This week is another blank slate.  I don’t have a theme here, so let’s just start it up and see what happens.

The featured image above the title is a tile in a wall at the Santa Monica Mountains Conservatory Headquarters at the King Gillette Ranch in the Malibu hills.  King Gillette was the founder of the razor company that bears his name to this day, and he left this giant mansion (architect Wallace Neff) to the Conservatory, along with around 400 acres of hills, woods and fields. We go there often as they have a local art display that changes monthly, and I like to buy my honey there.  Seriously.  Local honey.

But I never noticed these tiles. They are on the outside of a public restroom.  A restroom for Godsakes!  They are like small (about 8 X 10) paintings of scenes in the Santa Monica Mountains.  Here’s that one with a couple more.  They’d make great postcards.

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Last night we went to see some live music at the venue around the corner.  I can’t tell you the name of the place because then we won’t be able to relax and enjoy the music as there will be paparazzi all over.

It was a big band with a bunch of horns playing blues and jazz tunes. These are the best players in LA and hence the recording business.  Each of them could easily front their own band, so seeing and hearing them all together was quite a treat.  It’s transporting. As a musician who mostly plays in conventional 4 or 5 piece rock bands with zero horns, it’s like a little trip to heaven.  Here’s a slice:

I played trumpet and then tuba in public school, so I can appreciate how hard it is to play brass instruments. Several of my high school classmates went on to become acclaimed players, for example, the first seat trumpet for a major philharmonic orchestra, and a trombone teacher at one of the top music conservatories in the country, and those guys worked their asses off to get there.

Trumpet and trombone are kind of like violins in that they can sound awful or incredibly beautiful, plus they can be quite loud, and the difference is a combination of talent and very hard work.  Practice, practice, practice.

You don’t see a lot of tubas these days, except in orchestras. Why? Did you ever take a tuba home on a school bus?  I don’t think so. Trust me.

The other thing you need, aside from practice, is good embouchure. That’s French for how one controls the muscles of the mouth and lips while blowing into the mouthpiece to make that sound.  Per Wikipedia:

“Embouchure or lipping is the use of the lips, facial muscles, tongue, and teeth in playing a wind instrument. This includes shaping the lips to the mouthpiece of a woodwind instrument or the mouthpiece of a brass instrument.”

The word is of French origin and is related to the root bouche, ‘mouth’.  Good word. Covers a lot of ground.  You need many words to explain one word, which means it saves a lot of time when talking about one’s embouchure.  I like my definition better.

Good embouchure is also useful in kissing, as well as blowing raspberries at a ballgame. You can quote me on that.

Then there’s the horn section.  The band we saw last night was basically an all-horn orchestra with bass, drums and keyboards supporting the sound.  A horn section can be anywhere from 2 to 5 players, usually a sax, trumpet and trombone, plus whatever else if needed, that supports the band’s sound. The horn section punctuates the song with notes big and small, in unison.

A singer can perform the same song without a horn section, and it’s a completely different song.  The brass notes, usually accompanied by a little coordinated dance step, add a whole different musical and emotional dimension.

It occurred to me that the lyrics are a conversation of sorts, between the singer and the band and the audience.  The horns punctuate the words and give them more power, or humor or sadness or happiness.

So… wouldn’t it be great if we all had our own horn section?

Imagine going into the bank for a loan, or into a business meeting, with your horn section.  You’d be so impressive and powerful! You’re making your point, giving your pitch, whatever it is, and your horns, a sax, trumpet and trombone, are back there BLAT, BLAT, BLAAAAT, BLATY-BLAT! Going back and forth in unison.  You’d win every time.

If one of these presidential hopefuls would promise to sign a bill providing each person a horn section, maybe once a month or so, they could win by a landslide and make a great statement.  Imagine, your own horn section!  They follow you around all day to all your appointments.

Presumably, they will not follow you in to the bathroom, but you never know.


Black sea slugs, of the order ANASPIDEA, are described thus: “This is the black seahare, Aplysia vaccaria. This species is characterized by a very firm body and that the parapodia are joined behind the exhalent siphon, rather than separated part of the way down the tail, as in the co-occurring species, Aplysia californica.”

Come to think of it, I did take note of the joined parapodia behind the exhalent siphon.

I stole all this info on the seahare from the internet, specifically the Sea Slug Forum.  That’s right, a whole forum dedicated to… sea slugs.  This is what one finds while researching a goofy blog post.  Please, check it out. Sea Slug Forum Here’s a picture I stole from there also:

Seahare? There slug. No hare there. I guess it was the ears.

Now, seahare?  Some marine biologist decided to make this thing sound cute.  It’s a little sea bunny. Well, these cute little seahares have had a big population explosion and now they can be found everywhere along the southern California coast from Morro Bay down to Baja California.  It’s not like they have taken over the beach or anything, but you would probably not like to step on one barefoot.

Luckily, unlike all the other indigent sea slugs, these don’t shoot out ink, like squids and octopi, when threatened.  Purple ink. That would get quite messy in the tide pools.

The other thing is, these slugs are very large.  In fact, if you step on one, you might just leave an entire footprint in it.  Gross, I know.  I left in the shoe for scale. Watching this again, it seems that if I had kept the camera running, we’d be watching slug porn.  Or at least slug making out.

Anyway, they aren’t cute like bunnies.  I know, hares are not the same as bunnies, but for the purposes of differentiation from Seahares, go with it.  Here’s a bunny from just up the hill from the slug:

Now that’s a bunny. Hi little bunny!

Here’s another slug’s face, only this one isn’t black. These slugs are all kinds of colors.  I think this one is Caucasian flesh tone.

Um… eww.

So, what have we learned except that the only thing slugs and horns have in common is they are both four letter words, pluralized?  Not a lot, but maybe you like this personal horn section idea?  I think we can get this going with the right people.

Also, slugs may be ugly, but we still like them.  I’m not sure why, but we seem to like strange things, especially in the ocean, and especially when we can still be on land and look at them and not touch them or get bitten by them.

I’m working on An Honorable Death, and right now I’m working on a character who is a slave trader, so I had to research the domestic U.S. slave trade during the Civil War, which is interesting but also depressing to read about, so thanks for the opportunity to share a silly blog post with you.

So what we’ve learned is, if you’re feeling a little down, a nice horn section or encounter with a seahare can really change your perspective.  Have a great week everybody!

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