Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Monday, February 08, 2016

An End to the Carnival? Maybe?

Well, tomorrow is the first primary of this election cycle. Finally! I was amused by the fact that the New Hampshire voting is taking place on Fat Tuesday, the traditional ending to the Mardi Gras or Carnival season. After that comes the rigor and intensity of Lent. It will be time for sacrifice and discipline and introspection within the Christian community for 40 days, excluding Sundays, of course.

What if we could hope that Mardi Gras New Hampshire (how's that for an oxymoron!) is the end to the carnival we have been witnessing for the past year or more? What if the carnival ends tomorrow? What if, after this, we get down to issues, debate reality, stop posturing, deflate the rhetoric and think about the country instead of ideology? Yeah, I know...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one
-John Lennon
What are the odds? Pretty slim I would say. Up until recently the Democratic candidates have been doing okay with all that.  Until the Establishment discovered that Bernie Sanders really does have support. Out comes the name-calling, innuendo, and craziness.

The GOP on the other hand has been at it like that for a long time. If there is an extreme right-wing answer to a question, one of the leaders will give it. Marco Rubio spins into the moderate of the leading candidates. Donald Trump is looking for a way to get out on his own terms. Ted Cruz is still looking for someone who knows him to say they like him. The Establishment-type candidates are sinking lower and lower.

Yes, some of this is the media. But the GOP candidates are as much to blame. When they make statements that are often proven to be false and then continue to reaffirm them, they are not being up-front with anyone. When one refuses to be in a debate because the moderator may ask unfair or tough questions, we can guess it is about image and not the issues.

What's New Hampshire's track record? Fairly good, actually. The GOP winner in NH has gone on to the nomination 12 out of 15 times; the Democrat- 9 out of 15. If Hillary and Cruz win tomorrow, their chances will drastically increase since they also won in Iowa. (Winning both is a big deal historically.)

But this election, so far, has been setting its own standards of "history." One commentary I read online even sees this election as one where we may be seeing the first major realignment of American political parties in a long time. The anti-establishment element on both sides is, he says, quite significant. (I didn't save the location. Sorry. Will continue to look for it.)

Not to say the sideshow elements of this carnival will end after tomorrow. Unless there are two clear, decisive victories, some of that will continue. Any shift in "who's leading" after tomorrow may continue more aspects of the carnival. But, I have the hunch that in all reality the fun and games are over. Mardi Gras comes to an end and the hard work will happen. Super Tuesday is a few weeks away and that will mean lots of intensity.

My guesses? Very slim win by Cruz; larger win for Sanders.

The repercussions? Back to work guys. Stop strutting down Bourbon St. and let us see who you are.

Mardi Gras I


Sunday, February 07, 2016

Last Sunday of Epiphany

The Transfiguration

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Mardi Gras Fun

Here's my new video- a celebration of Mardi Gras for 2016. Pictures and video from Fairhope, Orange Beach, and Gulf Shores, Alabama, and naturally, New Orleans.

Enjoy.



Thursday, February 04, 2016

The Tuning Slide: Observe and Imitate

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Try to find the best teachers,
listen to the finest playing, and
try to emulate that.
Be true to the music.
-- Wynton Marsalis

I have been reading Words Without Music, an interesting memoir/autobiography by modern American composer Philip Glass. It is a good insight into the creative process of one remarkable composer and how he developed into the person he has become. Reading it with an openness to seeing creativity develop is worth the time. At one point he is describing his working with sculptor Richard Serra. Glass spent several years working with Serra as a "day-job" to support his composing. He expressed to Serra one day that he would like to learn how to draw to which Serra replied that he could do that by teaching glass how to "see" and then he would be able to draw.

That was an eye-opening insight for Glass. He reports the following thought that flowed from it:
Drawing is about seeing, dancing is about moving, writing (narrative and especially poetry) is about speaking, and music is about hearing. I next realized that music training was absolutely about learning to hear - going completely past everyday listening. p. 223 [emphasis added]
This reminded me of an article about Clark Terry on the Jazz Advice website. Terry's three steps to improvising are:
Imitation, Assimilation, Innovation.
That simple. (Yeah. Right!) They define imitation this way:
Listening. Learning lines by ear. Transcribing solos. Absorbing a player’s feel, articulation, and time.
The same as Glass's insight- learning to hear. Paying attention.

We've all heard someone say (or have said it ourselves) that they just don't "get" or "understand" that music.The first time you hear music from a completely different culture based on scales and rhythm that is "foreign" to us, we scratch our heads in wonder. What that means on some level is that we are not listening or able to listen to the music as it is meant to be heard. Our own brains don't expect it to sound that way.

Learning to hear. Paying attention.

But we can keep working at it.  We can keep listening. We can train ourselves to listen differently. Too often we expect things to be just like they have been before. Or in a way that we are used to. Glass himself faced a great deal of criticism and even hatred for the type of "odd" music he was writing. When he started in the 50s and 60s "modern music" was considered the music of the 1900s- 1920s or so. People came on stage and attempted to stop his concerts! They weren't able to hear- and therefore made a judgement about its quality and even its definition as music.

I would go beyond listening to learn to improvise. I think it is essential to being a musician of any type of music. Hearing what it sounds like; hearing what it feels like. Then picking up our instrument and trying to imitate it. The more we listen, the more we are open to hearing, the greater our musical skill will become and the deeper our understanding of music will go.

What this boils down to is going beyond the music theory and an intellectual understanding. The website Brain Pickings has a post from the 1982 book by author and composer Elliot Schwartz Music: Ways of Listening. The book outlines seven essential skills of learning to listen in this age where, he believes, we have been “dulled by our built-in twentieth-century habit of tuning out.”

The first skill is:
  • Develop your sensitivity to music. Try to respond esthetically to all sounds, from the hum of the refrigerator motor or the paddling of oars on a lake, to the tones of a cello or muted trumpet. When we really hear sounds, we may find them all quite expressive, magical and even ‘beautiful.’ On a more complex level, try to relate sounds to each other in patterns: the successive notes in a melody, or the interrelationships between an ice cream truck jingle and nearby children’s games.
It's all about hearing. The other six skills Schwartz explains help us guide our learning and our hearing, going deeper and broader.
  • Time is a crucial component of the musical experience. Develop a sense of time as it passes: duration, motion, and the placement of events within a time frame.
  • Develop a musical memory. While listening to a piece, try to recall familiar patterns, relating new events to past ones and placing them all within a durational frame.
  • If we want to read, write or talk about music, we must acquire a working vocabulary.
  • Try to develop musical concentration, especially when listening to lengthy pieces.
  • Try to listen objectively and dispassionately. Concentrate upon ‘what’s there,’ and not what you hope or wish would be there.
  • Bring experience and knowledge to the listening situation. That includes not only your concentration and growing vocabulary, but information about the music itself: its composer, history and social context. Such knowledge makes the experience of listening that much more enjoyable.
This isn't just about music, of course. The relation to writing, or cooking, or being good at your job can be easily made. From the Brain Pickings post:
Perhaps most interestingly, you can substitute “reading” for “listening” and “writing” for “music,” and the list would be just as valuable and insightful, and just as needed an antidote to the dulling of our modern modes of information consumption.
Go for it. Listen!
Then, really hear.
Then imitate.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Calendar of Saints: Dorchester Chaplains

Periodically I post a quote from a saint from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. I connect it with a picture that I have taken as a kind of poster. These are meant to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Dorchester Chaplains:
Lieutenant George Fox, Lieutenant Alexander D. Goode,
Lieutenant Clark V. Poling, Lieutenant John P. Washington,
February 3, 1943


The Four Chaplains were four United States Army chaplains who gave their lives to save other soldiers during the sinking of the USAT Dorchester during World War II. They helped other soldiers board lifeboats and gave up their own life jackets when the supply ran out; 230 of the 904 men aboard the ship were rescued. Life jackets offered little protection from hypothermia which killed most men in the water. Water temperature was 34 °F (1 °C) and air temperature was 36 °F (2 °C). By the time additional rescue ships arrived "...hundreds of dead bodies were seen floating on the water, kept up by their life jackets."

The chaplains, who all held the rank of lieutenant, were the Methodist Reverend George L. Fox, the Jewish Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, the Roman Catholic Priest John P. Washington and the Reformed Church in America Reverend Clark V. Poling. They were sailing on the USAT Dorchester troop transport on February 3, 1943, when the vessel, traveling in convoy, was torpedoed by the German submarine U-223 in the North Atlantic. As the vessel sank, the four chaplains calmed the frightened soldiers and sailors, aided in the evacuation of the ship, and helped guide wounded men to safety. The chaplains also gave up their own life jackets.

-Link

Composer James Swearingen has written a concert piece in memory of the Dorchester Chaplains. Here is an audio file of the piece. It captures the story in music.



Monday, February 01, 2016

A 50-year Memory: Video for February

Three songs for four weeks in February 1966.
Pop and rock and sexy.

February 5 and 12 My Love - Petula Clark
February 19 Lightnin' Strikes - Lou Christie
February 26 These Boots Are Made For Walkin' - Nancy Sinatra

So let's go with Nancy....



Sunday, January 31, 2016

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Illogic and Paradox

In the past week on Facebook I have seen

  • one post that says that Hitler was a left-wing liberal (like our American liberals) because he used the word socialist. (History: Nazi=National Socialist). 
  • another post that likens Sanders to the Soviets with the hammer and sickle prominently displayed because he, of course, says he is a socialist. (History: USSR=Union of Soviet Socialist Republics).
  • I have now seen that socialism is BOTH extremes of brutal regimes in Europe in the 20th Century. Therefore socialism is brutal and dictatorial.
NOT history: Socialism = brutal dictatorships.
NOT history: Democracy and socialism are enemies.

Only hatred and demonizing can rally the supporters? Only un-truths and illogical parallels along with a re-writing of history can win elections?

God help us.

Enough of a Horse Race

I have been watching the horse race and carnival sideshow we are generously calling the Presidential Election Campaign. All anyone seems to be interested in is:

  • Who's ahead? 
  • What are the polls saying? 
  • Can anyone beat Trump? 
  • Is Cruz that awful a person? 
  • Is Hillary going to tank again? 
  • Can Sanders be a socialist and still win?
That last question is as close to the issues as anyone in the press will go. And that's nothing but pulling a word out that will raise concerns and issues with voters. I am saddened, afraid, and downright upset about the whole process so far.

I know I have mentioned here before that I have been interested in politics since 1956 when, at age 8, my family's support for Adlai Stevenson was in  the minority in our north central Pennsylvania town. Politics hooked me as something interesting and important. The campaign of John F. Kennedy in 1960 settled my political addiction once and for all. I ended up a political science (government) major in college. I am a believer in voting rights being as important constitutionally important as gun rights or freedom of speech and the press.

In my study of history I also know that our campaigns have often been rabble-rousing affairs. The infamous John Adams-Thomas Jefferson election being among the slimiest, at least as far as name-calling and general truth-stretching.  In some ways, then, this particular election cycle has "fine pedigree" in our early history.

But I am not aware of any election cycle that could be considered as amateurish, mean, and so far off center as this one is. At least not at the presidential election level. There have been incompetent candidates at times. Some of them even got elected. But this one seems to be truly unique- one of a kind.
  • When issues are discussed, they result in sound bites that call for carpet-bombing of women and children or having Mexico pay for a wall to keep their citizens in. 
  • A reporter tells the story of how in most Trump rallies he points at the enclosure in the back where the media and reporters are kept and the crowd boos. Yet, it is that very media who is reporting and keeping him on top. 
  • A conservative magazine comes out with an issue of essay about why Trump isn't right for America.  
  • On the fringes someone has come up with the great view that Hitler was a left-wing liberal since he was a "socialist."  Therefore Bernie Sanders is like Hitler.
The party establishment of both parties is uncertain. Party hacks, both Democrat and Republican are afraid that if the non-establishment candidates get nominated they will lose. The political process has been hijacked by several different factors.
  • Anger
  • From the end of the 2008 election cycle, anger has been at the bottom of almost everything from the GOP. Hints of it have shown up before, but this is beyond anything we have seen in a long time. The extremely virulent opposition to Obama's presidency has been so deeply rooted in those against him they have wanted him to fail so they could take over. If he had succeeded- unthinkable to them!
  • Social media
  • What plays on social media? What gets attention? The mainstream media has been as much at fault in this as has been the biased media of Fox or MSNBC. Add the easily available presence of all kinds of opinions on Facebook and the Internet and you have an opening for any and all opinions to be expressed. Of course, most are preaching to their own kind, but their presence- and coverage in the press- only goes to flame the anger. No- I am not saying that we should limit any of these. Perhaps we need to discover that these views are the extremes- unwilling to compromise at any time with anybody. And that is not how democracy works.
  • Money
  • The Koch brothers are only the visible sign of the invisible evil of an oligarchy at work. Since Citizens United, corporate money has dominated. Here, from Wikipedia, is a way of looking at it:
    Plutocracy is a form of oligarchy and defines a society ruled or controlled by the small minority of the wealthiest citizens. The first known use of the term was in 1652. Unlike systems such as democracy, capitalism, socialism or anarchism, plutocracy is not rooted in an established political philosophy.
    Actually we seem to have developed two sides of this- the liberal plutocracy and the conservative plutocracy. These are the ones who fund and support the established orders. They were deprived of some of their historic power starting with Teddy Roosevelt's progressive reforms in the GOP in the early 20th Century and Franklin Roosevelt's with the Democrats in the 1930s and 40s. They have been working hard to gain it back- and are succeeding. They have convinced the greater population that "trickle-down" economics works and that "job-creators" deserve breaks in order to create jobs. Again, this is happening on both sides of the political spectrum. Part of the appeal of a Trump or a Sanders is that they present themselves as outside this system of support.
  • And did I mention anger and hate?
  • Add hate to the anger and you have a dangerous mixture. I would even go so far as to say racism is the final straw that has broken the political process.No one will ever convince me that the opposition to Obama's presidency was not fanned by racism. That does NOT mean that all of us whites are racists. Many who opposed Obama were not- and are not- racist. But there is an undercurrent of racism- systemic racism- that has been at work which then pulls in the interest of those who may truly be racist. I believe it took the election of a "liberal" African-American to bring it out. I also believe that some of the "birther" crap about Cruz stems from the same underlying Euro-centrism. Rubio as another Hispanic and Sanders as Jewish will face it if nominated.
So, in the next couple weeks we will see Iowa and then New Hampshire play a role far beyond their place in the American political scene. Anything can happen, of course, in either state. But it will not be based on substantive issues. Not at this point. Everything is too raw. We need some perspective, which has been sadly missing so far. I don't see it as getting any better.

Nor do I have any idea who will end up as the nominee of either party. Sanders, at this moment, has as good a chance as Hillary, who is on a potentially razor-thin edge. Trump and Cruz are certainly the most likely front runners, at this moment. I hope and pray that the tenor of this campaign will change, though history keeps me quite hopeless about that outcome.  But I also remember that Pat Robertson and Mike Huckabee have both won the Iowa caucuses in the past.

I have hunch it is going to be quite a ride.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Calendar of Saints: Thomas Aquinas

Periodically I post a quote from a saint from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. I connect it with a picture that I have taken as a kind of poster. These are meant to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.


Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274)
Priest, Friar, and Theologian
January 28




Thomas Aquinas was an Italian Dominican friar and Catholic priest who was an immensely influential philosopher, theologian and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism. He was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology and the father of Thomism. His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy developed or opposed his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law, metaphysics, and political theory. Unlike many currents in the Church of the time, Thomas embraced several ideas put forward by Aristotle—whom he called "the Philosopher"—and attempted to synthesize Aristotelian philosophy with the principles of Christianity.Furthermore, Thomas is distinguished for his Eucharistic hymns, which form a part of the Church's liturgy.[8]

The Catholic Church honors Thomas Aquinas as a saint and regards him as the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood, and indeed the highest expression of both natural reason and speculative theology.

-Link

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Tuning Slide- The Inner Game (Part 1)

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

People ask me how I make music. I tell them I just step into it.
It's like stepping into a river and joining the flow.
Every moment in the river has its song.
― Michael Jackson

I have referred in the past to something called "The Inner Game." It began when W. Timothy Gallwey wrote a book in 1974 called The Inner Game of Tennis. Other books on the same theme followed including The Inner Game of Golf, The Inner Game of Work, and, by Barry Green, The Inner Game of Music. The overview blurb to the tennis book said it is
a revolutionary program for overcoming the self-doubt, nervousness, and lapses of concentration that can keep a player from winning.
The Inner Game Website says
Instead of serving up technique, it concentrated on the fact that, as Gallwey wrote, “Every game is composed of two parts, an outer game and an inner game.” The former is played against opponents, and is filled with lots of contradictory advice; the latter is played not against, but within the mind of the player, and its principal obstacles are self-doubt and anxiety. Gallwey’s revolutionary thinking, built on a foundation of Zen thinking and humanistic psychology, was really a primer on how to get out of your own way to let your best game emerge. It was sports psychology before the two words were pressed against each other and codified into an accepted discipline

Barry Green decided in the mid-1980s to write the first book about the Inner Game that was not about sports. Instead he applied it to music. Gallwey commented in the introduction that with both sports and music we use the word "play" for things that take a lot of discipline. In music as in sports, "overteaching or overcontrol can lead to fear and self doubt." Hence the techniques and philosophy of the Inner Game work equally well.

Green tells us then:
The primary discovery of the Inner Game is that, especially in our culture of achievement-oriented activities, human beings significantly get in their own way. The point of the Inner Game of sports or music is always the same -- to reduce mental interferences that inhibit the full expression of human potential. (Page 7)
We learn in the inner game that there are two "selves" that can be at work in our heads- Self 1 and Self 2. These are not psychological states, personality traits, the conscious and unconscious, right-brain and left-brain, mind and body, or neocortex vs. reptilian brain. They are brain processes that are judged by their impact, the outcome. Simply put by Gallwey and Green:
  • If it interferes with your potential, it is Self 1. 
  • If it enhances your potential, it is Self 2.
Both Self 1 and Self 2 can access the brain's conscious and unconscious resources, utilize the right- and left-brain styles, or whatever. It's all about the results. (See Green, pp. 16-17)

Gallwey came up with something called The Performance Equation. Green says it this way.
The basic truth is that our performance of any task depends as much on the extent to which we interfere with our abilities as it does on those abilities themselves. This can be expressed as a formula:

P = p - i

In this equation P refers to Performance, which we define as the result you achieve - what you actually wind up feeling, achieving and learning, Similarly, p stands for potential, defined as your innate ability -- what you are naturally capable of. And i means interference - you capacity to get in you own way.

Most people try to improve their performance (P) by increasing their potential (p) through practicing and learning new skills.

The Inner Game approach, on the other hand, is to reduce interference (i) at the same time that potential (p) is being trained -- and the result is that our actual performance comes closer to our true potential. (Green, pp. 23 - 24)
He then applies Self 1 and Self 2 to the equation:
  • Self 1 is our interference. It contains our concept about how things should be, our judgements and associations. It is particularly fond of the words 'should' and 'shouldn't', and often sees things in terms of what "could have been".
  • Self 2 is the vast reservoir of potential within each one of us. It contains our natural talents and abilities, and is a virtually unlimited resource that we cab tap and develop. Left to its own devices, it performs with gracefulness and ease. (Green, p. 28)
Which is, naturally, what we all want as musicians. To be able to play with gracefulness and ease is quite a goal. We all know those moments when it has happened. We also know those many moments when it didn't. Sadly, we often let those less than graceful moments command what we do and how we feel.

When that happens, Self 1 is in full command.

But Green and Gallwey believe that it is possible to work toward a greater role for Self 2 in our lives, and especially in our music.
Inner Game techniques can reduce the effects of self-interference and guide us toward an ideal state of being. This state makes it easier for us to perform at our potential by rousing our interest, increasing our awareness and teaching us to discover and trust our built-in resources and abilities. It is a state in which we are alert, relaxed, responsive and focused. Gallwey refers to it as a state of 'relaxed concentration', and calls it the 'master skill' of the Inner Game. (Green, p. 35)
That's the introduction to the Inner Game. Simply and concisely it will be a way for us to empower Self 2. Since Self 2 has the same access to our experiences, training, desires, and dreams, it becomes the source of our own empowerment and growth in our skills. It will assist us in dealing with the interference we experience from Self 1.

Of course we have to identify Self 1 when it is taking over. We have to hear that voice and know that it is getting in the way of us doing what we can do.

So for the time being, just become more aware of how your Self 1 voice gets in the way of you doing what you are able to do. Become more able to identify it, even when it makes sense.

In the back of my head, for example, I have an image of an old trumpet player I knew once upon a time. When I knew him he was probably about the same age I am today, maybe even younger. He was not an accomplished musician. He enjoyed playing, I think, but he had trouble keeping up. His image has always been there in my head as to what happens to amateur trumpet players as they age.

Or, as Self 1 tells me, as I, myself, age.

Self 2 has learned that this is false. Very false. I mentioned Herb Alpert's age when I saw him in concert back in October. I have more than a decade to get to that. The same as with one of the participants in last year's Shell Lake Big Band Camp. So I have set Self 1 aside over this past year and went on as if Self 2 were the truth. I am glad I did.

This, as I say over and  over, applies to all of our lives. Self 1 is our inner critic for whom nothing will ever be right. Self 1 will always find the faults, the imperfections, the extreme lack of possibilities. Don't let Self 1 get in the way of your joy.


The Inner Game of Music Website

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Playing Around the World: Making a Ripple

Came across this and realized I didn't post it when it was put up on Playing for Change. So here it is. Some wonderful "guest" musicians as well as the around the world people, too.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Calendar of Saints: Philips Brooks

Periodically I post a quote from a saint from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. I connect it with a picture that I have taken as a kind of poster. These are meant to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Phillips Brooks (1835 – 1893)
Bishop and Preacher
January 23



Phillips Brooks is best known today as the author of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Former generations, however, accounted him the greatest American preacher of the nineteenth century (and not for lack of other candidates). His sermons are still read.

He was born in Boston in 1835 and educated at Harvard and at Virginia Theological Seminary. After ten years of ministry at two churches in Philadelphia, he returned to Boston in 1869 and was rector of Trinity Church there until 1891. He was then elected Bishop of Massachusetts, and died two years later.

-Link

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Tuning Slide- Be Crazy- Crazy Good!

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
Those who dance were thought to be insane 
by those who could not hear the music.

I know- I ended last week's post with that same quote. Well, consider it the theme, the phrase that ties last week to this week. It is a segue into what is like a coda to last week. For when I was finished typing it for last week, I could hear the unmistakable voice of camp director, Mr. Baca:
Are you crazy?
and the response, as always
Yeah- crazy good!
Not sure what to say about that I Googled the phrase "crazy good" and ended up at the online Urban Dictionary where I found:
a. Awesome, amazing, cool, stunning, super cool
Knowing the humility for which we trumpet players are so well known (?), that made sense. Hey- this is about being "crazy good." Awesome, amazing, etc. It is beyond just plain good. Man, it's crazy good!

But that's not what the quote is about. It's more than being especially good, talented or stunning. And sure enough, right after that first definition was another:
b. The feelings following an enlightenment; typically in creative work (elevation of work of art, idea, ability, level of happiness), where one is playing with and extending further. As the paradigm has shifted, others may express the genuine feeling you have actually gone crazy, however the opposite could be true and the path to awesomeness is being cemented.
Wow. Now that I have had happen. A moment of enlightenment, that old "Aha!" moment, leads down a path that you had never thought you would be following. The idea or ability or level of happiness is beyond what we have thought to be "normal." And that can feel like crazy!

Isn't that what musicians are looking to do- go beyond the "normal," find the new idea, the new experience, even in the song you have played hundreds or more times?  You finish playing that exercise in Clarke or the Etude in Concone and you find yourself sitting in silence. Something has just happened. You can't explain it, but you know it is real. People may look at those hours of practicing studies from the 19th Century and look at you and say,
What? Are you crazy?
and you smile and say,
Yeah- Crazy  good!
Or you are sick and tired of that piece your band plays every gig. There isn't even a place of solos or improvising. Sure, the group plays it well. You should after how many times you have played it. But then there's that moment when the audience stands and applauds and you realize you have just played it in a way that you never remember before. Sure, same notes, same rhythms. But the groove? The expression? The tightness of the group? You smile to yourself and say,
Yeah- Crazy good.
Or there's that memory of that place on the west facing lookout at the park. There's room for maybe 20 or 30 people- and the place is full. It is almost sunset on a perfect day. People are chatting and discussing everything from the weather to politics to how to keep the kids quiet long enough for you to see the sun set.

You didn't need to worry. As the sun sinks into t he western horizon and the colors begin to grow and deepen, the crowd speaks more softly. Even the children are entranced by this every day event as daylight lessens and shadows lengthen. You realize that the whole group is now silent. Adults and children in awe of one of the most common events on the planet. In awe as if there has never been one like it- and never will be again.

Try to explain that to someone who may not be able to get it, who doesn't hear the music of the sun or the birds in the forest behind you. Try to describe what it means to one of those overly logical-types who want answers.
What? Are you crazy or something?

Yeah- crazy good!
The past few weeks I have written about the language of music and the ability to speak it, live it, understand it, play it. It is a wordless language that makes no sense to someone who has never experienced it. It is tough enough for most of us on those days when the lip won't stay on the right note, the brain forgets how to play a "G major" scale, and you run out of breath half-way through every phrase.

But we keep coming back because we know the language and we know it works. Not every time, not every day, but when it happens, we are transformed.

So, I will end by again quoting Mr. Baca:
Let's get crazy!
Crazy good!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

In Memoriam: Glenn Frey


Monday, January 18, 2016

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Friday, January 15, 2016

My Top Ten

As I said last week, I have been posting pictures to a couple sites. Without going into the details for fear of being told I'm seeking for votes for my pictures, I thought I would post what have been among my Top Ten pictures over the past month. I am actually proud of what has been chosen. But I am also surprised by what is interesting to people and what isn't. Some of my own favorites are down toward the bottom of the Top 100+. Guess that shows that taste is in each person's perspective and beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.

Any way here are the Top 10.

#10. Spring in Rochester
# 9 Catching Surf in Clearwater, FL
# 8 Cones and Spring Color


#7 Biking Bridge Park Rapids, MN
#6 Rochester Peace Plaza at Christmas

#5 Heavy Surf Gulf Shores, AL

#4 Quote (Gulf Shores, AL)

#3 Fall Leaves Great Bluff Park, Minnesota

#2 Pelican Take-off Gulf Shores, AL



I have to say that #1 is also one of my all-time favorites, taken almost 13 years ago now.

#1 Bridge in Winter, Mt. Morris Camp and Conference Center, Wisconsin

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Before He Was Famous

Hunter S. Thompson was one of the off-beat characters of the late-20th Century. He started- and personified "Gonzo Journalism."

Gonzo journalism is a style of journalism that is written without claims of objectivity, often including the reporter as part of the story via a first-person narrative. The word "gonzo" is believed to have been first used in 1970 to describe an article by Hunter S. Thompson, who later popularized the style. It is an energetic first-person participatory writing style in which the author is a protagonist, and it draws its power from a combination of social critique and self-satire.
--Wikipedia
Over the past few years I came across some information that linked Thompson to my small, north central Pennsylvania home town. Last year when doing some research on some memoirs I discovered even more about that. Here is what I wrote at the time.

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The world of the 1950s and early 1960s was, in small town America still the “old world”. The soldiers had come home, America was prosperous and lots of babies were being born. Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, was as typical of that world as any other place. If you were looking for excitement and change, challenge and movement, this was not the place. The world of Central Pennsylvania was still as it had been for decades.

Perhaps no one expressed that better than future Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. In 1957, fresh out of the Air Force and looking to become a professional, Thompson found a job working as sports editor for the Jersey Shore Herald, a daily newspaper whose office was across the street from Lehman Pharmacy. He was 20 years old with no college degree. His resume said he had worked for the Command Courier, the newspaper of Eglin Air Force Base at Fort Walton Beach, Florida. He moved into an apartment four blocks from my grandfather’s house.

Jersey Shore, he discovered was not the (New) Jersey shore, as he had originally thought. He wrote a letter to a friend that clearly explained his no fear but a lot of loathing of Jersey Shore.
So you think Iceland is bad: ha! Let me tell you about north-central Pennsylvania.

There were three red lights in metropolitan Fort Walton: there are two in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania. There were four laundry and dry cleaning establishments in Fort Walton: there are NONE in Jersey Shore. There were innumerable bars in Fort Walton: there are two in Jersey Shore. There were at least four good eating establishments in Fort Walton: there are but three small grills in Jersey Shore. There were women (whores, lesbians, and divorcees, if you must) in Fort Walton: the only women under forty in Jersey Shore go to high school. There were beaches and water and sand dunes and sea gulls and boats and bays in Fort Walton: there are mountains of coal dust, dirty old people, ancient wrecks of houses, and "True Confessions" magazines in Jersey Shore.

And now you're going to ask just what in the hell I'm doing in Jersey Shore, Pa. I know... and I'm ready with a quick answer I'm having a nightmare.
To say he was unhappy would be an understatement. But it’s not that he was unwelcome. On the Internet I found a scan of his press pass signed by the Chief of Police who I knew. Thompson even explains in his letter about what the people of the town thought.
These nightmare people think I’m a “nice young man” who’s come to settle in their community and make it a home. They call me “Mr. Thompson” and “sir” and insist that I attend the Lions’ Club meetings, become an Elk, and join a bowling team. They invite me to their homes for dinner and tell me that the only thing wrong with America is the fact that we’ve given all our money to foreigners.
He went on to briefly describe his work as sports editor. “Half of one entire page has to be local bowling scores – a goddamn list of people’s names…If a man really wanted to bury himself, I can think of no better place to do it than in Jersey Shore.”

Obviously the rural, small town America was not for Thompson. Staying in Jersey Shore was not an option. But the Hunter S. Thompson that Johnny Depp would one day portray on screen was at work. He left Jersey Shore after a few weeks, but only in a Hunter S. Thompson way. Here is a description from an online blog.
He had taken out a colleague’s daughter; the father was kind enough to allow the young couple access to his '49 Chevy. Sure enough Hunter got the man's prized possession stuck in the riverbed. The next day, the angry co-worker drove the car into work and Thompson said, “I knew heavy trouble was coming …I just got up, took my coat off the rack and went out the front door. Didn’t even collect my pay. Went straight to the apartment, loaded the car and drove to New York.
These “nightmare people” were, of course my relatives, neighbors and friends. “They” included me. During the time Thompson was in town the only thing I worried about was the tonsillectomy I had that November just before Thanksgiving. I want to defend my “nightmare people” but I am at a disadvantage. I knew nothing else but Jersey Shore and its seemingly ideal life. It was probably as quiet and dull as Thompson reports. At least on the surface. Later, the joke would be that the bus drivers on the intercity bus called Jersey Shore, "Jersey Whore". That or "The Peyton Place of the Susquehanna." Of that I have no personal knowledge.

Source of italicized information:
Outta the Way Blog
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As always, I guess things depend on your own experiences and history.