the sublime

flower tote

“Beethoven is not only about suffering — it’s about many emotions, true happiness and ecstasy.”

Arrival at Temple after Pilgrimmage

“It’s not true that someone has to have been through extreme emotions to play the music, but you have to be able to sympathize and have empathy with the emotions. If I play a piece of Chopin or Schumann, it’s a one-to-one confession all the time, but with Beethoven, the slow movements are not so much a confession but more a kind of preaching. He has a bigger message about humanity. Earlier, I didn’t really understand and appreciate that expression.”
~Leif Ove Andsnes

Penitence -- Pilgrim in Tibet

“In a case like Schubert, who died at 31, he had enough sorrow for a lifetime. There is something about the subtext of his music — people say you have to suffer a little more.”
~Jeremy Denk

Rose sheet music

“Musicians often state that they should wait until they ‘have something to say’ before tackling pieces like Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’ or late Beethoven or Schubert, although for the pianist Richard Goode the phrase ‘having something to say’ suggests ‘an act of will — something extrinsic to a genuine involvement,’ he said.”
~Viven Schweitzer, Adapted from “Wait, You Need to Suffer Some More”

Prayer Flags in Tibet

“Which master managed, as Beethoven did in his late music, to weld together present, past and future, the sublime and the profane?”
~Alfred Brendel

horizon from plane


danse macabre

IMG_0872radiology lamp

“The image of Death as a fiddler appears in the works of several composers, but in none is it more effective than in this piece. The orchestra strikes midnight, Death tunes up, then begins his waltz; a second theme on the xylophone evokes the skeletal celebrants, who become more and more energetic until, with the cock’s crow, they disperse and vanish.” — from the Kennedy Center program notes

expansion of time, part ii

pink rose against white backdrop

“If different temporal judgments are generated by different neural mechanisms — and while they often agree, they are not required to. Like vision, time perception is underpinned by a collaboration of separate neural mechanisms that usually work in concert but can be teased apart under the right circumstances… If time as a single unified entity slows down during fear, then this slow motion should confer a higher temporal resolution.”

black and white rose with petals

“Time and memory are tightly linked. In a critical situation, the amygdala kicks into high gear… and memories are laid down by a secondary memory system… that makes them ‘stick’ better. Upon replay, the higher density of data would make the events appear to last longer. This may be why time seems to speed up as you age: you develop more compressed representation of events, and the memories to be read out are correspondingly impoverished. When you are a child and everything is novel, the richness of the memory gives the impression of increased time passage — for example, when looking back at the end of a childhood summer.”

pink rimmed rose petals

“The recalibration of subjective timing is not a party trick of the brain; it is critical to solving the problem of causality.”

rose against sunset

“What is the use of perception, especially since it lags behind reality, is retrospectively attributed, and is generally outstripped by automatic (unconscious) systems? The most likely answer is that perceptions are representations of information that cognitive systems can work with later. Thus it is important for the brain to take sufficient time to settle on its best interpretation of what just happened rather than stick with its initial, rapid interpretation. Its carefully refined picture of what just happened is all it will have to work with later, so it had better invest the time.”

-David Eagleman, Brain Time

medical image expertise

“Given our lifelong experience moving about the world from one visual scene to another, we are all expert scene processors. A growing body of research has shown that, just as radiologists may be able to categorize a chest radiograph in the blink of an eye, humans in general can categorize real scenes after exposures as short as 0.025 seconds.”

Seattle mountains

“Real-world scenes and medical images are structured… any account of visual search in scenes, be they natural scenes or medical images, will require an account of how the scene structure information can guide the search.”

bleeding sky

“Before becoming board certified, a radiologist undergoes years of intensive training that involves ready many thousands of images… However, an important consequence of training is to teach radiologist trainees that some areas are more likely to contain a lesion than others. Thus, while eye movement recordings suggest that novice radiologists search in a relatively haphazard fashion when looking for lung nodules, experienced radiologists tend to exhibit more concise eye movements, with fewer fixations needed to extract more information.”

bamboo sculpture

“Trained radiologists were asked to detect abnormalities on chest radiographs after viewing each image for just 200 msec. Performance was well above chance (70% correct)… Experts tend to fixate the malignancy or other item of interest soon… long before their attention would be expected to reach those sites… Expert radiologists tend to have more efficient eye movement scan paths than novices. Relative to experts, novices tend to show more fixations and saccades and more coverage of the total image and to arrive at the abnormality later.”


“Radiologists… are being asked to process an every-increasing number of images in the same amount of time. It is now more important than ever to understand how to transform a novice into an expert who can process this flood of images efficiently and effectively… To become an expert radiologist, one has to attain a level of expertise in both explicit medical knowledge and more implicit perceptual knowledge.”

raindrops on bamboo leaf

-From Drew et al, 2013

east of eden

“Ansel Adams… understood that the landscape is not only a place but an event”

Red Rocks

“Trained as a musician, Adams understood the richness of variation that could be unfolded by a simple theme, capable of evoking the specific quality of a given moment in the natural history of the world.”

Niagara Falls

“…the deeply romantic idea that the great vistas and microcosmic details of the wilderness could be seen as a metaphor for freedom and heroic aspiration.”

Moon with sunset clouds

“A surviving fragment of Eden.”


Aesthetics: the perception, production, and response to art, as well as interactions with objects and scenes that evoke an intense feeling, often pleasure

How much of the aesthetic experience resides in a perceptual experience and how much resides in the emotional response to the artwork?

Early vision extracts simple elements from the visual environment such as color, luminance, shape, motion, and location (Livingstone and Hubel, 1987, 1988). Intermediate vision segregates some elements and groups other together to form coherent regions in what would otherwise be a chaotic and overwhelming sensory array (Ricci, Vaishinavi, & Chatterjee, 1999; Vecera & Behrmann, 1997). Late vision selects which of these coherent regions to scrutinize and evokes memories from which objects are recognized and meanings are attached (Farah, 2000).

Any work of art can be decomposed into its early, intermediate, and late vision components. Artists isolate and enhance different visual attributes (Matisse – color, Calder – motion). Artists endeavor to uncover important distinctions in the visual world.

How does one quantify seemingly ineffable experiences, such as the Kantian idea of “sublime?”

— Adapted from Chatterjee, 2010

belle epoque

A consortium of visitors have come and gone, dropping by for old times sake as much as to uncover the incontrovertible truth that is inherent in my current environment. Culture shock is an understatement. Dually represented is an understatement. My friends came with high expectations of what they would see, and left with a broader, deeper understanding of the region via close observation of its people and its customs. No provocation from me was needed; the course of events played out flawlessly, like my friends were invisible actors inserted into an alternate reality. And from them, I have learned. Thus came an apt time to post a long-forgotten article in an ever-so-appropriately named magazine called Garden and Gun. (Now there’s a fitting publication if there ever was one — it encompasses all aspects of the culture!) I couldn’t have planned it better myself, these words ringing even more true than upon first reading. The images are of a quintessential Southern railway; the beauties in them are some of the most vibrant people one will ever meet. The writing in these excerpts, well, they speak for themselves.

“Southern women, unlike women from Boston or Des Moines or Albuquerque, are leashed to history. For better or worse, we are forever entangled in and infused by a miasma of mercy and cruelty, order and chaos, cornpone and cornball, a potent mix that leaves us wise, morbid, good-humored, God-fearing, outspoken and immutable. Like the Irish, with better teeth.”

“To be born a Southern woman is to be made aware of your distinctiveness. And with it, the rules. The expectations. These vary some, but all follow the same basic template, which is, fundamentally, no matter what the circumstance, Southern women make the effort. When you are born into a history as loaded as the South’s, when you carry in your bones the incontrovertible knowledge of man’s violence and limitations, daring to stay sweet is about the most radical thing you can do.”


“Southern women can say more with a cut of their eyes than a whole debate club’s worth of speeches. Southern women know the value of a stiff drink, among other things. For my mother, being Southern means handwritten thank-you notes, using a rhino horn’s worth of salt in every recipe, and spending a minimum of twenty minutes a day in front of her makeup mirror so she can examine her beauty in “office,” “outdoor,” and “evening” illumination.”

— Excerpted from Garden and Gun Magazine

voyage of life


“In childhood there is no cankering care; in Youth no despairing thought. It is only when experience has taught us the realities of the world, that we lift from our eyes the golden veil of early life: that we feel deep and abiding sorrow.” ~Thomas Cole, artist statement, Manhood, The Voyage of Life

One of my favorite spots in DC is standing in the center of Thomas Cole’s epic 4 panel “Voyage of Life” painting. It’s like meeting an old friend who convinces you to waver away from the jaded end of the young/idealistic – aged/cynical spectrum. 

darkness in the ancient valley

Attended the first night of the world (and Nashville) premiere of American composer Richard Danielpour’s piece, eponymous with the title. Described as “visceral, romantic and distinctly American.”

(One day, this blog will be about science again.)

Reminds me of another less arcane piece, actually —

Somethin’ filled up
my heart with nothin’,
someone told me not to cry.

But now that I’m older,
my heart’s colder,
and I can see that it’s a lie.

Children wake up,
hold your mistake up,
before they turn the summer into dust.

If the children don’t grow up,
our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.
We’re just a million little gods causin rain storms turnin’ every good thing to rust.

I guess we’ll just have to adjust.

the stars and stripes forever

This Independence Day, we celebrate the various ways you too can display your brimming-over patriotic pride.

The imposing, iconic US Capitol:

Flags on the Potomac at sunset:
[Georgetown Harbor]

Or embrace your cutting-edge originality by avoiding generic tourist shot:

Volunteer to reenact a key battle in American history. By all means, with much gusto and enthusiasm!
[Harper’s Ferry, WV]

You may be paying a visit the epitome of American cities, The Big Apple

Where, in true American fashion, you can buy organic coffee from hippie trucks:
[Greenwich Village]

Or, if that’s not to your liking, literally jump ship to Canada
[border of upstate NY and our aforementioned northern neighbor]

Yay piccolo solo [1:50]!

Not exactly me under Leonard Bernstein’s baton right there, but oh, have I lived and have I loved. Yay America!