Friday, December 31, 2004

happy new year to all

no. 3
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

new year's eve day

earth series 1 detail 2
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
My latest painting, not yet complete, but close.

I am painting about the earth. It seems that the earth has been complaining. There was another earthquake today, this time near Yamagata in Japan (Yoshi's hometown).

Let us hope that next year is a better one for the whole world. I hope that, for me, it is a creative year, and one in which I get a lot of music made and a few good paintings done, and where I can find balance. And happiness and peace for all my family and my friends. And good health to all, and happy times for my cats Tuna and Pomona and my dog Mabel.


Last night Y and I watched this French film, "Come Undone," which I had on DVD. It is about a young man's breakdown and recovery mixed with flashbacks of his first affair, some earlier summer; his first affair with a guy, gone on while his mother lay upstairs in a depressed fog. There are scenes of the guy when he spends time in a mental hospital, and it looked so attractive to me. Like a time with no obligations and soothing blankness. And people to bring food and to give you pills to knock you out so you don't have to think. But earlier, when we came home from Patsy's (best pizza in NYC!!! and a short walk from here) a woman in a nearby apartment was yelling and crying and sounded like she was having a breakdown. Now she is at it again. She says things like "I can't take it anymore" and goes on a rant that I can only partly understand and then she cries and cries. It is very disturbing to listen to and then I read surangama's post from yesterday where he says "i am inexorably sad today" and I think of the crying woman. I think of how often surangama's words could be my words. Today I am not so sad, maybe just serious. It is new year's eve yet I can't imagine celebration. The tsunami and the war in Iraq seem to dictate that we have an evening of contemplation and thoughtfulness.

money makes...

Lloyd S. Blankfein, the president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs made $20.1 million, of that only $600,000 was salary; and E. Stanley O'Neal, the chief executive of Merrill Lynch, received a bonus of $13.5 million and restricted stock worth $11.2 million on top of his $500,000 salary. At the other end of the compensation spectrum, an investment banking analyst right out of college would have made a $65,000 salary and a $35,000 bonus last year. An associate just out of business school might have made $85,000 in salary and a $115,000 bonus.

You can read the entire article here.

So today there was a letter to the editor:

To the Editor:

You report that some Wall Street executives are taking home as much as $13.5 million in bonuses, while the same day you also report that fewer people can afford the rising cost of dental care.

You say federal subsidies for community dental care clinics have been frozen at $34 million for the last four years.

One senior banker, on receiving a $2.8 million bonus, said he bought his wife a mink coat and was planning a weeklong ski vacation.

Meanwhile, we learn that a mental health care worker in Minnesota didn't have $1,000 to save an abscessed tooth.

Something is seriously wrong in this "opportunity society."

Rick Winston
Adamant, Vt., Dec. 28, 2004

I don't understand how someone can dedicate themselves, professionally, to simply making money make more money for the people who already have enough of it.

Thursday, December 30, 2004


It's time to put an end to whatever has been dragging you down. New and exciting things are coming your way, and you want to be free and clear to take advantage of new opportunities.

That's for tomorrow. How generic. Somehow, as trite as they often are, my horoscopes make me curious.


Please donate money to the relief efforts for the tsunami victims. Numerous international aid organizations are accepting online donations. If you google "donations for tsunami victims" you will find links listing all the groups that are accepting money. I donated to CARE International. Here is one useful link.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

disaster relief

So I wonder: where is Donald Trump with all his millions? And Bill Gates? And Rupert Murdoch? And Warren Buffett? I only hope they are parting with some of their gold, because if they are not, they are not human.

Perhaps I am just naive or strange, but I do not understand wealth. After a certain point, one has enough money. Why put such energy into obtaining more? If I were ever wealthy, I would get the most fulfillment from giving my money away. And I am no saint.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
My mother on her horse Voodoo. She was an expert rider. She was happiest when she was with her horses. After my father left, though, she could not keep them anymore.


Once, when I was explaining my depression to someone, the person suggested all the reasons why I should not be depressed. "After all, some people battle life-threatening illness every day." That seemed reasonable to me. But then, I realize that depression (or in this case, bipolar disorder) is a life-threatening illness. For example, if one gets the urge to jump in front of the oncoming A train, that is life-threatening. And I am not trying to shock or be dramatic. I am just telling the truth.

manual labor

Originally uploaded by madabandon.
Today and yesterday I re-grouted the bathroom tile. My apartment is in an older building, and the tile is the original tile. Over the years it has fallen into disrepair, and I never really noticed until recently. I am lucky; I did well in the NYC real-estate wars, and was smart enough (for once, since I am a financial idiot usually) to buy this place ten years ago when prices were very low. I had inherited a small amount of money when my mother died, and also from my grandmother. Enough to buy this place, which I could never ever afford now. It is my home and I love it; it is the first place in NYC where I really feel at home, and this is why I have become such a homebody. I used to travel more, and I admire whirlingboy's intrepid adventures. But I love to stay put, and hang out with my old cats and with Mabel, and stroll around Brooklyn Heights, and play my piano, and paint. I will travel again; but I worry too much about leaving Tuna and Pomona alone now that they are each almost sixteen. This is the main room in the apartment, but I do a lot of work in the other room, which is also where I sleep.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
Pomona, from Staten Island. When I got her she was tiny and round. Now she is beautiful and she sings, almost sixteen years later.

Man of the Year

To the Editor:

It's easy for George W. Bush to express sorrow and to send condolences and even some aid for the Indian Ocean tsunami devastation, since he appears to bear no culpability, as he does in other situations in other parts of the world.

But the next time there is a severe offshore earthquake and resulting tsunami, the sea level will be just a little bit higher, and the water and destruction will go a bit further inland and kill even more people. And for that, he will bear some culpability for not even wanting to consider global warming, much less do anything about it as the leader of the country most responsible for man-made warming and ice-cap melting.

Pierre E. Biscaye
Palisades, N.Y., Dec. 27, 2004
The writer is a special research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

(from NEW YORK TIMES 12.29.04)

I am not inclined, usually, to address political issues in this setting. Not because I am disinclined to consider political issues; on the contrary, I get absorbed and passionately involved because of the disastrous course of Bush and his cronies. But there are more than enough political blogs. Every morning I read the editorial page of the TIMES first thing; and today this particular letter struck a chord. How much anger, how much disbelief, how much desperation some of us feel when we witness the destruction, both moral and material, that this president has enabled? How much more can he do before it stops?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

flowers 2 (detail)

flowers 2 (detail)
Originally uploaded by madabandon.


Today my mood was erratic. I bounced around for most of the day. Mercurial, like the weather.

day of sadness

The horror of the situation in Asia makes today seem surreal. I hear the burbling voices of the television (on in the other room) and the giddy forced happiness of the news announcers and I can't imagine what they are thinking. The entire world should be silent in the memory of those who died and those who are suffering now. way of explanation

I should edit more carefully. It is not that I don't agree with Schoenberg, or that I don't believe him. But I think that one "becomes" lonely as a preface to creating art. Loneliness may be a prerequisite. Beauty is solace. To create beauty is to embrace that solace. To lose one's self--


Schoenberg wrote an essay. "How One Becomes Lonely" tells of his struggle as an artist, writing misunderstood music, reviled by a culture that did not understand him. But I don't agree with his view. I did not become lonely. I have always felt lonely, and I write my music as an expression of the world that I feel I inhabit in solitary. What I wish for is to become "unlonely" but, in a lifetime so far, in periods when I was truly alone and when I was comforted some by a lover or partner, I have not found relief. After so much questioning I understand an existential loneliness, and that knowledge comforts and frightens me at the same time. Reading Thierry's recent post--which I struggled with with my graduate school French-- I understood what he feels. Like we are, as he comments, so similar in some ways. But I am alone even when I am surrounded in a circle of friends. The one thing I may never know is why this is so. But I stand apart, and must find some kind of peace.


"Stay healthy. How hard can it be to take care of yourself? It's never too soon to eliminate excess and junk from your diet. If returning to exercise from a dead stop, begin gently without overtaxing your system."

So odd. Every day in my email I receive a horoscope. Sometimes they are so pertinent. This one, though; it does not apply. I don't eat junk food. I exercise a lot. Yesterday, swimming got me out of my head for an hour, and I felt serene for a while.


When I read my post from yesterday--reminiscences--one thing strikes me: that when I am feeling good and stable as I am right now, I read the words I wrote when I was down, and I shudder with self-consciousness and embarassment. It seems so self-indulgent and pathetic, talking of terror of abandonment, these kind of fears which one either does not have at all or at the very least outgrows in adulthood. So there are two of me. One is confident, accomplished, blah blah blah. The other is a quivering mess.

But all these concerns pale in the face of the disaster in Asia. Watching the news last night with tears streaming over my face, I feel helpless and want so badly to do something. It seems that the world is convulsing in a show of grief, trying to express something, and that maybe these awful deaths are not totally in vain. Contrast this destruction to that which our president and his henchmen have unleashed in Iraq. This is horror too. At least a tsunami is an act of nature, a show of terrifying force that no man can control. Bombing innocent people in the name of "democracy" is loathsome, criminal, and has no justification in nature.

Monday, December 27, 2004


Reading accounts of the tsunami in Asia where so many thousands died...this is more than I can much sadness, i can't imagine it.

looking back

Looking at whirlingboy's family photographs has set me reeling. This happens when I visit other people's families. If they project the contented happiness that these photographs do, it is like a stabbing in my own heart. And this sounds like the ultimate in self-pity. But some people come from a happy place; others come from a dark place. The facts speak for themselves. I will not elaborate out of consideration for people who might someday read this. But it is interesting that today I was thinking, obsessively, about what causes my depression. My first doctor's explanation was, that in addition to genetic predisposition, early traumatic loss is fundamental in causing depression. What was lost, for me, is not clear, at least not in the earliest part of my life; but ever since I can remember I have been plagued by a kind of existential sadness and loneliness. I now know, in thinking deeply about this, and in years of exploration, many of the causes of these feelings. And then, throughout my lifetime, things have piled up to the point where now I fear being left more than anything else. As a boy, I would vomit and freak out in the morning walking to school because I was convinced that no one was going to pick me up, that I would be abandoned. My father's reaction to my fear was to lay a leather strap on the table next to my place at breakfast. Then when I was about eight years old, one day he didn't show up to pick my brother and I up after Sunday school. He had been hit by a car and very badly hurt. We wandered through the parking lot (which seemed huge and teeming with hulking cars to me) in the cold snow until a family friend came to take us. I was in a panic, my heart pounding. I remember it vividly. So something happened to make me fear this; and although I have come a very long way, this terror lies in my heart. Oh how I wish I were not like this. And I work so hard--exhausting myself--to keep it all together a lot of the time. My brother and I joke now, calling our family home "Bleak House." It's pretty amazing that I am not a quivering wreck twenty-four/seven, actually.

shibuya at night

shibuya at night
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
in Japan, December 2001

y. outside

y. outside
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
at C. and M.'s huge stone house in Philadelphia, two summers ago...


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
This is Mabel. Today she is especially happy, because it snowed last night. She likes to roll in the snow. When she is done rolling, she sits in it and waits for people she knows to come by. She is very social, much more so than me.

I am feeling creatively productive today. I hope it lasts. I will get as much work done as I can until it passes.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
It occurs to me that much of this "blogging" is a kind of navel-grazing, the ultimate narcissism. What makes my thoughts and self-analysis of any interest to anyone? But then, if there is no value in considering one's self as subject matter, a lot of art would not exist. Or maybe that is why "modern art" is so disliked by so many. I don't think Beethoven was narcissistic. I don't think J.S. Bach, my greatest musical hero, was either. But yet, every composer I know, these days, is. Including me. But I do try, out of respect for others, to keep it to myself (hard to believe as that may be if you are reading this blog).

Sunday, December 26, 2004

more plants...

plant study
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
Another from the Botanical Gardens in Brooklyn.


what I take:

lamictal (lamotrigine)
trazodone (desyrel)

these are all for my head.

what I have taken in the past:

valproic acid (depakote) (made me feel like i was being poisoned)
zoloft (wonder drug then stopped working)
wellbutrin (worked for a while, then stopped)
effexor (i could not eat or sleep)
remeron (made me feel like i was losing my mind)
buspar (made me super dizzy)

those were all for my head too. better living through science!

last year, in the summer, I stopped everything. I threw them all away. Nothing was really working; I was as depressed as I ever was, and it seemed silly to keep swallowing pills every day with no benefit. I told my doctor. He set up a schedule for me to stop. You can't just stop cold turkey; you have to taper off or something bad can happen, a short circuit of the brain or some such thing. At first I felt very odd. Then I felt ok. I went to the mountains. I was a wreck, so anxious and depressed that I could scarcely function. I returned to New York. I got nothing done. I tried to work, I tried to keep my head together. I resumed teaching, wrote a few short pieces to fulfill obligations, and attempted to practice the piano. I painted a bit. But I felt myself sinking. And it began to get to the point where I was scared of the direction I was heading. So I began a new regimen, this time with lamictal, because the other antidepressants tended to make me manic and that is a dangerous place for me to be. The lamictal leveled me off. I still feel generally depressed most of the time, but I function and I have spells of "normalcy" (energy, no anxiety). Swimming helps me a lot. I am obsessed with it. If the pool were closer to home I would be swimming every day, for hours. But it is probably better that it is not so close. I am not sure. I don't tell too many people about this stuff; it is embarassing, and there is still some stigma in some people's minds. But I know that if I had not started the medication back in 1992, I would probably not be here. It was very very bad. But now: better living through science! I was saved by that wonderful Dr. Miari, with the beautiful accent and the kind heart and the razor-sharp brain.

From my eyes...

For a person who spends so much time thinking about what goes on in my head--maybe more time than is healthy--I have just now gotten around to thinking about how my eye has affected my perceptions. Since I was born with one eye virtually blind, I have always seen the way I see, and have no basis for comparison; so, like anyone in a similar situation, what looks normal to me is not what others see. And this may be an analogy to my way of thinking, to the music I write and the paintings I make. For most people, my music sounds like it comes from another planet. My own family is baffled by it, although they are proud of me and the success I have enjoyed as a composer. When someone asks me where this music comes from, all I can say is that it is the music that I hear in my head. If it is strange, I have no idea. It does not seem strange to me. (For anyone reading this, if you would like to hear some, go to my website. There is a link in my profile). I do know this: my depth perception is not normal. I walk into things. I can't see things on my right side, and I get paranoid if I am walking with someone and they are on my right; I can't see them, I think I've lost them. When I drive, I frequently get into near-accidents because of this defective vision. Luckily I have incredibly fast reflexes--abnormally fast, according to a doctor who I once saw--and so I usually save myself from colliding. But maybe the way I have always lived in my "own world" (according to my family and friends) comes from the fact that I see things oddly. Or maybe not.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
This was a tree in the mountains of central Pennsylvania, near the "Pennsylvania Grand Canyon." I stayed there two summers ago, for a week, with C. and M. I was a bit beside myself at that time, for a variety of reasons. I remember driving back to NYC in a state of semi-panic.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
My good eye. I can't see much out of the other one. I was born that way. I suppose it has given me my warped perspective.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
I love to cook. But this night, I didn't cook. We made gyoza. We ate like pigs. Six of us, grunting, then listening to Alvin Lucier's "I Am Sitting In A Room."

hands at work

hands at work
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
I am trying to finish FIELD MUSIC: ASHES SUNLIGHT. This is a tough piece to write, for saxophone and cello; great players, but a tricky combo. I feel frustrated. And to make it worse, there is another piece waiting after that (violin and guitar). But I was just asked to do music for a new production of OEDIPUS AT COLONUS in conjunction with Oxford University Press's release of a new translation by the distinguished poet Eamon Grennan and classicist Rachel Kitzinger (both my former professors, I am so honored and excited) and so I would much rather work on this. This is always how it is; I think something better lies beyond where I am at the moment. Unsettling.

cold early morning

god knows how I adore life
when the wind turns on the shore
lies another day--
I can not ask for more.
When the time bell
blows my heart
and I have scored a better day
for nobody made this war of mine,
and the moments that i enjoy--
a place of love and mystery--
I'll be there anytime.
Mysteries of love where war is no more
I'll be there anytime.

This is from a song by Beth Gibbons, who was the singer for Portishead. Maybe the greatest singer I have heard in a long time. Her voice is like something from beyond our world; power and delicacy and beauty and anger and scars.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

the last post...

No, I don't mean that this is the last post. It is a comment on the poem. I wrote that poem for Lucy Grealy, a wonderful friend and wondrous writer who died a few years ago. For some reason I can't stop thinking about Lucy the last few days. Ann Patchett, a dear friend of Lucy's, published TRUTH AND BEAUTY, a memoir about their friendship, and it was a book that was unbearably beautiful and plunged me into a deep dark depression last spring, one that consumed me and that I only pulled through with the help of my friend ML to whom I will always be grateful--for his strength, his kindness, his wisdom, and his heart--but Lucy reminds me that even when someone is gone they never really leave. This is why, the other morning, when I bolted awake with the sudden and surprisingly violent realization that it was almost eighteen years since my mother died (I don't know why this was the thing that jolted me awake, but it shook me completely), I was able to stand up, make my coffee, and go about the day. Why are some things so hard to let go of, even if you wish them to disappear? And why do things (people?) leave when you so desperately want them to stay?

For Lucy

(If you give an inch I will pull you down)

That morning in December when I read about Lucy
tears burned my face, leaving trails.

I tried to explain that what was happening was from
the crushing rush of memory: not so different
from trying to cross Houston Street after the light has changed.
You didn’t see my point; your arms on me
felt like hot snakes so I pushed them away
(trying to save myself)

The show is for the actor.
The glittering box for the stones inside.

I cried again yesterday: I remembered that hot evening,
the Jazz Standard, we sat in the window.
Eating foie gras and drinking gin and tonic. People
were coming and going downstairs
to hear Roswell Rudd.
We sat, smoked.
We spent until we had no more dollars between us.

It was our last time together. Now I know
that days weeks months years erase nothing.

new moon night

leaving, in dark, walking to the car, I look up at the sky. there hangs the moon, almost full, with just a small edge, a sliver missing; like a light scrape taken away, the brush of a finger. driving home, the moon is always ahead, and the sky is bluish, bright though it is still night. beth gibbons sings "god knows how i adore life..." do I? there is pain in her gorgeous voice, and i know how she sings.

ho ho ho

so this is christmas. I don't really celebrate it. in my dream there was a celebration. at a house in the country, I sat with a group of people, including my sister, having drinks. there were about four of us. some guy came, invited by a friend; we were to have some kind of threesome, but then we didn't. then, a formally-dressed older couple came in, and we all rose. all rose but me, i should remind you; I sat, unaware, and only stood after I realized everyone else was on their feet. Then more people came and I was introduced. Later in the same dream I was riding on a bus that was going up and down incredible steep hills, the sides of the road thickly lined with tall trees. And then, again, boarding another bus, this time in Greece (although I have never been there). But Greece was cold. It must have been winter.

When I took my dog Mabel out for a walk this morning it was remarkably quiet. Almost no one on the street, rare for Brooklyn. Mabel looked around for her friends whom she normally sees on our morning stroll, but no one was out. So she did her thing, we trotted back inside where it was warm, and she had a few extra Christmas treats.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
this is Tuna. My old cat. He is the sweetest cat I have ever known. He is huge. He seems like a combination of cat and cow.

plant study

plant study
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
This is a plant I found in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Such a beautiful place. I would like to live there.

Friday, December 24, 2004

subject line...

I think that to focus this "blog" I will allow myself the indulgence of publicly exploring the nasty state of things inside my head. But don't be alarmed, if you are reading this. I am in the august company of the many artists both famous and forgotten who battled and continue to battle what was once known so poetically as manic-depression and now is called bipolar disorder. Mine, specifically, is bipolar depression, which means that more often than not I am depressed but these dull states are leavened from time to time with a bout of hypomania, during which I make grand plans, am quite productive, talk a lot, and don't sleep. Both of these states, the depressed and the elevated, would be manageable if I could control when and how and how long and all that. But I can't. So I am at the mercy of my brain chemistry, and while I am quite functional through sheer force of will, like all structures time takes its toll and my walls have cracks. Thus my writers' block, my inability to realize my ideas (although I have been fairly successful in the past); I am still capable of creating things of beauty and that is my reward. It is important that I remind myself of this. And I do. And my friends do, but I have not confided this aspect of myself to many people. The irony of me writing this is that I am, as most people who know me would attest, a rather reserved and private person, not one to trumpet my virtue or accomplishments aloud. Perhaps this forum, where I am not face-to-face with the reader, allows me to say things that normally I would keep to myself.

plant study variation

plant study variation
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
I photograph plants. I am fascinated by the orderly patterns, the structure, their architecture. In my music and my paintings I strive for the order that comes out of spontaneous growth that I see in plants, in the bark of trees, the radius of a flower.

yellow field (series 2)

yellow field (series 2)
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
I never can get them quite right, but this one comes closer...


Suppose you had a dream. Of course it made you think of your past, and the friends who had not yet aged as you had, and they were doing the things that they did and you did when you were together. Varied locations figured prominently in these dreams. The beach. A group of beige-pebbled buildings. A rattling bus. Dorothy's tornado-inviting plain and music that you hear acutely but don't recognize and cannot remember upon waking.


I should correct something: it is Christmas Eve day...not yet night.


Since I am always writing and writing I might as well make it semi-public. It is Christmas Eve and the wind outside, cold, is howling, and I am feeling that kind of mild dull sadness that I feel often, and most acutely at holiday time. My fat cat tuna is breathing wheezily on the floor next to me. Earlier I swam; I love to swim. The rhythm and the breathing empty my head and I can relax. The sound of the water is like a cushion. Above me the sky, and today I swam through a lane in the clouds.

blur, morning

blur, morning
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
many many years ago. summer. without glasses I really can't see much. in the morning I see even less. but the sun is warm and bright and I can see the Brooklyn Bridge from my window.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.

this is another plant picture. i am obsessed with the physical qualities of plants.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.

This is the hall outside the elevator leading to my apartment. In this picture it looks a little sinister. If you've been here, you will recognize that it is really quite bright and friendly.