenes stuff.

My costume for this year was Nemuri Kyoshiro. My daughter re-fashioned my hair and gave it a reddish tint. I found a black kimono at Nichi Bei Bussan. All the Raizo films are now out on dvd. So I'm in a new wave of "Nemuri" study. At the end of the party we showed the "Human Tarantula", which was the first Kyoshiro film I ever saw.

After not really having watched the films recently, seeing the last 4 have really awakened an appreciation of Ichikawa Raizo's portrayal of this character. He is so centered in battle that it is almost scary. His willingness to walk right into death is almost believable by how Raizo fashions his brooding glances and otherworldly alertness. And, of course, Raizo moves beautifully, making the sword fight sequences almost a ballet of stylized death.

His engetsu sappo(full moon style) has a quasi mystical style. Just as Hiro Nakamura in the tv show "Heroes" can alter the space/time continuum, so I believe Kyoshiro's full moon form does this as well. It was one of my main reasons for wanting to study tai chi, and the character has had a major influence on my life. He is much more than just the archetype of the warrior. He also embodies the archetypes of the magician and destroyer. He is a magician in his ability to alter space/time and to escape from seemingly impossible situations. He is the destroyer in that he embodies death and change, often destroying castles and armies before killing the evil protaganists, who usually are the extreme deranged edge of a very corrupt social system. There is some social commentary in the films, and that world is not all that dissimilar to the one in which we now live. He is very similar to Michael Moorcock's sword and sorcery character, Elric of Melnibone. Instead of weilding a magical runesword,Kyoshiro performs a magical sword form with his Muso Masamune blade.

Linda sensei shot a sequence of my performing the full moon cut, kimono and new hair style and all.