Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Year Inspiration

I have this quote by Winston Churchill pinned up at home, and I see it every day. So, it's on my mind every day.
I love this following video. I found it so moving and inspirational that I just needed to share it. How many times have we just quit? Accepted our circumstances? Convinced ourselves that something was impossible? Not followed our dreams? 
This posting is not to sell anything or endorse any product. I just think this video speaks to something deeper and human inside of us all.
This video has also proven to me that:
1. Music makes the movie;
2. Diamond Dallas Page has some great yoga chops!
Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmastime in Pasadena

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! I was just cleaning out my SIM card from a camera, and found several photos that I decided to post. They show what Colorado Blvd. is like on a busy Christmas shopping night. I love it here at this time of year! The air is clean and crisp, and for LA, is quite cool. I had company in town and took them out to Old Town, Pasadena - my town - for a big hang. It has a small-town look and feel, but jammed with traffic. Everyone looking for that perfect parking spot. In a week this will be the Rose Parade route. They have had the bleachers up along the street for a couple of weeks already. Always the biggest annual event here in Pasadena, and one of the biggest New Year's parades in the nation.

                                     Me just hanging out, I guess. OK, not so interesting...

Shot from inside Intelligentsia Coffee

Colorado Blvd. facing west...

...same... establishments...

Intelligentsia decked out!

...yes, it's Colorado Blvd....


A very skilled and artistically rendered "through the window" shot. Don't try this at home.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Very Proud

December 16, 2012 - 5:33am

This is arguably my best espresso pull ever. I've had a few, and this quality is rare for me, but this morning the coffee gods on Mt. Java looked down upon me favorably.

The photo was hastily taken, so I didn't even take time to clean off the usual coffee splatter on the inside of the cup. I was too excited to document the moment. Even with a Rocket Giotto machine that is need of a little tech work (random coffee spraying from filter basket), this double shot had deep color, a very thick crema (in this photo creme is deflating already because it took me a while to set up the lighting and angle - you can see from the ring where the creme HAD been) and a profoundly rich flavor. Blend was bought at Jones Coffee in Pasadena yesterday, and must be a fairly fresh batch, judging from the consistency of the grind (grinder: Ceado), and was a 50/50 blend of their Espresso Cara Mia and PRC roasts. This is my standard blend I use, but I do notice that, as the beans age a few days, that the creme is less and flavor naturally more stale.

I am a little verklempt and pretty proud. So excuse me while I enjoy it. It's getting cold!

Update: even after taking time to write the blog entry, the espresso, now virtually at room temperature, has held its flavor very well. Wow. And, mmmmmmm.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Prayer

Thanks O Lord for thy daily food
Thanks to Thee for making us good
Thanks for thy shelter and keeping us fed
Thanks for thy drink and wholesome bread
Thanks for the seasons that come and go
Thanks for the flowers that bloom and grow
Thanks for the friends who help us in need
Thanks for the trials which make us succeed
Thanks for the children so dear and sweet
Thanks for the love which makes us complete
Thanks for the eyes in letting us see
Thanks for the mind in setting us free
Thanks for the music that touches our heart
Thanks for the muses that inspire our art
Thanks for the visions that reveal our goal
Thanks for the lessons that strengthen our soul
Thanks for the sleep that gives us the rest
Thanks for the sage who unfolds the Quest
Thanks for the sun so luminous and bright
Thanks for thy guidance and inner light
Thanks for the stars that sparkle and shine
Thanks for the peace that is thine and mine
Thanks for the kindness which you give
Thanks for thy Grace by which we live.

  • Peter Y. Chou
Worcester, 11-22-1979

Thursday, November 15, 2012


The Quartet finally made it down to Australia after all these years. And down under it is: a roughly 14+ hour direct flight from LA to Sydney. The longest flight I've ever been on. Then, after a 4 hour layover there - customs, bite to eat, espresso, and back massage at a airport establishment called "Samsara" - then it was another 4 hour flight to Perth. So all in all, a 24 hour journey.

But it was worth it. What a wonderful place. The land, sky, sea, and its inhabitants radiate a beautiful earthiness and ease I've not encountered anywhere else. Shattered my old and jaded impressions imbedded in my boyhood psyche by Monty Python's "Bruce" and "Australian Philosophers" sketches and the "Paul Hogan Show".

We came for two performances of Rodrigo's "Concerto Andaluz" with the WASO (Western Australia Symphony Orchestra) in Perth, followed directly with three performances of the same concerto with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. For Sydney, we also added a suite from Falla's "El Amor Brujo" arranged for 4 guitars and orchestra, which works quite well.

The concert hall in Perth has an absolutely amazing resonance to the acoustics. Both evenings saw sold out crowds in the 1,731 seat venue.

           taken with the panoramic setting on my iPhone, so some jagged edges...

The weather was a bit rainy toward the end of our stay, but generally sunny with a refreshing  strong breeze from the water.

Food and drink were equally as good. Since this blog was ORIGINALLY intended to highlight coffee, good places were found there. Woogi Espresso on St. George's Terrace had top notch espresso, with edibles such as handmade sandwiches, assorted sweet treats and the like. A very small place inside a corridor bridging St. George's Terrace and the Mercure Hotel, this place had lots of character. Sorry, I have no photos. You'll have to trust me.

I tried several shots around town, but the most outstanding establishment had to be Bench Espresso on Hay Street. They pull excellent shots here, and use a single origin bean. I generally find single origin espressos too high in acid and high-note fruitiness; too bright generally for my palette (like two places I frequent in LA, Intelligentsia and Handsome - talented baristas and great pulls, just too bright on the tongue for me). But, although the espresso at Bench was bright in flavor, it had a real depth to it as well. I would go back.

Bench Espresso in Perth - again, jagged panorama shot

a ristretto double shot, with great crema, from Bench.

Cafes and espresso joints were all over the place. And, since the competition is high, the quality is overall very, very good from one to the other. Here is a sign I saw outside one of them, summing up a philosophy of this coffee-dotted landscape.

Only saw one Starbucks while there. Yippee!!

Eats. We wanted to hit a place with great local cuisine in Perth. A place where the local residents ate. And since Perth is one of the most expensive places to buy food and drink I have ever visited (average cost of a hamburger and fries with drink: $27 USD), we wanted a place with reasonable prices working musicians could afford. We were directed by several folks to Billy Lee's. Cantonese food, and open late. This was a great recommendation. Simple and small, it had more tables and chairs outside than in.
                                                                      Bill and Matt at Billy Lee's in Perth

Being that Australia is a land mass smack between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, it's culinary culture draws from a variety of Pan-Asian sources. Local critters can be had as well, and I believe Bill had a crocodile burger and Matt tried some kangaroo. I stuck to veggies and fruit primarily.

                                      A wide selection of edible critter jerkies at the Perth airport. Emu? Hmmm...


We are playing with the Sydney Symphony at the Sydney Opera House. Yes, that's the one. Never was there a building so iconic as this, and so majestic. Breathtaking would be a good word. I had always thought it symbolized sails, or something to do with boats, being that it's the Sydney harbor. But today I heard a story from a local musician that the architect cut up an orange, placed the wedges on the ground, and basically said "voilá"! Not sure what to believe.

taken from the ferry boat to Manley Beach

                           Us after a popular morning radio show appearance at the ABC studio lobby in Sydney

                                                                            Yours truly at Manley Beach

                                                                      Advertisement outside the SOH

With more updates to come, let me finish this entry with some shots of what I think is the best espresso place I've tried (thus far) in Sydney. Workshop Espresso on George Street. Great blend (not single origin), great crema, and an artful pull skillfully done.


The quartet met today with esteemed Australian composer Philip Houghton. It was a real honor to finally meet him. Among many, many other notable works, his best-known work for guitar quartet is by far "Opals". Philip is a natural synesthete, meaning he vividly associates sounds with colors, colors with sound. This is known as "synesthesia". The work Opals immediately came to him when he first saw a particular black opal, which he holds in this photo. He said something today that struck me profoundly: "Music is slowed-down light".

                               LAGQ with Philip Houghton outside Sir Stamford hotel, Sydney

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"My First Guitar", by Julia Crowe

I first met Julia many years ago, and now look: she's written a book! And a wonderful book it is. This contains so many inspirational and nostalgic stories by some of today's guitar superstars, that you'll find yourself reading straight through to the finish before you know it. I hope this book does extremely well, and, to Julia Crowe, the author, THREE CHEERS for a herculean undertaking so artfully done.

New Podcast To Enjoy...

A new podcast, produced by Dr. Scott Wolf, is now up and running on iTunes. It's a really fun and informative, with some great interviews and skillful, snappy editing. Follow the link here and be a subscriber TODAY!

Thursday, July 5, 2012


My favorite Brazilian singer, Joao Bosco, singing my favorite song of his, "Linha de Passe"! This is how it's done! Featuring Yamandu Costa.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Couperin on a 2012 Friederich guitar

I do, and always will, believe that Daniel Friederich is the greatest luthier of this century.  This was filmed rather quickly but it came out quite good, thanks to Kai Narezzo, so I wanted to share it with everybody. The piece is: "Les Barricades Mysterieuses" by Francois Couperin.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Wing Chun Documentary by Empty Mind Films

I love the films that "Empty Mind Films" produces. They're informative, with a stunning visual appeal and regal grace one rarely encounters. This is an upcoming documentary on the art of Wing Chun, which I studied intensely for some years. I hope you can familiarize yourselves with Empty Mind FIlms, and perhaps this film can be your introduction!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The LAGQ and Shingo Fujii

Last year, the Loudoun County school system in Virginia commissioned a work for guitar quartet and guitar orchestra by Shingo Fujii from Kyoto, Japan. The piece is entitled "Shiki", which means "Seasons". But more deeply, it is a work remembering the tragic tsunami and earthquake which devastated Japan and her people a year ago. Here is a clip from a mini-documentary they filmed while we were there.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

On Tour

John getting some playing time in at Chicago O'Hare. This is on our way from Huntsville, AL to Long Island, NY.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Espressing Myself

Bradbury's in MadIson, WI was highly recommended by Yelp and locals alike. I have to say, their dark-roasted espresso blend, brewed through a bottomless portafilter, easily rivaled the espresso at Joe in NYC and Intelligentsia in LA. great light crepes, too.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

From the Road...

Photos taken from the LAGQ's current trip.

GREAT veggie tacos in Phoenix

I turned 50 on the road

John navigating, Bill driving from Iowa City to Madison, WI

Wisconsin greets us...

Poster at Overture Hall for the concerts Friday-Sunday.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Be Happy. See HAPPY!

This evening I saw a film that struck me deeply. The film is called, simply, "Happy". Directed by Roko Belic and with Tom Shadyac as executive producer, this is a film that carries a message without all the "holier-than-thou" attitude and force-feeding that many films and books of this genre display. Through scenes of people from all walks of life, it helps us realize that happiness comes from within. Not from without. From a simple and money-poor rickshaw wallah in Calcutta, a formerly wealthy German businessman turned charity volunteer for Mother Theresa's shelter for the sick and dying, we witness how amassing monetary quantity does not bring happiness, but attachment. From a clip from a talk by the  Dalai Lama we learn how compassion is inherently in our very bloodstream from the moment we're born. From a visit to the centenarians on the island of Okinawa we feel younger just watching their zest for life. A truly remarkable event. Happiness is contagious.

It made me think of a couple of quotes I've recalled almost daily for years now, and yet I've failed to put them into practice on a regular basis. The first one is something I read when I was a college student; something that the great Mahavatar Babaji, alleged immortal yogi of all yogis who still lives among us earth dwellers today, said: "One's happiness [in life] is directly proportional to one's own self-discipline". 

The other quote is something I will always remember from a lecture tape I had of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hahn, which I listened to so much that I eventually wore it out: "Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy". This is something that I've found so very true and useful for me personally. Smiling when everything around you is crashing becomes a discipline in its own rite.

I encourage you to see this film. And let yourself absorb it. You may find yourself tomorrow with a bag of quarters feeding parking meters for total strangers!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Best EVER

I felt inspired to share this! Yes, this is perhaps the very best cup of espresso I've ever made. It was, in fact, SO good, that reproducing it exactly, even by myself and my trusty Rocket Giotto espresso machine, may be impossible ever again. Half of this cup was crema - that airy, frothy, thick and foamy coffee essence that sits atop only the finest shots. The blend:

1/3rd Jones PRC Espresso blend (from Pasadena, CA)
1/3rd Jones Cara Mia Espresso blend (from Pasadena, CA)
1/3rd Buon Giorno's Italian blend (from Ft. Worth, TX).

Have an inspired day!

Wanna try yourself? Here are the links for the beans:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sunday, January 29, 2012

2012 Activity Update

Here is what I'm doing thus far in 2012. Perhaps I'll see you at one of these events. By the way, any recommendations for the best espresso in any of these towns and cities is most welcome. Portland, no need to respond; I know I'll be going to Stumptown while I'm there!

April 14 
Philadelphia Guitar Society 
May 8-9 
Fresno, CA
Six-String Showcase Concert
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
7:30 p.m.
Fresno City College
contact or 559-442-4600 x8461
June 8-9 
Portland, OR 
July 23-27
Hartt School 
August 6-9
Brno, Czech Republic

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