Monday, May 30, 2016

A 50-Year Memory: Losing My Mojo

A Tuning Slide Extra
Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Many of our deepest motives come, 
not from an adult logic of how things work in the world, 
but out of something that is frozen from childhood.
-Kazuo Ishiguro

There was a time somewhere about half a century ago when I was your typical high school trumpet player. I no doubt believed I was invincible, the top of the band's musical food chain. My sight-reading ability was somewhat lacking, but one evening of working on it at home usually fixed that and I was able to exhibit the skill that my first chair position would expect.

I don't remember any hints of uncertainty or doubts about what I could do as a trumpet player. I was lead trumpet in our stage musical. I organized a small combo to play at our school talent show and even made an arrangement of the Beatles' Help! as our number. I was lead in a trumpet quartet that played at many local churches. I was also lead in a Tijuana Brass-style group that played at both the local pool and at our town's annual Fourth of July fest. I knew I would never be a professional musician- that wasn't in my plans. I did know that I loved being a trumpet player.

I had what I might later have called "mojo."

For fifty years, I have considered Memorial Day as the day I lost it. True or not, what we believe is often "truth" if not "fact." If we believe it, it is real. Since today is the 50th Anniversary of that day, I will tell the story in full, something I have wanted to do for years.

The "Monday Holiday" bill had not yet been enacted. In 1966 Memorial Day, the day to remember those who died in battle, always celebrated on May 30, happened to fall on a Monday. It was a mostly clear, cool morning. I remember a misty fog along the river, not unusual on a spring morning like that. The sun was breaking through as I joined the group of veterans at the corner of Main and Allegheny Streets on the bank of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.

Memorial Day always began at the river. This was a time to remember the sailors who had died in service. Since we were only a couple decades past the end of World War II the memories were personal, real and not yet part of history. They were still at the edge of current events.
(Susquehanna River Bridge, Jersey Shore, PA)
It was a simple ceremony. I don't know what was said. I remember what was done. A reading and a prayer, and a wreath tossed solemnly into the river. The honor guard rifles faced up-river, to the right in the above picture, and proceeded with the traditional three-volley salute. The volley comes from the battlefield tradition of three-volleys to indicate that the dead had been removed from the battlefield and properly cared for.

The sounds echoed from the mountains and it was my turn.

Taps.

My notes felt right. They flowed as I wanted them to. They moved up-river following the smoke from the volleys. It was an honor to be called to do this. My friend Steve, the second chair, was stationed a short distance away to play the echo. It was all moving and appropriate. It was finished.

Next Steve and I joined the rest of our high school marching band for the parade. It would be our last official parade having just graduated. The parade moved up the main east-west street through town.
(Allegheny St., Jersey Shore, PA)
We marched past what had been my Dad's pharmacy and then our house. We went by the junior high school where a Winged Victory statue remembered World War 1 sacrifices. Just past my grandfather's house a small curve in the street took us to the left-turn that led into the cemetery. The band took its "parade rest"-style position for the ceremony.
(Jersey Shore, PA, cemetery)
Speeches and honors were now given for all who had died in the service of the country. For a small-town in Central Pennsylvania, we had our share of names on the veterans' memorials downtown next to the Post Office. There were 45 who died from World War II, and another 9 from Korea. Many hundreds served.

But that's another story.

My memory of that day is fixed with what happened next. The three-volley honor salute was finished. It was not the first time I had been in this cemetery and heard that. This was my fourth or fifth Memorial Day parade. Beyond that, my dad, a veteran of WW II, had died about 18 months earlier. The volley had echoed from the hilltop cemetery on that cold December day. Now I was standing but twenty yards or so from his and my mother's graves,

Again, time to play Taps. I was focused and ready to go. Taps is not difficult to play. It is ingrained in every trumpet player's mind. Its haunting sound is as familiar as our own name. Steve had gone to the hilltop behind us for his echo response to my call.

Perhaps I was nervous, or, at the other extreme, over-confident. I don't remember any performance anxiety at that time. This was not my first public solo performance. Most likely I was just careless.

Three notes in I choked. Everything I knew about performing disappeared. I had forgotten to let the water out of the horn. The sound started to gurgle, the notes lost their clear intensity. My mind went into auto-pilot, which 50 years ago did not include the simple act of letting the water out in one of the pauses at the end of a phrase.

I finished with the gurgles seeming to mock me even more intensely when Steve's echo sounded so perfect to my ear. I was upset at myself. I had let the veterans down. I had let my father down.

I was ashamed.

I had one more opportunity. There was one more short parade that afternoon in nearby Salladasburg. There was one more cemetery with Taps.
(Salladasburg, PA, cemetery from Stacy on Find a Grave)
That, too, became an embarrassment. I flubbed a note at the beginning and, yes, I again forgot to let the water out. That, I am sure, was more nerves and, even more likely, inexperience.

But it became my experience. It became, for me, a defining moment in my musical life. It made me, in my mind, a sloppy trumpet player. One day in May 1966 set a standard of self-understanding that I have spent half a century trying to change. My low sight-reading skills added to it three months later when I did not pass the audition to get into the marching band at college. I never thought until recently that they simply didn't need another freshman trumpet player at that point and it had nothing to do with my ability. The Memorial Day experience was already coloring my personal lowering expectations.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post on how logic and emotions interact. My now ancient story is as good an example as I can imagine. In the great scheme of things, even the past 50 years of my own life, that Memorial Day series of flubs isn't even a drop in the bucket. If anyone noticed then, or remembers it today, I would be shocked. I did what I could and I did it well. My logical brain knows all that. It knows that the gurgling sound of a trumpet is not the end of the world- and that very few people even heard it.

But there was a sense of failure and shame connected to that moment in my memory. It had more to do with standing mere yards from my parents' graves than it did about the hundred or so people who were there. It was connected with my own needs to live up to perfection for my deceased parents. In that moment I failed.

Here's how that all works in us. We start with:
  • Principles:
    • Values
    • What you stand for
    • Your personal foundation
These don't change much over our lives. They are reaffirmed or adjusted, but we mostly maintain our personal principles.

We add to our lives with:
  • Experiences:
    • What happens to you
    • Interactions with the world beyond you
In and of themselves, these experiences are simply there. We give them meaning, positive or negative, healthy or unhealthy, based on our personal values, that foundation through which we judge the world and ourselves. This then produces:
  • Emotions:
    • Feelings at a given moment.
    • Reactions to experiences

Let's put it together:
    • Experiences produce emotions.
      • These emotions may be based on our principles and values, or on a physical reaction to what is happening. If it makes us feel good, happy, fulfilled or whatever, it is a positive emotion. If we are hurt, sad, lost, etc. it can be a negative emotion.
    • Experiences and emotions are stored together in our memory.
      • That's how memories work. They are not stored as a single event- A Memory in A Location. They are stored in some interconnected way in our brain. When a memory comes back it easily comes back with the emotions. This is Proust's famous experience with the madeline cake.
      • The emotions connected with experiences can then interact with our principles.
        • Good emotions can produce a positive "value" response; negative feeling emotions can produce a "value" response that says that this does not fit my values.
      • Together these guide how we do what we do in our lives.
      To design the future effectively, 
      you must first let go of your past.
      -Charles J. Givens
      There's the rub. Back again to the letting go I talked about last week. Back to logic and emotion and principles and mindfulness.

      After a previous post on developing experiences my friend Terry commented:
      Experience counts more than theory, because experience works on the heart
      But when that work on the heart is an ongoing emotional "shame" it will color what we do every time we are faced with a similar situation.

      Finally, today, 50 years later, I am discovering new ways to rewrite that emotional experience of Memorial Day 1966. I have been able over the past few years specifically, to present alternative realities. I have also been willing to take risks such as doing a solo, attending jazz, big band, and trumpet camps where I couldn't hide and playing in a quintet. New experiences rewrite the "heart story" and put things into a better perspective. Even this Tuning Slide blog on trumpet playing is part of it.

      I have been controlled by that previous day for 50 years. Maybe I will finally let it go.

      In working on the previous post and this one I came across lyrics from singer-songwriter James Bay in his song Let It Go. The song is about breaking up with a girlfriend, but some of the words are perfect for what I have been talking about...
      Trying to push this problem up the hill
      When it's just too heavy to hold
      Think now's the time to let it slide

      So come on let it go
      Just let it be
      Why don't you be you
      And I'll be me

      Everything's that's broke
      Leave it to the breeze
      Let the ashes fall
      Forget about me

      Come on let it go
      Just let it be
      Why don't you be you
      And I'll be me

      Memorial Day


      You will never do anything in this world without courage.
      It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.
      — Aristotle

      Sunday, May 29, 2016

      Stardust At the Center of the Universe

      We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon,
      And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.
      -Joni Mitchell

      I have been watching the PBS series, Genius with Stephen Hawking (Link) the past few weeks. It is an intriguing series exploring BIG QUESTIONS with Hawking as the narrator and guide. He directs 3 everyday people volunteers to come up with answers to these questions in interesting ways. It is all fairly straight-forward science but explained in different ways

      Episode 4 the other evening was looking at the question, "Where did the universe come from?" He began by helping them get a good guesstimate of how many galaxies (not just stars) there are in the universe. (At least 250,000,000,000!) He then introduced them to the Doppler Effect and red-shift which discovered that all galaxies (in all directions) are "moving away" from us. With an ingenious use of hockey players and expanding balloons he had them illustrate how and why the galaxies that are farther away are "moving" away faster than those close to us. It also showed that, in essence the galaxies are not "moving away" but rather the space between galaxies is expanding. (Don't even try to wrap your head around that one. There's more....)

      Finally with the use of tiny lights on two screens he blew my mind.



      In summary he showed that depending on how you moved the screens to show the direction from which we have come, whatever galaxy you used to line it up became the center of the Big Bang. Let me state that a little differently:
      • Everything is the center of the universe.
      • Everything is the origin of where we came from.
      Huh?

      My first thought was simply,
      So! I really am the center of the universe!
      Which morphed into,
      And so is every person, place, and thing in the universe!
      Whoa!

      All of us started in that infinitely small and infinitely dense singularity that became the Big Bang. Every molecule, atom, whatever, was contained in that moment. All the matter and energy that exists today has existed since the beginning of the universe and was present at the beginning of the universe.

      Everything, Hawking led us to understand therefore, is the center of where everything began.

      More metaphorically, as Joni Mitchell wrote in 1969, we are stardust. Literally!

      The "stardust" and "billion-year old carbon" that was and is the center of the universe.

      No, I cannot grasp that concept very well. I can accept it, knowing that in another 50 years (or less) someone may come up with a completely new description of it. For today I simply sit in awe of the thinkers who can formulate these ideas as well as the infinite wonder, beauty, complexity, and simplicity of the universe.

      Saturday, May 28, 2016

      Great Writing

      It always amazes me, although I know it shouldn't be such a surprise, that I can often tell I'm reading a great book from the very beginning. There's something about the language and flow that grabs hold of me and won't let go.

      I AM A SPY, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds. I am not some misunderstood mutant from a comic book or a horror movie, although some have treated me as such. I am simply able to see any issue from both sides. Sometimes I flatter myself that this is a talent, and although it is admittedly one of a minor nature, it is perhaps also the sole talent I possess. At other times, when I reflect on how I cannot help but observe the world in such a fashion, I wonder if what I have should even be called talent. After all, a talent is something you use, not something that uses you. The talent you cannot not use, the talent that possesses you—that is a hazard, I must confess. But in the month when this confession begins, my way of seeing the world still seemed more of a virtue than a danger, which is how some dangers first appear.
      So begins the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. It isn't often I will comment on a book I have barely started, but this one was an instant and powerful hook. (Well, doh, it is this year's Pulitzer Prize winner!)

      Every literature professor and critic knows the way to build a story. Very few writers can do it masterfully. For example there is a slow release of information, unveiled bit by bit. A line piques your curiosity wondering what the connection is. A hint of few words about "my father" plants a seed- or is it a time bomb- that you are on guard to find out.

      But above all, there is the language and the ability to tell you more in a few words than I could tell you in a whole chapter (or a whole sermon, for that matter.) Here are three that grabbed me and wouldn't let me go in the first chapter:
      “Amid short tempers, Claude stayed cool, having lived here so long he barely perspired in the tropical humidity. He could sneak up on you in the dark, but he could never be invisible ”

      “I finished the whiskey, then drove the General home through a storm, the amniotic water bursting over the city a hint of the forthcoming season.”

      “We were smoking a final cigarette at the mouth of the dank, dripping alley that was the beer garden’s exit when a trio of hydrocephalic marines stumbled out of the vaginal darkness. ”
      All excerpts From:
      Viet Thanh Nguyen. “The Sympathizer.”
      This is clearly a book to savor, rich in language, style, substance and story. It is clearly not a book to be taken lightly. I am already aware that there is going to be much to learn and experience about the human condition in this book. But I must not rush through it. It must be read with caution of its power and at a pace which allows it to become part of me.

      As a writer such books make me cringe at my own verbosity here or in any of my sermons over the years. They also force me to look at the world around me in different ways than I may ever have before. This is the kind of book that affirms for me that fiction can be far more powerful in telling the truth than many a set of facts. Like any great book this one may have been conceived in the mind of the writer, but it is not false or fake.

      Read, listen, and learn.

      Friday, May 27, 2016

      Remembering Why It Is Memorial Day

      General Orders No. 11, Washington, D.C., May 5, 1868:

      The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
      From an opinion piece in the Washington Post by a veteran:
      It’s not Veterans Day. It’s not military appreciation day. Don’t thank me for my service. Please don’t thank me for my service. It’s take the time to pay homage to the men and women who died while wearing the cloth of this nation you’re so freely enjoying today, day.
      -Link to Washington Post
      Stop and remember this weekend.
      It's not about summer and barbecues.

      Thursday, May 26, 2016

      Another Birthday Celebration for This Week

      Miles Davis
      May 26, 1926 - 
      September 28, 1991

      I'm always thinking about creating.
      My future starts when I wake up every morning...
      Every day I find something creative to do with my life.

      Wednesday, May 25, 2016

      Tuning Slide: Letting Go

      Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
      The key to change... is to let go of fear.
      -Rosanne Cash

      Letting go means taking risks.
      Letting go is taking action, not resisting
      Controlling comes from fear - if I am not in charge, things will fall apart.

      From Bill Ferguson's Mastery of Life:
      Fear is a state of mind and is created by resisting a future event. For example, if you have a fear of losing someone, you are resisting the future event called, “losing the person.” The more you resist losing the person, the bigger your fear. The bigger your fear, the more you feel threatened. The more you feel threatened, the more you hang on and push the person away. By resisting the future event, you tend to make the fear come true.(How to let go and flow with life)
      In a business organization book, Yes to the Mess, Frank J. Barrett relates being part of a jazz combo to successful business practices. Letting go is part of it:
      Jazz musicians... often speak of letting go of deliberation and control. They employ deliberate, conscious attention in their practice, but at the moment when they are called upon to play, this conscious striving becomes an obstacle. Too much regulation and control restricts the emergence of fresh ideas. To get jazz right, musicians must surrender their conscious striving...
      We're back to the practice room again. A natural place to start the process of letting go. We strive in practice and let go in performance. He is of course talking about improvising, but for most of us this letting go begins with any public performance.
      In the words of saxophonist Ken Peplowski, "You carry along all the scales and all the chords you learned, and then you take an intuitive leap into the music. Once you take that leap, you forget all about those tools. You just sit back and let divine intervention take over."
      I'm not sure about "divine intervention" in my trumpet playing. I'm not sure that God cares that much about what I play. My interpretation is that when I get in touch with the "spiritual" aspect of playing music, I can more easily let go and allow the music to flow.

      But there is another aspect of all this letting go. Unless we are in a solo recital, we do not play alone in public performance. Whether it is a duo or trio, a combo or a wind band, our music has to fit into what the others are playing. Hence the statement I saw on Facebook one day:
      Practice is to learn your part;
      Rehearsal is to learn the other parts
      and how your part fits in.
      Wisdom.

      But the letting go is really in the next step, the actual public performance. The time when nerves and stage fright, performance anxiety and just plain old "blanking out" takes over.

      Here I have to make a confession: I have a very difficult time practicing what I preach when I get into a solo performance. I know I have talked about this before, but it has raised its ugly countenance again. I had some pieces down cold- in my practice room. I got to rehearsal psyched to play- and it was like I had never seen the piece before.

      Damn!

      Now, to be good to myself, I have made progress. I can play in the quintet and not get that fear. I can play in the concert band and, for the most part, allow my part to sing out. But the solos are still bugging me.

      I do know that the techniques of letting go work. They have worked for me. I know from from experience that letting go can move me to new places. I also know that what Frank Barrett talks about above are the problems:
      • Striving-
          which means working hard instead of relaxing
      • Regulation and control-
        wanting to remain in charge and not trust the flow of the music
      • Tense muscles-
        caused by the inner tension and growing unceretainty
      • Shallow breathing-
        when we are tense we don't take the time to deeply breathe. We react and the fear cycle of fight or flight kicks in.
      • Losing attention-
        and then we are in full time crisis mode.
      I have talked about all these things in the past. But they bear repeating and relearning. The need to "Let Go" at those moments is essential. Taking a deep breath, realigning yourself (easier to do if you're not in the middle of a solo!), focus on what is in front of you.

      This is simple. I wish it were as easy!

      With time, it may be.

      From the movie Frozen:
      It's time to see what I can do
      To test the limits and break through
      No right, no wrong, no rules for me I'm free!

      Let it go, let it go
      I am one with the wind and sky
      Let it go, let it go
      You'll never see me cry!

      Here I stand
      And here I'll stay
      Let the storm rage on!
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~               ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      (Sidenote: I know when all this started for me and I'm going to tell that story in a Tuning Slide extra next Monday. By telling the story I may be able to do some exorcising of that demon instead of continually exercising it.)

      Tuesday, May 24, 2016

      Happy 75th!

      Monday, May 23, 2016

      Remarkable Reading

      I haven't been writing about some of the books I have been reading recently. In fact, it's been a long time since I have. This whole semi-retirement thing has changed some of the things I do and when I do them. I have been spending more time with music - playing, practicing, arranging. I have also gotten into some of the photography websites, posting etc.

      I am still reading as much as ever, I just haven't been writing about it. I am going to try to rectify that, but I wouldn't hold my breath.  In any case I have just finished the second book of a remarkable science fiction trilogy. The trilogy is titled The Remembrance of Earth's Past by Chinese sci-fi superstar Liu Cixin. I had never heard of him since none of his books were published in English until the first volume of the trilogy was translated and published in 2014. It promptly won the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel, the first translation ever to do so, and was nominated for the 2014 Nebula Award for Best Novel.

      Volume one is The Three-Body Problem; volume two is The Dark Forest. Volume three, Death's End is to be published in English this fall. They are hard-science, space opera, sociological explorations, and unlike anything I have read very often in their scope and continuity. I can only put them in the same rarefied sci-fi Olympus as Orson Scott Card's Ender Saga and Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy. Throw in some of Dune and Stranger in a Strange Land and you will have an idea of the imaginative world of Liu Cixin.

      What is it about? Well, start with First Contact with aliens and the accompanying issues, chaos, fear, and uncertainty. Add Chinese cultural concerns of the mid-20th Century, the need for international cooperation, the limitations of science, cosmic (as well as human) sociology and human relationships. Mix them all together as in any of the great works of sci-fi literature- and you have this joy ride of a series.

      I found myself making one good guess about the direction- and several "Aha!" moments rivaling Ender's Game (still my all-time great whiplash moment in reading!) Beyond those few, the books unfold hiding as much as they reveal, yet leading toward .... something still waiting in volume three. As reviewers have said, for any science fiction fan, this series is an absolute MUST READ!

      You will thank me.

      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
      Speaking of must read trilogy completions:
      Book 3 of Justin Cronin's Passage Trilogy is due to drop tomorrow (May 24).  My daughter recommended it to me when the first book, The Passage, was published six years ago. She neglected to tell me it was about vampires (although somewhat unconventional ones). By the time I found that out I was hooked. Book 2, The Twelve was a good middle-of-a-trilogy book in 2012. The City of Mirrors is to be its crown. Patience is a necessity in this world of trilogies, but this one is finally here. (I'm third in the hold queue at the local library. If I can wait that long.)

      Sunday, May 22, 2016

      Trinity Sunday


      Saturday, May 21, 2016

      Some Election Thoughts: What Next?

      Politics is the best show in America. I love animals and I love politicians, and I like to watch both of 'em at play, either back home in their native state, or after they've been captured and sent to a zoo, or to Washington.
      - Will Rogers

      A confession: As an old political science major I have been saying how disgusting this year's election cycle has been. An understatement. But it's like watching a slow motion train wreck or 45-car pile-up on the Interstate. You don't want to see it, you know it's awful, but dammit, you just can't take your eyes off it. I love to listen to the pundits and the analysts (sort of different) and the partisan spinning. I have a more difficult time listening to the candidates themselves since they all say the same things over and over. You pretty much know what each one is going to say in each situation.

      Except for Donald Trump who never seems to stay on whatever track he's been on. He derails regularly in often spectacular fashion. I know I can count on the news media on all sides to make sure I hear what he said. The media and my conservative friends on Facebook never fail me.

      So for a couple of weeks I have been pondering this particular post as we are getting near the end of the road in the pre-convention season. It started with the following when a USA Today editorial after Indiana a few weeks ago summed up the two front-runners: (Link )
      • To say Trump is bad for the Republican Party is like saying a flood is bad for your basement. He stokes white resentment at a time when the party needs to attract minority voters. He demeans women when they, too, are vital to the party’s future. His intolerance turns off Millennials. And he labors under the opinion that his deep infatuation with himself is shared by a majority of voters.
      • Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has been less than stellar. Going into Indiana... she had lost 17 states to Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old “democratic socialist” from Vermont who was once dismissed as token opposition. Her favorable ratings have sagged.
      In the weeks since then Trump has begun to backtrack his actions in regard to the establishment of the GOP although anything can still happen. The GOP is warming up to him, sort of. If they don't work together, they know they will lose the election. That would be even worse than Obama as president- it would be an arch-enemy, a Clinton, as president. Maybe they can live with Trump long enough to survive as a party. Maybe they can find ways to co-opt his off-the-wall approach and use it for their advantage. Their advantage is ALWAYS to retain power and keep the Democrats, especially THESE Democrats out of the White House.

      On the Democratic side the in-fighting has taken on an appearance of the good-old-Democratic suicide machine, working hard at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Bernie's followers have begun to attack Hillary in ways that look like backing away from supporting her if (when) she wins the nomination. Sanders, for his part, is working the angles of keeping his supporters motivated while trying to move the party and its platform to a more progressive agenda. He will probably get some kind of concessions at the convention which, we all know, will be forgotten after the election anyway.

      Hillary is, of course, very much a part of the establishment of the Democratic Party. She has been waiting for this, within the established order, for 8 or more years. The goal of winning the White House and setting all kinds of historic precedents is at the top of the list for her and her supporters. She and the establishment also want to maintain power and support while hopefully undermining the GOP in the Senate and House.

      Politics has become so expensive that it 
      takes a lot of money even to be defeated.
      -Will Rogers

      Author James McBride in Kill 'em and Leave, a book on musician James Brown, had this to say about politics in a different setting, but still relevant to what we are seeing this year.
      The entertainment world and politics are more similar than most realize. Every time I go to Los Angeles I am astounded by the similarities between Hollywood and Washington, DC: Money. Power. Influence. Sex. Scandals. Parties. Phoniness. Posturing. Communication as an aphrodisiac. The only difference, it seems, is that in LA the folks are prettier, whereas in DC, they pick your pocket with one hand while saluting the flag with the other. But the basics are the same: business and power.
      Without even thinking about the fall campaign (which at this point is extremely painful to comprehend or plan for), business (money) and power is what is at work in both campaigns. Sanders and Trump are the outsiders voicing dissatisfaction on behalf of different segments of the electorate. They speak for those who don't feel they have any power or money. They voice concerns for different groups but the underlying issues are the same.

      What will be interesting in the next 75 or so days until the conventions are over is how the establishment attempts to bring the outsiders into the center ring of the parties. Trump has the upper hand, of course, as the GOP outsider, but he has been so vague at times while pandering to his electorate on certain issues and ignoring others, that the Party has a lot of work to do. Can the Party leaders bring their voters- an actual majority of GOP voters- to Trump or will they stay home and default the election to Hillary as less offensive or dangerous than Trump? Can Trump move toward the establishment without losing his disaffected voters.

      Hillary, on the other hand, has an upper hand and can afford to be gracious to Sanders an his electorate. Sanders speaks for a traditional Democratic demographic, so Hillary has to walk a fine line. She can do that, no doubt. Will Bernie accept it? Can Sanders maintain his charismatic hold on his voters while supporting Clinton? Those are his questions.

      This election will go down in American political history no matter what the outcome. It will be one of the most unusual and unpredictable we have ever had. I am of the opinion that absolutely anything can still happen- and much of it might.

      I'm buckled-in for the ride. I hope our system can survive it without too much collateral damage.

      The more you observe politics, the more you've got to admit
      that each party is worse than the other.
      -Will Rogers

      Thursday, May 19, 2016

      I Hate Must-Watch TV

      Well, hate is a big word. I am frustrated by it because I dislike being hooked by The Tube. But I also am not very good at binge-watching such as a whole season on Netflix or Apple TV.

      Unfortunately that doesn't keep me from getting trapped, hooked, reeled-in. It started back with Roots, I, Claudius, and Henry VIII series in the 70s. These mini-series productions forced me to be home and watching TV. Ken Burns' documentary series productions have been absolutely must-watch. Sherlock and Wolf Hall have been similar in recent years on PBS. Downton Abbey didn't do it to me. I could take it or leave it- my world wasn't over if I missed it. (I hear via PBS that the BBC has started filming Sherlock, Season 4. It should be a few months until it airs. Good. I can escape must-watch for a while. Yeah, right!)

      In any case, AMC has done it now with The Night Manager, the British import of a John Le Carre novel starring Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie. It is a well-produced and directed spy thriller that is over-the-top in quality and tension. Hiddleston's Jonathan Pine is an enigma wrapped in charm. Laurie's Roper is just plain creepy. Laurie is showing acting chops that makes it all the more surprising that he spent all that time doing comedy. He is remarkable.

      As in any good spy thriller movie or Le Carre novel tension can build slowly, have a brief moment of explosion, then settle back into quiet only to build again. In the first episode I found myself getting bored with the pace, even though I know Le Carre's style. When the explosive scenes occurred I turned to my wife and said, "Well, I'm hooked."

      I sat entranced on Tuesday with the incredibly horrendous scenes of a show of force armaments party in the desert. My wife was having great difficulty watching. I asked her why she responds to this like that when all the TV shows she likes almost always have murder and mayhem? "Those are cartoons," she responded. "This is great acting!"

      I have tried very hard to resist The Night Manager. I (intentionally) missed the first ten minutes of week 4. I tried surfing on the computer while it was on. Nothing has worked. I have been hooked by Le Carre, Hiddelston, and mostly Laurie. They know how to make it work. They drive me crazy because I dislike being shackled to the TV schedule. But I WILL be there next week to see how they bring all this to a conclusion. I know anything can happen and that "happy endings" are not necessarily part of Le Carre's style.  But I will be satisfied by a remarkable series.

      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
      A note about this past Tuesday's show of force in the desert episode. I was reminded, in the very best ways, of what I still consider the best TV series ever- M*A*S*H. Take M*A*S*H's set and drop it in the midst of the Afghan desert. Make Frank Burns less odd and more cunning. Add lots of sinister to Alan Alda's Hawkeye. Then take away all the comedy and replace it with reality. The insanity of war that was at the heart of M*A*SH will explode into intense and horrendous color. There was even this grotesque scene of Hugh Laurie's Roper hitting golf balls in the desert while wearing a bathrobe and combat boots. M*A*S*H modernized for the 21st Century.

      Wednesday, May 18, 2016

      Tuning Slide: Logic vs Emotions

      Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

      Music is the shorthand of emotion.
      ― Leo Tolstoy

      Yeah, but what did Tolstoy know? The music that is arguably the most amazing in western history is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach- and it is some of the most logical music ever written. Mathematically precise; ordered in almost uncanny exactness. No wonder that when Wendy Carlos (under her birth name of Walter Carlos) wanted to show the amazing use of the Moog Synthesizer, she used the music of Bach. (Switched on Bach. 1968.) There should be no emotion in a computer-generated song; no human input to play it other than the 1s and 0s of computer/digital coding.

      Yet it was an amazing album that touched people deeply, and not just because of the newness and uniqueness of it. For many of us who first heard it in 1968, the album, for example, captured the emotion of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring with amazing clarity.

      Logic will get you from A to B.
      Imagination will take you everywhere.
      - Albert Einstein

      As much as mathematical precision, Bach also used imagination that allowed him to place layer upon layer of things never before seen or heard. The imagination of Wendy Carlos added another layer which grabbed us like nothing ever seen or heard before. Yet it was all there in Bach's logic combined with his musical imagination.

      Then we have Miles Davis on Kind of Blue or John Coltrane on A Love Supreme. At one moment their solos can sound as precise as Bach's mathematical journeys. The next moment, then, is filled with an emotion that sweeps in and takes over, surrounding us with things that are like nothing ever seen or heard before. All of us who work with music from the rank amateur to the amazing heights of Davis or Coltrane know that everything they do is based on all the logical manipulations of music theory. They may twist those theories and make up a few new ones of their own, but they are acutely aware of the logic behind what they are doing.

      A mind all logic is like a knife all blade.
      It makes the hand bleed that uses it.
      - Rabindranath Tagore

      It is no doubt obvious where I am going with this. We are not dealing with an either/or situation when we deal with logic and emotion. It must be a both/and for it to go beyond just the notes on the page or in our heads. In human thinking it used to be that we believed that if only we humans would be "logical," then we would always make the right decisions. When faced with choices, we should be able to use the coolness and precision of logic to make the good choices.

      Without going into all the details, science, medicine, and psychology were all shocked when this proved to be an incorrect theory. There were examples where a person, through an injury or surgery, lost the ability to connect emotions to decision making. All their decisions were based on good old-fashioned rational thinking. "Just the facts!" The old theory would say that their decisions post-trauma should have been better decisions- emotions weren't in the picture.

      That is not what happened. In essence, they actually lost some of the critical ability to make any decisions in the first place. Neuroscience had to be rewritten. Cold, impersonal logic does not make good decisions alone. To disconnect emotion is to take away what makes us human- and what makes human decision-making human in the first place.

      Which is why I think music has played such an essential and foundational role in human culture and development. Daniel Levitan, neuroscientist, session musician, sound engineer, and record producer, captured this idea in his two seminal works, This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession and The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature. Somewhere in our brain, music, I think, brings together emotion and logic in ways very few things do.


      Music expresses that which cannot be put into words
      and that which cannot remain silent.
      ― Victor Hugo

      So, let's get back to you and me and how this is important to us. Actually, in some ways it is another way of reminding us of things already discussed and beginning to put them into a "logical", effective, and helpful place.For example, we have talked about being able to be aware of, and able to share, "your story" in your music. How do you know your story? By your feelings, among other things, and then applying logic and thinking to it. We discussed the importance of the "groove" in music. Well, first we have to have the "logical" ability to play the notes correctly. Then we add the feeling, the emotion we are sensing in the notes. That becomes the groove.

      That's why we practice. First to find the notes- the specifics of this song in this place. Then we find the groove- the story, the emotions, the nuances. These are built on the logic of knowing the fundamentals as well as how we are feeling. We may be able to play a piece with clockwork precision, but does it "feel?" It is in the feeling that we connect with the music.

      Am I just repeating the same thing over and over, driving it into the ground until you say, "Enough already! We get it."? Perhaps, but I have found over the past year that I forget these things on a regular basis. I get bogged down in the notes on the page or the dynamic markings. I forget to listen to the music as I am playing it in my practice room. I rush through the notes instead of listening to them; I try to get the piece down cold in one or two attempts; I don't savor the world found in each note. Or, in performance, I can ignore the other musicians I am playing with. Sometimes I get so emotionally involved in a song that, without me realizing it I get sloppy and the technique can get lost.

      I have to be constantly reminded of the interaction of logic and emotion- unless the emotion I want to drag out of the horn, myself, or the listener is disgust. It is in the balance of our logic and emotion that practice turns into performance, that we discover how a particular song can express our own story.

      We will look a little more at this in another post in a few weeks on some ways to work with the Inner Game in new ways. For now, don't let your logic close out your emotions- or your feelings dismiss logic. Together they make quite a duet.

      Monday, May 16, 2016

      The Soundtrack of Half a Century

      We often speak of the popular music of given eras as providing soundtracks for different generations. Each of us has that particular set of songs or musical artists who define the music of our adolescence. Sitting in Target Center in Minneapolis on May 4 I realized that, even for my cohort, the oldest group of Baby Boomers, that line is too limiting for Paul McCartney and the Beatles. They have provided, together and separately, a soundtrack for at least half a century.

      Over the years a number of friends and acquaintances have been to McCartney concerts and reported that it was one of the most amazing concert experiences of their lives. When tickets for the Target Center concert popped up on my Facebook feed the last week of April, I jumped at them. The dream of my lifetime was to see the Beatles in concert. They stopped touring as the Beatles 50 years ago this summer. But here was Sir Paul. Why not?

      Personally I was a little worried before the concert started. As the 8:00 starting time approached there were still about 20% of the seats empty. Has Paul lost his following? Are people leaving the Beatles behind. By the time the concert began, though, almost every seat was filled.My guess is that the security lines were too long.

      In any case we waited. It was 45 minutes more of what I can only call the worst music experience in a live music setting.

      No it wasn't an opening group. It was a techno-beat soundtrack mix of Beatles/McCartney music. It was too loud and far too techno. For a total of over 75 minutes I felt I was being pounded into submission by a relentless beat. (I have never taken the drug Ecstasy, but I think I understand why clubbers do.) I was actually worried that by the time McCartney took the stage I would be so beaten down that I wouldn't enjoy the show.

      Yeah, right.

      Not a chance.

      Here are ten of my pictures from the concert along with some more thoughts. A link to my complete album on Flickr is at the bottom along with a link to the setlist online.

      Paul McCartney in Minneapolis

      The first seven songs of the set:
      A Hard Day's Night
      Save Us
      Can't Buy Me Love
      Letting Go
      Temporary Secretary (A real dud in my book. The only one.)
      (A Foxy Lady snippet)
      I've Got a Feeling
      My Valentine (for his current wife, Nancy)
      From City Pages review:
      If death hung heavy in the air — and constant reminders of John Lennon, George Harrison, Linda McCartney, producer George Martin, and Prince made sure that it did — the mood was still celebratory. We're witnessing pages of rock history come to life, after all, and the knighted, mythic creature performing the songs still seems to believe in their power. The packed crowd of around 19,000 did, too.
      Paul mentioned the late great Jimi Hendrix after the Foxy Lady riff and then said he was dedicating the concert to our own late, great Prince. He told of seeing Prince perform at a small cafe this past New Year's Eve. "We saw the new year in together and that was beautiful — God bless you Prince!"
      Prince. Minneapolis.
      Minneapolis. Prince.
      It goes together.
      Paul McCartney in Minneapolis
      Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
      Here, There and Everywhere
      Maybe I'm Amazed (for his late wife, Linda.)
      We Can Work It Out
      Paul McCartney in Minneapolis
      In Spite of All the Danger (The Quarrymen song)
      You Won't See Me
      Love Me Do (Dedicated to George Martin who died in March)
      And I Love Her
      Blackbird
      The Quarrymen song went back to 1959 when it was Paul, John, and George and "two other guys" that he told us we wouldn't know. He said their nicknames, and everyone laughed. We didn't know them. It was a country-style, skiffle/rock-a-billy song. He even tried to wiggle and jiggle like Elvis. Applause and laughter!

      He told a story of George Martin, the Beatles' superlative producer asking Paul to do the singing on "Love Me Do" so John could play the harmonica. Without George Martin, he said, there wouldn't have been the Beatles.

      Then there was "Blackbird." He mentioned that they wrote it in solidarity with the people in Little Rock, Arkansas, who were standing up for civil rights. It was a beautiful rendition with appropriate video accompanying him.While singing he was lifted on a hydraulic stage section. A little over done.
      Paul McCartney in Minneapolis
      Here Today
      Queenie Eye
      New Song
      The Fool on the Hill
      Lady Madonna
      FourFiveSeconds
         (Rihanna and Kanye West and Paul McCartney cover)
      Eleanor Rigby
      Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
      Something
       He started "Here Today" by saying it was written to John Lennon. Sadly, he said, it was "a conversation we never had." He urged the audience to say what they needed to say to the people they cared about while they had the chance.

      He started "Something," a George Harrison song, by playing it on the ukulele which he said was how George first played it for him. It continued into a guitar slashing of highest quality!

      Paul McCartney Minneapolis
      Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
      Band on the Run
      Back in the U.S.S.R.
      Let It Be
      Live and Let Die
      To quote the City Pages reviewer:
      Paul performing "Let It Be" at the piano is all any music fan could really ask for.
      With "U.S.S.R." he told an anecdote about being in Russia and having Russian officials tell him about listening to the Beatles' music. It was one of a number of times that Paul truly made it a personal evening, befitting the tour's title, One on One

      "Live and Let Die," the heavy-duty title rocker from the James Bond film, gave us all a start when the pyrotechnics started. Sure, it was over-the-top, but it fit!


      Paul McCartney in Minneapolis
      Hey Jude
      Even as a sing-along, this one still moves across the ages. Take a sad song, and make it better.

      Paul McCartney Minneapolis

      Encores:
      Yesterday
      In many ways the most moving moment of the show for this old Beatles' fan was the opening encore number- Paul's acoustic rendition of "Yesterday." It kept its power with the strings being added through the miracle of electronic keyboard. As Wikipedia reminds us, "Yesterday":
      remains popular today with more than 2,200 cover versions and is one of the most covered songs in the history of recorded music. "Yesterday" was voted the best song of the 20th century in a 1999 BBC Radio 2 poll of music experts and listeners and was also voted the No. 1 pop song of all time by MTV and Rolling Stone magazine the following year.
      The song was released as my senior year in high school began in September 1965. Hearing Paul sing it in May 2016 was nothing short of a spiritual connection across this half-century. The lighting, as I looked at it, started at that small moment in time, the spot on the stage, in 1965 and spread out into today. I know the lights were pointing down, but the meaning of the lights seemed to me a metaphor for the song itself, rising from that spot into its place in popular music history.

      Paul McCartney in Minneapolis
      Hi, Hi, Hi
      Let's Go Crazy (Prince cover)
      He followed that short cover with a statement in honor of Prince.
      He's your guy.
      Paul McCartney in Minneapolis
      Birthday
      Golden Slumbers
      Carry That Weight
      Paul McCartney Minneapolis
      The End
      And in the end, the love you take
      is equal to the love you make.
      Paul McCartney Minneapolis
      Okay- I was prepared to be disappointed. The techno-crap before the concert did not do justice to the evening. I tried to keep my expectations as low as possible even though in my mind I kept saying, "I'm going to see one of the Beatles. My God, really! The Beatles!" I never expected to see any of them in live concert. After seeing my personal idol Herb Alpert last fall I knew that the older group of my generation's music can still do their thing. Alpert was 80 at the time. McCartney turns 74 next month. John and George are gone. But a 73-year old McCartney? Does he still have it?

      Well, expectations are meant to be lived up to more often than they are broken. The initial reality of seeing Paul there, in person, playing those songs gave way to the joy and celebration of these past 50 years of his music- my music- our music. He looked older and had a sense of maintaining his energy while letting it out as appropriate for what he does today. He sounded like he had a cold and had some difficulty making the full range of the older vocals. But, as the accomplished performer he is, he made that part of the awe of the show.

      He can still do it. He can still make these songs real and alive. There were, at times, even signs of the old Beatles' smart-alack attitude as he yelled back and forth with fans in the audience or gave the audience that old, much younger, Paul McCartney grin. I am grateful, by the way, for the large projection screens that allowed everyone to see and react to him, in person, almost one on one. The Beatles started the use of patterns and psychedelic images in some of their videos, so that felt like a good way to add to the overall ambience of the show.

      The show itself was about two hours and forty-five minutes- with no breaks! He started and never stopped. He played three dozen songs. Acoustic. Classic Rock. Beatles songs. The audience was with him from the word "Go!" While tending to be a lot of Boomers, the crowd covered at least three generations. Sir Paul himself predates the Boomers who are starting to turn 70 years old this year.

      Seventy!

      And right there, on the stage was one of our icons. It didn't make me feel younger- or older, actually. It was more of a celebration of our 50+ years together with the music. It reminded us of the innocence of our youth and young adulthood. It reminded us of the ups and downs of life with loss and death always hanging around. Yet in the end the loss and death do not win.

      The music does.

      And we are better for it.

      Thanks, Paul. It was a joy being with you. One on one, with 19,000 of your closest friends.


      Click below for complete album of my pictures.
      Paul McCartney

      Paul McCartney Pictures Album
      May 4, 2016
      Target Center
      Setlist

      Sunday, May 15, 2016

      Pentecost Sunday


      Friday, May 13, 2016

      Inspiration For Friday the 13th

      It's all superstition, not reality.....



      Even bad luck may simply be showing up at the wrong time...


      Success- or luck- good or bad- is made not given....


      But just in case.....


      Wednesday, May 11, 2016

      Tuning Slide: The Reality of Dreams

      Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

      If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams,
      and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined,
      he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
      -Henry David Thoreau

      A month or so ago I came across a group of people going door-to-door for some cause or other. I was polite and said, "Hello. How are things going?" The answer was a kind of sarcastic, almost fatalistic, "Living the dream!"

      Huh? I just went on my way- as did they.

      A couple days ago I was talking to a fellow trumpet player who asked about my involvement in groups and my regular routine. After telling him he responded, "Well, that is being a musician full-time."

      I smiled and said that this has been a dream of mine for years- to be a "full-time musician. Finally, with semi-retirement, I'm doing it."

      When I stop and think about that statement I am still taken aback. What right does a 67-year old retired pastor and semi-retired counselor have to think he can be a "full-time musician?" Even though I don't need to do it to make a living, is it realistic? Isn't it naïve to think it is possible or should even be worth doing?

      One of the quotes I wrote down at the end of trumpet camp last summer was:
      The reality of dreams comes from naive ideas.
      Simply put, even to think some of our dreams are possible is an act of naive belief. As usual, I like to look at definitions and found these two for naive:
      • showing a lack of experience, wisdom, or judgment.
      • natural and unaffected; innocent.
      Most times when we dream of things we would like to do or become there is a definite lack of experience. It is naive in that we don't know what it means or even how to get there. It sounds impossible. We may be told, "Get real!"

      A lack of experience, wisdom and judgment, however, can easily lead to the second definition- innocent. Many dreams have a simple, joyful aspect to them. They are based on innocent belief that this might just very well be possible. It can be found in that age-old question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I once wanted to be an astronaut. But it wasn't a dream. Just a sense of adventure. I also dreamed of being a youth worker, a counselor, a preacher, a radio announcer and a TV host/producer.

      I have been ALL of these at times in the past 50 years. I found ways to make all those naive dreams into reality.

      I have also dreamed of being a musician. I never let go of that one. Things often got in the way- like earning a living, time commitments, etc. But I never let the trumpet go. Whenever and however I could, I found ways to keep playing, however sporadic or mediocre it was at times.

      The subject is dreams and believing in them as possible. This is all about the reality of dreams beginning in naive innocence and growing into existence.

      When researching this week's post I came across a blog by Joey Tartell, an Associate Professor of Trumpet and the Director of Undergraduate Studies at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. In a post titled "Belief" he had this to say:
      Last week, in a lesson, I told a student that I knew she could play the piece in question great. But the look I got back from her reminded me of the second hardest part of teaching:

      There are times where the teacher has more belief in the student than the student has in her/himself....

      Which brings me back to belief. It’s a very difficult concept to teach. Try this: picture a player that you admire. Now you need to know that that player was once a beginner. That player was not born playing at a world class level. That player had to learn fundamentals and music just like everyone else. And on the first day of playing did not sound like a professional. So if that player can do it, why not you?
      Belief in oneself is at the heart of turning dreams into reality.Belief is based on your dreams and the reality those dreams represent. Belief is based on what you think you are able to accomplish, what your skills are and, just as importantly, what your skills can develop into!

      Back when I was talking about the Inner Game of Music I wrote the following:
      Self-trust. Do you believe you can do it? Have you worked on being able to do it? Have you set goals, formal or informal to be ready to do it? Have you allowed you and the music to meld into a unique idea?

      If so, you can do it.

      If not, don't quit, just go back and work some more. But remember, sooner or later we will have to be ready. Do it. You know you can.
      That is belief and it is basic to overcoming the inner barriers we place in our own way. Such trust and belief is what we build as we practice, develop helpful and healthy routines, begin to develop our skills into new levels of experience and even expertise. This is where those routines and experiences, the people we hang around with, the story we discover in ourselves and the song we sing come together. In our dreams and the belief we can live them.

      Joey Tartell concludes his post:
      So here’s what I need for you to do:
      • Dream big. Think of what you want to do, not what you’d settle for.
      • Realize that someone gets to do that, so it could be you.
      • Get working, because it’s unlikely anyone is just going to hand it to you. You need to earn it.
      But most importantly, believe in the possibility. Like most things, this becomes a logic problem for me. So follow me here:
      • If you don’t believe, your chances of success are virtually zero.
      • If you believe, your chances are now higher than zero just based on the acceptance of the possibility of success.
      Link- Belief to Dreams

      By the way- the Shell Lake Trumpet Camp is less than three months away. Link.

      Tuesday, May 10, 2016

      The Problem with the Biggest Losers

      Three years ago a group of us at work did our own version of "The Biggest Loser," the popular TV reality show that gets highly obese people to lose a lot of weight. None of us were at the level of obesity seen on TV. Some of us even had a relatively healthy habit of exercise when we started the competition. We did all need to lose weight, though.

      Over the next several months we did our weigh-ins and kept doing whatever we each wanted to do to lose the weight. I cut back my sugar consumption, added a boost to my exercise, and counted calories. I was successful. I placed second in the group. I had started at 211 and, over the two months I lost around 25 pounds. I continued on my regimen. By November 2013 I was at 176 pounds.

      Two things happened then.

      1- I semi-retired and got out of what had been an almost daily six-year habit of exercise because I was no longer working every day.
      2- I had a minor surgery that slowed me down a little.
      The results:
      • By March 2014 I was consistently above 185: +10 pounds in 4 months.
      • I went over 190 for the first time in mid-year 2014.
      • By May 2015 it was 203.
      • My cholesterol and blood sugar crept back up to borderline levels by Fall 2015
      • I peaked in March 2016 at 214. Back up 38 pounds. 
      With all this in mind I saw the news articles last week on a study of "Biggest Loser" TV participants:
      "Biggest Loser" study: Why keeping weight off is so hard
      Here's a little bit as reported by CBS News:
      It's well known among obesity experts that when people lose weight, their resting metabolic rate slows, meaning they burn fewer calories while at rest. Their rate is often slower than it would be compared to other people of the same size who hadn't lost a lot of weight.

      "The phenomenon is called 'metabolic adaptation' or 'adaptive thermogenesis,' and it acts to counter weight loss and is thought to contribute to weight regain," wrote the authors, researchers from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in Bethesda, Maryland.

      To learn more, using blood, urine and other tests, they calculated the resting metabolic rate and body composition changes in Season 8 contestants six years after the end of the weight loss competition.
      The results are both shocking and not surprising with even the small, personal anecdotal evidence in my own situation:
      ...only one of the 14 contestants succeeded in maintaining their slimmer weight. The rest regained a significant amount of the weight lost during the competition, and their resting metabolic rates (RMR) remained unusually low.

      And obesity experts said it supports previous research and what they've seen in their patient populations -- that it's really hard for people who've been obese and then lose a lot of weight to maintain their lower weight, or to lose weight again after they've buoyed back up to a higher weight.
      Yep!

      I know I have faced the problem talked about above. Along with the medical findings I have seen two other factors involved:
      • Judgement of others who wonder why you can't exercise will-power. This breeds our own self-esteem issues as we buy into it. We wonder why we are so weak and powerless.Then the second factor kicks in:
      • Instant gratification. We want to lose the weight quickly. We can't be patient and let it be a slow, daily process. That is partly because slow daily progress only shows up in the long-term, the big picture that few of us are able to sustain.
      In the end we become losers at being The Loser.

      It may very well be that we have been pursuing the wrong goals or missing some important points. Back to the news articles:
      Dr. William Yancy, director of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center, said "The Biggest Loser" perpetuates the idea that the recipe for weight loss is simple: diet and exercise and you can drop the weight. But he said the study helps show how much more complicated an equation it is to keep the weight off for the long term.

      "There's that constant mentality that if you diet and exercise to lose weight it can be fixed. But it's a lifelong challenge and we've struggled really hard to make it be seen like diabetes, that it [obesity] needs to be treated like a chronic illness," said Yancy.

      He said that he's seen people manage to keep the weight off when they've approached obesity with the attitude that it's a chronic illness.
      Yes, I realize the danger in making everything into a "disease" or "illness." That can easily become a cop-out, a reason to give up and just keep on eating and gaining. It is the issue that I have faced every day for the last 27+ years with addiction and alcoholism, both personally in recovery and professionally as a counselor. It can lead to a denial of responsibility and a fatalism that can be truly fatal.

      What if our ability to lose weight and keep it off IS an illness? Well, I don't know the details of how that works, per se, but I do know how it works with addiction. As a result I also know that there is a key element that we need to bear in mind.

      Responsibility. I am not a victim of my disease.

      As a recovering person I have the responsibility (!) of daily managing my disease of addiction. I have to:
      • take responsibility for the actions I take each day 
      • live in a way that allows for daily management of my symptoms and
      • be willing to change my lifestyle to deal with the symptoms and the consequences of my disease.
      This could be a description of the disease of not being able to keep the weight off, a disease that could be called pre-obesity or food-ism. I have to give it a name that is meaningful to me and describes my situation. Borderline obesity and borderline diabetes could be my description of it in my situation. It is not a disease of will-power. It is, as indicated above in the studies of the Biggest Loser participants, a disease of metabolism. Just losing the weight doesn't change the metabolic system very quickly, if at all.

      I am not sure at this point where all this takes me. I can, however, begin to apply what I know about addiction and see if it works. Things like "turning it over" and daily prayer and meditation. It could be things like awareness of triggers and urges- cravings- and the many ways I have discovered and used over 27 years to deal with chemical cravings. It may be as basic (though not simple) as "easy does it" and "one day at a time."
      • For today I will practice a different lifestyle.
      • For today I will be aware of the urges to eat in unhealthy ways
      • For today I will ask for help and support to deal with stressors
      • For today I will be grateful for the healthy opportunities ahead of me
      • For today I will be good to myself, not allowing my impatience to overcome my daily movement toward health.
      There are probably more that I could add. But that's a start.


      Link to CBS News article referenced above.

      Sunday, May 08, 2016

      Thursday, May 05, 2016

      Wednesday, May 04, 2016

      Tuning Slide: Meditating on Musicians and Music

      Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
      Without heroes, we're all plain people 
      and don't know how far we can go.
      -Bernard Malamud

      I am going to take a side journey away from the trumpet alone on the Tuning Slide this week. A number of times over these weeks I have talked about who we listen to and who we surround ourselves with as important parts of our lives as musicians. As a result we often develop strong emotional connections with famous musicians we have never met.

      I have spent a great deal of time in the past two weeks reflecting on the role of music and top musicians in my world. It was kicked off by the sudden death of the pop superstar, Prince. But it is something that has been raised countless times over the years whenever one of our great musicians dies. We have had our share already this year of the loss of these greats, Prince being the latest and, sadly, not the last.

      We often call these people like Prince "icons." A definition of icon can be:
      A person or thing regarded as a representative symbol of something
      or
      Someone who is venerated or idolized.
      For better or worse, many of these musicians we uphold as heroes and icons are people we "idolize." Many of the "greats" do also inspire us and can lead us to greater things. As musicians we have the heroes of our own instruments that we love to emulate. I still get joy as I continue to work on Al Hirt's "Java" or play Herb Alpert's "Spanish Flea" in the big band. These spur me to play my best along with transcribing or just plain listening to some of the great solos of trumpet history.

      Another piece of the musicians we hold as "icons" can be our part in the greater culture around us. These are the musicians who were the soundtrack for our lives at particular times and places. The most deeply ingrained are those whose music connects with strong and emotional memories. We "grew up" to that music. It is "our music." No one can ever take that away- it is imprinted in our memory. The way memory works, it is also directly linked to people, places, feelings. The opening vamp on the Four Tops "Reach Out I'll Be There" instantly transports me back to the radio station my freshman year at college. I can see it, smell it, react to is as if I were sitting there.

      Which is why the death of a Prince, Merle Haggard, or David Bowie hits so close to home. The many ways people remember Prince are as much about ourselves as they are about Prince's musicianship, though naturally he wouldn't have had the cultural impact if he wasn't so talented.


      This struck me when I stopped by Paisley Park in Chanhassen last week. One of the items left as a memorial was a baseball hat from an Iraq War veteran. Perhaps Prince's music carried him through his time in Iraq. Maybe it was the only way he remained connected with home and hope at difficult times. I don't know, but just seeing it there was a powerful spiritual moment, connecting this time and place with others. I was humbled by that.

      Which brings me around to you and me- musicians ourselves. Someone reading this may one day be of the stature of an important musician impacting the greater culture. Most of us will not. We will play our music to keep our lives connected to this force we call music. It will be how we maintain our balance and discover new ways to express ourselves.

      But- and this is important- we may never be "icons" but we will continue to have an impact on those for whom we play. Music, overall, is a spiritual language that connects us to our audiences. It is a conduit for getting in touch with something far greater than ourselves that is at the heart of human experience. No, I don't believe I am overstating this. We have all had it happen to us when listening to music- and when playing or performing music.

      One of the big bands I play with regularly plays at senior living facilities in the area. The joy on people's faces is priceless. Seeing a person who barely moves, tap a foot ever so subtly to the beat is why it is important. Our band, at that moment, is as important to that person's life as Prince was to many other lives.

      That is why we do what we do as musicians. We are, in countless and unknown ways, opening the window for the possibility of the spiritual entering our presence.

      When speaking of religious icons a definition I remember from a TV series many years ago was
      something or someone that opens a vision of God or the spiritual.
      We can be that icon for others through our music. Music, of course, is not the only way this happens, but it is one of the ways we as musicians can participate in the expansion of the spiritual in the world. It is at that point that we move beyond ourselves into the flowing of that which is greater than us and sharing it around us.

      I am honored and humbled to be able to do that.