David Garrett
David Garrett: World-class rock violinist performs live in San Diego via photopin (cc)

I thought you might enjoy the following two videos of David Garrett, performing Paganini Caprice No. 24 and his arrangement of Beethoven The 5th.

I did a post on the gifted and amazing violinist in January 2014 titled "Classical Crossover: The Rock Symphonies of David Garrett."





Gehry's Santa Monica House
Gehry House, II via photopin (cc)

I found out about Frank Gehry in the early 1980s.  A friend showed me his house. On a sunny Saturday afternoon in California, we drove to Santa Monica with the top down.

When we arrived at our destination, my friend slowed the car down to a snail's pace so we wouldn't miss one second of the house.  As we drove by in slo-mo, we leaned forward and stared at every inch of it.  We turned around and did the same thing.  Two more times.

I was astounded at what I saw and unsure of how I felt.  The house was radically different.

In the late 1970s, the Gehrys bought a small bungalow that was built around 1920. They remodeled it to expand the kitchen-dining area and put in skylights to bring natural light into the space.

It was the way in which Gehry did the remodeling that caused a big stir.  The nonconformist architect made a bold departure from traditional residential design, and used raw industrial materials such as corrugated sheet metal, unpainted plywood, and chain-link.
Cubist Window
Gehry House, III via photopin (cc)

Gehry built a new house around the old house and used nontraditional materials that weren't aesthetically pleasing.  He utilized corrugated sheet metal for the facade and sides of the house, installed angled windows a la Cubist style, and placed a chain-link fence on the second floor of a later remodeling.

The materials and the Cubistic influence produced a radical and unconventional look.  Criticism and controversy ensued with his neighbors and other people.

For Gehry it wasn't about aesthetics.  It was about bringing nontraditional materials together and utilizing them in a precise manner.  It was about creating a new approach to residential design.

Because the house was Gehry's personal residence, we weren't able to see the inside.  According to books and research, the interior also went through a transformation.

Although Gehry retained most of the original house, he gutted the interior.  In some places he stripped the walls down to wood studs and joists.  Furthermore, he exposed electrical wiring, light bulbs, and the asphalt floor.

Certain elements from the old house were kept and incorporated into the new design.  One of those elements was the old doors.  They can be seen alongside the new doors, creating a mixture of the old and the new.
Chain-link Fence
Gehry House, IV via photopin (cc)

The Gehrys did more remodeling, adding a second floor for their boys.  They also put in the chain-link fence on the upstairs deck, a lap pool, and converted the garage into a guest house.  The look of the house, inside and out, changed again.

About thirty-four years later, Architect Frank Gehry received the 2012 AIA Twenty-five Year Award for original design of his Santa Monica house and for establishing a new residential design language.

That's not all.  Gehry built a new house and this one is huge and shiny.  But that's for another post.

Works Cited:

Friedman, Mildred.  Frank Gehry: The House.  New York: Rizzoli International 
    Publications, Inc., 2009.

Hoyt, Alex.  "The Tijuana Sausage Factory."  17 May 2012.  Architect.  3 Feb. 
    2015 <http://www.architecturemagazine.com/architects/the-tijuana-

Morticde, Zach.  "Gehry Residence." The American Institute of Architects. 28 
    Jan. 2015 <http://www.aia.org/practicing/awards/2012/twenty-five-year-

Perez, Adelyn.  "Gehry Residence."  Arch Daily.  28 Jan. 2015 



The Homeless Woman and Her Mysterious Baby

There's a homeless woman who occasionally hangs out in a shopping center. She pushes a shopping cart with one hand, and clutches her "baby" swaddled in a blanket with the other.

Tonight she's dressed in a lightweight sweater, a skirt, and flip flops--oblivious to the 60 degree weather.

She circles the parking lot, calm and content.  She doesn't say a word.  Stroking the baby constantly and gently, she holds the baby close to her heart.  Every now and then, she stops the cart and lifts the blanket slightly to gaze at her bundle of joy.  This goes on for hours.

Most people are afraid of her; others are used to her presence.

Sometimes she rummages through the cart and pulls out a coin purse.  Still clutching her baby with one hand, she parks the cart near the door of a fast food restaurant and goes in.  She usually comes out within minutes without the food.

I've seen her several times, at nighttime and daytime.  During the daytime, she's not clutching her baby and seems more coherent.

She's an unusual homeless woman with mental illness on the streets.  She's extremely calm for someone with a disorder.

Even when the police came to escort her out of one of the fast food restaurants, she remained calm and unaffected.

I can only speculate on why she has a "baby."  When she interacts with the baby, there's a display of motherly love.  The feeling is so intense that it's sad and disconcerting.  Perhaps something traumatic or tragic happened in the past involving a baby.  Another reason could be that she just needs someone to love and hold for comfort.  It must be frightening to be a homeless woman on foot. Nighttime can be a terrifying time.

I did find out what was inside the blanket.  It was a popular stuffed animal.

Note: I gave a little more information than I normally do.  I felt it was necessary for the overall picture.  But please know that every effort was made to protect the identity of the homeless person above.



Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1895
oddsock via photopin cc

You see them on the streets.  You hear them talking incessantly to themselves
or shouting obscenities.  You wonder why they don't get treatment, and where are their families?

According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and The Annual Homeless Assessment Report submitted to Congress, there are approximately 610,000 homeless people in America.  An estimated 124,000 of that population suffer from some type of mental illness.

California--the focus of this post--is at the top of that list, with an astonishing homeless population of about 136,800 people.

Another report prepared by a nonprofit named OC Partnership using the 2013 Point-in-Time Assessment, gives a breakdown of the area I'm most familiar with called Orange County.

In Orange County, there are 12,700 homeless people.  Out of that number, an estimated 22 percent have severe mental illnesses.  More than three-quarters of them are unsheltered.

Before you can understand why many people with mental disorders are homeless, it's important to know basic information about the illnesses and the problems of this special group.

The Definition of Mental Illness
The Brain
Ars Electronica via photopin cc
The National Alliance on Mental Illness explains that mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functions.

Although the exact cause of the condition is unknown, research informs us that the disorder may be linked to a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors.

Possible Causes

Some of the possible causes that may contribute to mental illnesses are as follows:
Birth Into Being via photopin cc

Biological Factors
  • Neurotransmitters - Billions of nerve cells in the brain communicate to each other. They send information to the brain and the body through chemicals called neurotransmitters. When these chemicals malfunction or are off balance, they significantly alter mood and behavior.
  • Genetics - Experts believe mental illness tends to run in families. Abnormal genes can be inherited from biological blood relatives and increase the risk of developing the same conditions.  Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, who painted The Scream which appears at the beginning of this post, had mental illness and so did his sister.
  • Prenatal Damage - Some evidence shows that disruption of early fetal brain development, or trauma at the time of birth (such as loss of oxygen to the brain) may cause certain mental conditions.
Psychological Factors

This category includes severe emotional and psychological trauma from childhood or adulthood.  Some examples of these life-changing events are the early loss of a parent accompanied with neglect, traumatic family life, and being a victim of mental or physical abuse.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors, which are mainly exposures to harmful elements while inutero, can have damaging effects.  Viruses, infections, toxins, alcohol or drug are possible causes of various mental disorders.

The Different Types of Mental Illnesses on the Streets

There seems to be two basic types of individuals with mental illnesses on the streets.  The first individual has severe symptoms.  He or she is incoherent, sometimes volatile, doesn't interact with others, and definitely unapproachable. The second individual has moderate symptoms.  This person is more coherent, can interact with others, and functions fairly well.  He or she can manage the symptoms, but will still display episodes of mental instability.

The types of mental illnesses most prevalent on the streets are the three disorders below:
  • Schizophrenia - A serious mental condition, the individual often experiences delusions and cannot think or behave normally.
  • Bipolar Disorder - Recurring episodes of mania and depression are the main symptoms.  The disorder causes dramatic shifts in mood, energy, and the ability to think clearly.  Symptoms can last for one day or months.
  • Major Depression - This type of sustained depression is characterized by feelings of worthlessness and helplessness, appetite disturbances, and insomnia.
Treatment and Family

Mental illnesses are disorders of the brain.  Doctors agree that the disorders are hard to treat and people who have them are hard to reach.

Numerous people do not know they need help or there are resources they can use.  The condition makes them prone to distrust others, react irrationally, and hinders their ability to form and maintain relationships.  They push away caregivers, family, and friends.  Consequently, they land on the streets.

For a family with a loved one who has mental illness, taking care of that person is exhausting and emotionally draining.  Providing care under such stressful and difficult circumstances requires an enormous amount of patience and understanding.  Sometimes it is too much for the family to handle and they cannot provide care.  If that is the case, a trained mental health caregiver with certain knowledge and skills is a good alternate plan for both parties.  But the family should work with the new caregiver to help prevent the loved one from landing on the streets.

There are also other issues the family must deal with such as conservatorship and guardianship matters and the loved one's legal rights.  The loved one can refuse treatment, counseling, and housing. 

Homeless With an Extreme Disadvantage

Surviving homelessness is a 24/7, 365 days a year goal.  Making it through each day is the whole focus of the homeless individual.

When homelessness is coupled with mental illness, it's the worst combination on the streets.  The individual is at a heightened risk for harm, easily taken advantage of, likely to self-medicate with street drugs, land repeatedly in jail or the emergency room, and remain chronically homeless.

Mental illness is treatable, but there is no cure.  The homeless person with a disorder needs continuous treatment, counseling, and housing to stay off the streets.  There are programs and services, but not enough.

Budget cuts and lack of continuous funding for mental health care have been the culprits.

Works Cited:

"2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress."  2013.  25
     Oct. 2014.  <http://www.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/ahar-

"Brain Basics."  28 Oct. 2014.  <http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/educational-

"Diseases and Conditions: Mental Illness."  22 Oct. 2014. 

"Mental Illness and Homelessness."  July 2009.  22 Oct. 2014.

"Neurotransmitters."  28 Oct. 2014.  <http://www.minddisorders.com/Kau-

NAMI.org.  14 Oct. 2014.  <http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?



Image Credit: Jeremy Brooks via photopin cc

For those of you who live in Orange County, CA, or for those of you who want to see what a ten-year plan to end homelessness looks like, here is the link:


Helen Cameron of Jamboree Housing gave me this link.  She was part of a group who wrote the plan.



Terracotta Warriors in Pits
Image Courtesy of Alan J. Stone

Pit 1 - The Infantry

Terracotta Kneeling Archer
Image Courtesy of Alan J. Stone
Pit 1, accidentally discovered by the workers in 1974, is the largest of the pits.  Rectangular in shape, it measures approximately 150,000 square feet, or almost the size of three football fields. This section has the majority of the army--the infantry--containing bowmen and crossbowmen.

In battle formation, rows of unarmored standing archers holding crossbows make up the front line.  Behind them are armored kneeling archers. Between the armored archers are war chariots with horses.

Author and Archaeologist Yuan Zhongyi informs us that one line of warriors firing, together with another line kneeling to reload, create a fast moving vanguard and a steady stream of potent fire.

Pit 2 - The Calvary

Archaeologists discovered Pit 2 in 1976 slightly north of Pit 1.  It is L-shaped and half the size of the first pit.  This section is the calvary comprised of largely archers carrying crossbows.  Saddled horses with riders carrying bows and melee weapons are also a part of this group.

As in Pit 1, the unarmored warriors in the front rows are standing; the warriors behind them are kneeling.

The main force of this section is composed of eighty war chariots whose purpose is to overwhelm the enemy.  Almost all of the chariots have two warriors and a charioteer--except for six chariots that each have a warrior, a charioteer, and an officer.

Pit 3 - The Command Post

Pit 3, located east of Pit 2, was also discovered by archaeologists in 1976.
War Chariot With Horses
Image Credit: JULIAN MASON via photopin cc

Smaller than the other two and U-shaped, it is the command post.  Inside this section are sixty-eight warriors, some of which stand in a face-to-face formation near high-ranking officers as if to protect them.  There are also nine armored generals and a grand chariot with horses. Researchers believe that the grand chariot may have been for the commander of the army.

Terracotta General
Image Credit: PeterThoeny via photopin cc

The generals of this group wear bright colored scarves, tassels tied to their armors, different headgear, and complex hairstyles. They carry no weapons, ride in chariots, and beat out signal codes on large drums to the warriors.

The Mausoleum and the Burial Chamber
Burial Mound for First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi
Image Credit: By Wit cc

Many archaeologists presume that the terracotta army is outside of the mausoleum to stop intruders from invading the tomb of the First Emperor. After all, it holds everything the First Emperor wants in the afterlife.

The mausoleum or tomb complex, which is a tall four-sided pyramid with three stepped levels, lies deep under a mound covered with dirt, trees, and bushes. Because soil samples on the mound indicate high levels of mercury, no excavations have been done on the tomb to date.  For the past four decades, all excavations have been performed in various sites around Mount Li.

However, due to ground penetrating radar, knowledge acquired through excavation findings and ancient writings, the following is what experts think is inside the tomb complex and the First Emperor's burial chamber.

Inside the Underground City

Sitting on a 22 square mile area, the tomb complex is enclosed by thick double walls that are 13 feet high.  Inside the complex are a palace with courtyard buildings, artifacts, jewels, coins, and numerous burial places.

In the center of the palace is the burial chamber for the First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi.  

Ancient writings inform us that the First Emperor's chamber is made of bronze and is the size of a football field.  Within the chamber is his bronze coffin surrounded by liquid mercury.  Above the coffin on the ceiling are pearl stars in the night sky.  On the floor is a map of China with sculpted mountains, plains, mercury rivers, and mercury seas.

Moreover, candles of whale oil burn for 24 hours to illuminate the elaborate resting place.

The First Emperor's Last Wishes

Like many ancient burial procedures, the First Emperor did not go in the afterlife alone.  Treasures, artifacts, chariots, and horses were interred with the deceased. This was common practice.  But for the first time in Chinese history, there was a new addition to the list--human victims.

According to Historian Sima Qian, a large number of human victims were buried with the First Emperor to either protect a secret or to accompany him. Craftsmen, construction workers, construction supervisors, high officials, rich individuals, and concubines were forced into the tomb.  Anyone who had knowledge of the tomb's construction, location, or contents was buried alive.

And to further protect his interest, the First Emperor ordered hidden crossbows to automatically strike down anyone who entered the tomb.

China's Controversial Yet Pivotal Figure

The First Emperor will always be remembered as a controversial, tyrannical figure. His harsh, unpopular decisions cannot be overlooked.

But First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi was also the man who unified and created China. The man who caused incredible growth and positive significant changes. The man who accomplished more for China than any other emperor in Chinese history.

Works Cited

Clements, Jonathan.  The First Emperor of China.  United Kingdom: Sutton
    Publishing Limited, 2006, 162-167.

Jarus, Owen.  "Terracotta Warriors: An Army for the Afterlife."  13 Dec. 2012.
    Retrieved 13 Aug. 2014.

Lofthouse, Lloyd.  "Qin Shi Huangdi - The Man who unified China."  12 June 
    Retrieved 1 Aug. 2014.

Moskowitz, Clara.  "The Secret Tomb of China's 1st Emperor: Will We Ever See
     Inside?"  17 Aug. 2012.
     Retrieved 4 Aug. 2014.

Woods, Frances.  China's First Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors.  New York:
     St. Martin's Press, 2007, 20-132.

Zhongyi, Yuan.  China's Terracotta Army and the First Emperor's Mausoleum.
     New Jersey: Homa & Sekey Books, 2011.



First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi
Image Credit: Erin Van V via photopin cc

Not much information can be found on the controversial and impressive figure of ancient China, First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi.  His accomplishments were unsurpassed in Chinese history.

During his reign, First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi (pronounced "chin shu hwang dee") conquered six warring states and unified China; built an infrastructure network of roads, canals, and bridges; erected the Great Wall; abolished the feudal system and replaced it with a civil administration; created a single written language; and standardized weights, measures, and coinage.

Perhaps the major reason for the insufficient information stemmed from the First Emperor who was a ruthless, tyrannical ruler.  Driven by power and domination, he demanded obedience and suppressed free thought.  He even made harsh, political decisions.

Scholars or people who opposed him were censored.  Books were burned.  Under his direct order, ten thousand prisoners were beheaded.

People either admired him or despised him, and many were afraid to speak his name.

The main source of information on his reign came from a book titled Records of the Great Historian by Sima Qian.  He included a biography that he wrote 100 years after the First Emperor's death, which was based on stories and legends.

The Man Behind the Throne

Born in the state of Qin in 259 B.C., the First Emperor was named Ying Zheng. According to Qian, he was not the son of the King of Qin.  His mother was a concubine who had a secret affair with a minister.  Unknown to the king, she was pregnant before she married him.

When Zheng was 13-years-old, the King of Qin died and Zheng took the throne.  It was also at this time when Zheng started building his mausoleum.  Approximately 720,000 laborers toiled on his new palace and tomb for 36 years.

Throughout the next two-and-a-half decades, his army defeated all of the six independent states and in 221 B.C., Zheng took control of the states and created China.  This was such a monumental achievement that he declared himself the First Emperor and changed his name to Qin Shi Huangdi.

"Qin" was the name of his state.  "Shi" meant first.  "Huangdi" meant emperor.

As the First Emperor approached middle age, he began to feel paranoid about death.  He worried about his mortality and went on a mission to find a way to prolong his life.

In ancient China, it was believed that mercury increased longevity, so the First Emperor ingested mercury pills that were made for him.  Instead of prolonging his life, the mercury pills eventually destroyed his nervous system and brain.

At the age of 49, the First Emperor died and was buried in his mausoleum at the foot of Mount Li.

The Terracotta Army

Terracotta Warriors
Image Credit: wit via photopin cc

In 1974, workers from the Xiyang village were digging a well when they unearthed fragments of a clay statue. What they had discovered was a terracotta warrior from a massive army designed to protect the First Emperor in the afterlife.

Since the discovery 40 years ago, archaeologists have unearthed and reassembled approximately 2,000 life-size warriors out of an estimated 8,000, giving us just an introduction of the First Emperor's mighty army.

Divided into sections with distinct duties and distinct ranks, the warriors of the army vary greatly in their appearances. Duty as well as rank are reflected in their clothes, hairstyles, and armors--if they are wearing one.

The terracotta army is located outside of the mausoleum about one mile northeast of the tomb complex near Xi'an, China.  They are enclosed in a gigantic hangar, stand on brick floors, and occupy three pits.

These pits give archaeologists strong indications of the army's strength and form of strategy.