Serenity — Steve McCurry Curated


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Serenity is the balance between good and bad, life and death, horrors and pleasures. Life is, as it were, defined by death. If there wasn’t death of things, then there wouldn’t be any life to celebrate. – Norman Davies Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity. […]

Serenity — Steve McCurry Curated

Conversation: Food for the Soul — Steve McCurry Curated


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Conversation is food for the soul. – Mexican Proverb The character of a man is known from his conversations. – Menander, 342 – 292 BCE In my opinion, the most fruitful and natural play of the mind is in conversation. I find it sweeter than any other action in life; and if I were forced to […]

Conversation: Food for the Soul — Steve McCurry Curated

The search for extra terrestrial life forms


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Every day I am fascinated by what Hubble keeps throwing at us in terms of images and concepts (like looking at the edge of the known universe). If only we had invested in telescopes like Hubble,rather than ‘manned’ investigations,we could have changed our world and mindsets to look in awe,imagine and pull together to understand the workings of the universe/universes.

Here is a another taster:

To date astronomers have discovered over 4,000 planets orbiting other stars. Statistically, there should be over 100 billion planets in our Milky Way galaxy. They come in a wide range of sizes and characteristics, largely unimagined before exoplanets were first discovered in the mid-1990s. The biggest motivation for perusing these worlds is to find “Genesis II,” a planet where life has arisen and evolved beyond microbes. The ultimate payoff would be finding intelligent life off the Earth.

A major step in searching for habitable planets is finding suitable stars that could foster the emergence of complex organisms. Because our Sun has nurtured life on Earth for nearly 4 billion years, conventional wisdom would suggest that stars like it would be prime candidates. But stars like our Sun represent only about 10% of the Milky Way population. What’s more, they are comparatively short-lived. Our Sun is halfway through its estimated 10 billion-year lifetime.

Complex organisms arose on Earth only 500 million years ago. And, the modern form of humans has been here only for the blink of an eye on cosmological timescales: 200,000 years. The future of humanity is unknown. But what is for certain is that Earth will become uninhabitable for higher forms of life in a little over 1 billion years, as the Sun grows warmer and desiccates our planet.

Therefore, stars slightly cooler than our Sun — called orange dwarfs — are considered better hang-outs for advanced life. They can burn steadily for tens of billions of years. This opens up a vast timescape for biological evolution to pursue an infinity of experiments for yielding robust life forms. And, for every star like our Sun there are three times as many orange dwarfs in the Milky Way.

The only type of star that is more abundant are red dwarfs. But these are feisty little stars. They are so magnetically active they pump out 500 times as much radiation in the form of X-rays and ultraviolet light as our Sun does. Planets around these stars take a beating. They would be no place to call home for organisms like us.

An emerging idea, bolstered by stellar surveys performed by Hubble and other telescopes, is that the orange dwarfs are “Goldilocks stars” — not too hot, not too cool, and above all, not too violent to host life-friendly planets over a vast horizon of cosmic time.

In reality, stars slightly cooler and less luminous than our Sun, classified as K dwarfs, are the true “Goldilocks stars,” said Edward Guinan of Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania. “K-dwarf stars are in the ‘sweet spot,’ with properties intermediate between the rarer, more luminous, but shorter-lived solar-type stars (G stars) and the more numerous red dwarf stars (M stars). The K stars, especially the warmer ones, have the best of all worlds. If you are looking for planets with habitability, the abundance of K stars pump up your chances of finding life.”

For starters, there are three times as many K dwarfs in our galaxy as stars like our Sun. Roughly 1,000 K stars lie within 100 light-years of our Sun as prime candidates for exploration. These so-called orange dwarfs live from 15 billion to 45 billion years. By contrast, our Sun, now already halfway through its lifetime, lasts for only 10 billion years. Its comparatively rapid rate of stellar evolution will leave the Earth largely uninhabitable in just another 1 or 2 billion years. “Solar-type stars limit how long a planet’s atmosphere can remain stable,” Guinan said. That’s because a billion or so years from now, Earth will orbit inside the hotter (inner) edge of the Sun’s habitable zone, which moves outward as the Sun grows warmer and brighter. As a result, the Earth will be desiccated as it loses its present atmosphere and oceans. By an age of 9 billion years the Sun will have swelled up to become a red giant that could engulf the Earth.

Despite their small size, the even more abundant red dwarf stars, also known as M dwarf stars, have even longer lifetimes and appear to be hostile to life as we know it. Planets that are located in a red dwarf’s comparatively narrow habitable zone, which is very close to the star, are exposed to extreme levels of X-ray and ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can be up to hundreds of thousands of times more intense than what Earth receives from the Sun. A relentless fireworks show of flares and coronal mass ejections bombard planets with a dragon’s breath of seething plasma and showers of penetrating high-energy particles. Red dwarf habitable-zone planets can be baked bone dry and have their atmospheres stripped away very early in their lives. This could likely prohibit the planets from evolving to be more hospitable a few billion years after red dwarf outbursts have subsided. “We’re not so optimistic anymore about the chances of finding advanced life around many M stars,” Guinan said.

The K dwarfs do not have intensely active magnetic fields that power strong X-ray and UV emissions and energetic outbursts, and therefore they shoot off flares much less frequently, based on Guinan’s research. Accompanying planets would get about 1/100th as much deadly X-ray radiation as those orbiting the close-in habitable zones of magnetically-active M stars.

In a program called the “GoldiloKs” Project, Guinan and his Villanova colleague Scott Engle, are working with undergraduate students to measure the age, rotation rate, and X-ray and far-ultraviolet radiation in a sampling of mostly cool G and K stars.They are using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton satellite for their observations. Hubble’s sensitive ultraviolet-light observations of radiation from hydrogen were used to assess the radiation from a sample of about 20 orange dwarfs. “Hubble is the only telescope that can do this kind of observation,” Guinan said.

Guinan and Engle found that the levels of radiation were much more benign to any accompanying planets than those found around red dwarfs. K stars also have longer lifetimes and therefore slower migration of the habitable zone. Therefore, K dwarfs seem like the ideal place to go looking for life, and these stars would allow time for highly evolved life to develop on planets. Over the Sun’s entire lifetime — 10 billion years — K stars only increase their brightness by about 10-15%, giving biological evolution a much longer timespan to evolve advanced life forms than on Earth.

Guinan and Engle looked at some of the more interesting K stars hosting planets, including Kepler-442, Tau Ceti, and Epsilon Eridani. (The latter two were early targets of the late 1950s Project Ozma — the first attempt to detect radio transmissions from extraterrestrial civilizations.)

“Kepler-442 is noteworthy in that this star (spectral classification, K5) hosts what is considered one of the best Goldilocks planets, Kepler-442b, a rocky planet that is a little more than twice Earth’s mass. So the Kepler-442 system is a Goldilocks planet hosted by a Goldilocks star!” said Guinan.

Over the last 30 years Guinan and Engle and their students have observed a variety of stellar types. Based on their studies, the researchers have determined relationships among stellar age, rotation rate, X-ray-UV emissions and flare activity. These data have been utilized to investigate the effects of high-energy radiation on planet atmospheres and possible life.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.

CREDITS:Illustration: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levy (STScI)

Science: NASAESA, and E. Guinan (Villanova University)

Art of Friendship — Steve McCurry’s Blog


One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood. – Lucius Annaeus Seneca There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship. – Thomas Aquinas A true friend freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a […]

Art of Friendship — Steve McCurry’s Blog

The Big Bang..


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Well just after the Big Bang..

While we battle each other on earth, uncovering hatred of the ‘other’ , looking up into the skies can bring new perspectives on our existence.

Hubble takes us even further -to the edge of the known universe(s).

How far is far? And, how do you know when you get there? In 1995, astronomers decided to use the Hubble Space Telescope to conduct a bold and daring experiment to address this puzzle. For 10 consecutive days, Hubble stared at one tiny, seemingly empty patch of sky for 1 million seconds.

The gamble of precious telescope time paid off. Hubble captured the feeble glow of myriad never-before-seen galaxies. Many of the galaxies are so far away it has taken billions of years for their light to reach us. Therefore, the view is like looking down a “time corridor,” where galaxies can be seen as they looked billions of years ago. Hubble became astronomy’s ultimate time machine.

The resulting landmark image is called the Hubble Deep Field. At the time, the image won the gold medal for being the farthest peek into the universe ever made. Its stunning success encouraged astronomers to pursue a series of Hubble deep-field surveys. The succeeding surveys uncovered more galaxies at greater distance from Earth, thanks to new cameras installed on Hubble during astronaut servicing missions. The cameras increased the telescope’s power to look even deeper into the universe.

These surveys provided astronomers with a huge scrapbook of images, showing how, following the big bang, galaxies built themselves up over time to become the large, majestic assemblages seen today in the nearby universe.

Among the most notable deep-field surveys are the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS), in 2003; the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), in 2004; and the eXtreme Deep Field (XDF), in 2012.

Now, astronomers are releasing a new deep-field image by weaving together exposures from several of these previous galaxy “fishing expeditions.” Their efforts have produced the largest, most comprehensive “history book” of galaxies in the universe. The snapshot, a combination of nearly 7,500 separate Hubble exposures, represents 16 years’ worth of observations. The ambitious endeavor is called the Hubble Legacy Field. The new view contains about 30 times as many galaxies as in the HUDF. The wavelength range stretches from ultraviolet to near-infrared light, capturing all the features of galaxy assembly over time.

The image mosaic presents a wide portrait of the distant universe and contains roughly 265,000 galaxies. They stretch back through 13.3 billion years of time to just 500 million years after the universe’s birth in the big bang.

Hopefully these views can bring some sanity on earth as we consider how ‘small’ and ‘small minded’ we can be.

The Kora and West African Blues


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There are close links between West African music and song and the Blues of the Southern states -probably due to the origin of slaves from West Africa.

Recently Taj Mahal said there’s no doubt about the lineage….as he was collaborating with Kora player Toumani Diabate.

“Sometimes when people talk about the connections between Afro-American music and African music, they’re kind of stretching it,” he explains. “But this stuff clearly is a relative.” He tells of the time he started playing a particular blues song and his Malian bandmates knew instantly where the music was headed. “It’s almost like a relative who’s gone away for 500 years and gone through some metamorphosis and changes, but is still recognizable.

The kora’s complex and melodic fingerpicking style is seen as a forebear to the rich Delta blues guitar sound of Mississippi John Hurt and others. A lutelike instrument called the ngoni—played on Kulanjan by Bassekou Kouyate—is a predecessor to the banjo. To Taj’s ear, these old West African instruments “sing the same kind of way” as the guitars, banjos, and mandolins he’s always gravitated toward in his own music.

Toumani Diabate and Ballake Sissoko

Sona Jobarteh

Collaborations with Western artists are becoming more common

Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita

and the master of west african blues -Ali Farka Toure with Toumani once again

Billy Boy Arnold


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Billy Boy Arnold

William “Billy Boy” Arnold (born September 16, 1935, Chicago, Illinois) is an American blues harmonica player, singer and songwriter.

Seemingly under rated, but still a considerable influence.

I ain’t got you

I wish you would

The Yardbirds, with Eric Clapton on lead guitar, revived both “I Wish You Would” and “I Ain’t Got You” in 1964, testifying to Arnold’s influence on the British blues explosion. “It really gave me a boost all the way around,” says Billy. “It was a great compliment.” 

Sweet on you Baby

Every day,every night

Love me baby

Keep listening and learning -here is a lesson from Liam Ward

and that version by the Yardbirds with Eric Clapton:

David Hockney – the love and hate of photography


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David Hockney, reaching the age of 80, is being celebrated in Los Angeles with exhibitions of his work. What is interesting is that much of his work on show, is either self portraits (mainly paintings) and his photographic work -his ‘joiners’ or photo collages.

Even though, Hockney himself, challenges photography in terms of being static and time bound, his legacy still seems to include photography as an important dimension of his growth and development as an artist.


Installation photograph, David Hockney, In the Studio, December 2017, photographic drawing printed on seven sheets of paper, mounted on seven sheets of Dibond, 109 1/2 x 299 1/4 in., courtesy the artist, © David Hockney, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA.

What Hockney has been able to do is to move away from the single point in time – “When is the present? When did the past end and the present occur, and when does the future start? Ordinary photography has one way of seeing only, which is fixed, as if there is kind of an objective reality, which simply cannot be. Picasso…knew that every time you look there’s something different. There is so much there but we´re not seeing it, that’s the problem. – David Hockney
The installation above uses photography but in Hockney’s way.


Mr Satan’s Apprentice -A Blues Memoir


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A bit late – drafted this some time ago, but forgot to post!

Mr Satan’s Apprentice -A Blues Memoir by Adam Gussow.

How I missed this when it first came out, I don’t know, but glad that another blues enthusiast lent me his copy, while waiting for my own.

Mister Satan’s Apprentice is the history of one of music’s most fascinating collaborations, between Adam Gussow, a young graduate school dropout and harmonica player, and Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee, a guitarist and underground blues legend who had originally made his name as “Five Fingers Magee.”

(hardback version 1998)Pantheon


paperback version 2000 (Vintage)

Apart from the mix of blues and comments about broader social issues, there are many noticeable and notable paragraphs about Mr Satan’s philosophy as well as blues harp playing. Here is one as a starter:

“I am Satan,” he declaimed.” God’s people told you a lie. I am the most mannerable person you will ever meet. and guess what ? Every single war that ever was- all the killing, all the disrespecting, all the mother effing this and that- every bit of that damned mess has been taught in the name of God. Ain’t no wars been fought in the name of Satan.” p.49

“I am the Earth, Mister Adam,”Mister Satan cried, inflamed. ”I joke not. the Earthworks in mysterious ways. I may feel a little cold coming on, mix me up a little milk and honey, drink it down, and I’m gonna wake up next morning with my health in full flower. Ain’t took no doctor to cure my behind. A doctor will kill you, man. How’s a doctor gonna help anybody produce healthfulness when he spend all day and night studying sickness and death? Can’t do it. Same thing with God. Bastard puts man and woman in the garden of Eden, shows them where the Tree of Life is, looking oh so pretty with the apple hanging down, and then go and make up some lie about how they gonna die if they go and have a taste.

God is death, plain and simple. Ain’t no life in the mess.”



About harp playing, from Adam….

In those days I gave a lot of harmonica lessons, almost all them to lonely white guys with time to spare and an aching desire to make a certain kind of sound on the instrument. Everybody I knew referred to this as the Sound. Nat had the Sound; he’d done his best to pass it along to me. The Sound was Southern-born, it was cocky playful, manic, chuckling, resentful, edgy, comforting, relentless. It took incredible lip strength and finesse to produce.It was sexual. It was the haunted, restless feeling of a guy’s apartment late at night after the woman who used to live there had moved out. 

(p.49- 50)

all I had was my music, pitiful as it was….Saturday nights ,while other freshman as the Primitive Inn –my residential college –were mingling to disco bands in the darkened dining room. I’d hide out upstairs blowing and jumping around, working up my nerve, my favourite inspirational text was Muddy Water’s Woodstock album with Paul Butterfield on harp, faster than James Cotton, more fluid than Magic Dick,Butter would hammer out endless triplets, buzzing around Muddy like a chuckling angry wasp. I’m gonna take you downtown, put cloooothes on your back…Muddy would bellow and Paul would diddly-diddly-waaaaah..I’d dance around and between them until my lips ached, trying to soak up Muddy’s swagger, Paul’s wasp-chuckle.



And about the teacher of teachers -Nat Riddles (Adam’s harp guru)

Sweet Home Chicago” went by, unremarkable; I couldn’t sing with Nat watching me. A higher power descended in the middle of “Mean Old World” Mister Satan had just cried “Sometimes I wonder…how can you love be so cold.” Suddenly shivering,I had it- a knotted sob-and knew what to do with it. The moment he yelled   Blow! I went off .I thinned my tone, got as mean as I could with maximal tongue-articulation up and down the harp, all the moves Nat had lovingly help install.

The men crowding around us shouted “play it!” Nat hovering with the tape recorder, yelled, “Go ahead!” Whatever I was holding back broke out in a flood.I sobbed,cursed,raged hoarsely, flogged my own throat,with the air I wrenched through it.


and on Nat:

He sat down….spine erect legs spread in back – porch mode – and started to blow. And he did blow. His first long low note got under and upended everything I”d just played. “Go ahead brother!” a man yelled. A current rippled through the gathered crowd. “Low down and dirty brother!” another yelled out. Nat’s lidded eyes narrowed as he bore down, his shoulders swiveled, feinting and parrying, a tai chi push-hands master daring you to come at him. Five six, seven choruses. Every half-digested Nat Riddles lick I’d just thrown down-tongue slaps, warbles, bends, glissandos-he scraped off the sidewalk, swapped around ,kicked and bit back into shape, then hurled through the stained, oily gum-spattered concrete we were standing on. Down they flowed into the molten core, boiling and squalling before erupting through the paper cone of my Mouse.


take a break and watch the vid of the pair:

William and I were sitting behind the two women, harps out, deep in the woodshed. He’d just shown me a mind-blowing new technique.Overblows were a way of playing three extra notes in the middle octave by reversing direction on a draw note bend so the pitch popped up. The notes literally weren’t there; you made them happen with shrewdly applied tongue-force. The tone went glassy for a split second then broke into clear usable higher ground. Suddenly boogie-woogie s were possible, jazzy blues heads like : Blue Monk” and Night Train” all the sax riffs I’d been fudging. A New World swims into  view!.


Certainly worth a read!

Winner of the 1999 Keeping the Blues Alive Award for Literature, an honor bestowed annually by the Blues Foundation.


Check out this video on Satan and Adam

Satan and Adam



Also check out Adam’s website:


John Surman – musician


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I have always been fascinated by the deep tones of certain instruments and voices (perhaps my Welsh upbringing brought me in contact with basso profondo!)

I love the sound of the bass clarinet and baritone sax as well as the low notes on a cello.

Before reading anything more just listen to this piece by John Surman


Edges of illusion





The fantastic track “Edges Of Illusion” is taken from John Surman’s great album “Upon Reflection” (1979) resp. from the sampler album “John Surman – :rarum” (2004). The album is recorded by ECM Records in excellent audio quality.
Listen and enjoy it.

MUSICIANS: John Surman
Bass Clarinet
Soprano Saxophone
Baritone Saxophone

Produced by John Surman & Manfred Eicher (ECM Records, 1988).

John Surman was one of the very few saxmen in England to find a significant audience in rock during the late ’60s, playing gigs regularly at venues like the Marquee Club in London. Also a clarinetist of some renown, and no slouch on keyboards either, the atmospheric sounds that Surman creates on his horns has been a major asset to the ECM label ever since the late ’70s; but, before that, he was an extremely prolific artist on Deram, Futura, Dawn, and Island, cutting seven solo albums between 1968 and 1974 on those mainstream pop-oriented labels, as well as recording with Morning Glory on Island.

One of England’s top jazz players of the past several decades, Surman is particularly strong on the baritone. Surman played in jazz workshops while still in high school. He studied at the London College of Music and London University Institute of Education in the mid-’60s, played with Alexis Korner and Mike Westbrook until the late ’60s, and recorded with the latter until the mid-’70s. He was voted best soloist at the 1968 Montreux Festival while heading his band.

Surman worked with Graham Collier, Mike Gibbs, Dave Holland, Chris McGregor, and John McLaughlin in the ’60s, and toured Europe with the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland big band in 1970. Surman toured and recorded with Barre Phillips and Stu Martin in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and again in the late ’70s, adding Albert Mangelsdorff to the group. They called themselves the Trio, then Mumps. Surman played with Mike Osborne and Alan Skidmore in the sax trio SOS in the mid-’70s. He also collaborated with the Carolyn Carlson dance company at the Paris Opera through the mid- and late ’70s. Surman recorded with Stan Tracey and Karin Krog, while working with Miroslav Vitous and Azimuth.

He led the Brass Project in the early ’80s, and played in Collier’s big band and Gil Evans’ British orchestra. Surman toured with Evans again in the late ’80s. He began recording as a leader for Pye in the early ’70s, and did sessions for Ogun and ECM. Surman continued recording in the ’80s, mostly for ECM. He worked with Terje Rypdal, Jack DeJohnette, Pierre Favre, Bengt Hallberg, Archie Shepp, Warne Marsh, and Red Mitchell, among others.

Surman has made many recordings for ECM, spanning from free form to mood music, and he remains one of the label’s most consistently stimulating artists.“(by Ronn Wynn & Bruce Eder, All Music Guide)