Saturday, June 25, 2016

But I'm Not the Only One

I have decided that it is time to stop posting memes against those we disagree with, spouting the same old, tired talking points on both sides and sit down together. For a change let's talk face to face with our fellow Americans and find out that we are in this together! Yes: 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 be as one…

Thursday, June 23, 2016

In Memoriam: Ralph Stanley

Glad I got to see him at the Opry.

Ralph Stanley at Grand Ole Opry, February 2014

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

From My Weekend...

Had a great weekend at an adult Big Band Camp. 
Here's the video with my solo.

Monday, June 20, 2016

It's 5:34 PM CDT

Yep- it's officially summer.

Monday Musical Memes

Spent the weekend at a music camp.
So, here are some memes I found to go along with it.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Need For Two Strong Parties

We need a strong, healthy two party system. So said Barack Obama on The Tonight Show last week. He was expressing sadness at what he sees happening in the GOP. Two healthy parties are necessary for the dialogue that is part of America's greatness. We have not had that in a number of years.

The current version of this started with Newt Gingrich and his Contract With America during the Bill Clinton presidency. The ideologicalizing (my word) of American political parties really expanded to a mania. Everyone had to pass a litmus test for their party. As time moved on, compromise became a dirty word, a sign of capitulating to the ideological enemy. Good and bad, right and wrong, all became political fingers pointing to the opposite party.

This election cycle has brought to light all the dysfunction in the GOP and, to a lesser extent, the Democrats. I am not so deeply versed in political history, but I have a hunch it has been a very long time since the leaders of a particular political party try to support and distance themselves, simultaneously(!), from their party's standard bearer. That is a deep division! If they lose in the fall, they will blame Trump (and probably Obama) for their defeat. They will not see how 20+ years of deepening ideological litmus tests they have brought it on themselves.

The GOP convention starts one month from tomorrow. The sideshow will continue as it appears Trump has no plans on easing-up his message, become more "presidential" or even seeking to truly bring his party together. What will happen next month? In this election cycle, all bets are off.

In the long run we, as a nation, need two parties that can work together to govern in spite of differences. We need leadership! That is what has helped us remain the United States.

My wife commented the other day that perhaps we are on the cusp of a new reframing, a new adaptation of the American Dream. There was, obviously, the Civil War with post-Reconstruction taking a step backward from some  of those gains. There was the Great Depression leading into World War II that realigned many idea. That began to fall apart in the 60s and we are now seeing the results of that era, Watergate, etc.

Each time we have made positive strides. We need to work together on doing that again.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

To Piss Off ISIS

Here is a picture that I realized will really piss off the terrorists:
In the long run they may have done more to further LGBT acceptance in the US.

Oh- it is also fair to say that the picture will also piss off a few Republicans and fundamentalist Christians.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Tuning Slide: Crazy Great! Preparing for Tomorrow

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
Learning isn’t a way of reaching one’s potential 
but rather a way of developing it.”
― Anders Ericsson,  

A recently published book has been making some waves. In Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson (psychologist) and Robert Pool (science writer)...
skillfully examine the eternal debate of nature vs. nurture with this thoughtful treatise supporting the latter. The authors posit that deliberate, focused practice is the key to learning and mastering any new skill, whether or not an underlying natural talent is present. “Generally the solution is not ‘try harder,’ but ‘try differently,’”
-Publishers Weekly
Success in today's world, expertise, requires a focus on practical performance, not just the accumulation of information.

 I thought this would be an appropriate way to end this first year of the Tuning Slide. It gets back to the general themes we have looked at in these posts since last September. It deals with intention, practice, passion, having mentors, paying attention. Anders and Pool comment that they
..can report with confidence that I have never found a convincing case for anyone developing extraordinary abilities without intense, extended practice.
The students of Bill Adam's instruction (and their students!) who have so influenced me this past year would agree. They have challenged me, and through me, you to look more closely at what we do in practice. Take it seriously. Find the time if you want to find the skills. Over this past year, as I have shared with you my journey at age 67 to become a much more proficient trumpet player this has been my constant awareness.  Each month I found myself practicing more days- because I wanted to and made it happen. Each month I also practiced longer each day- again because I wanted to and had the increased ability to do so. There are now days when I finish my routine and practice and can't believe what I have managed. Old dogs- new tricks. Yep!

But, as Anders and Pool tell us:
Doing the same thing over and over again in exactly the same way is not a recipe for improvement; it is a recipe for stagnation and gradual decline.
If I keep doing what I have always done I will keep getting what I have always gotten. Sure, I may have more endurance, but I won't have gained much else. One thing I know I want to work on, for example, is my high-note ability. I have a hunch I have been working on that the way I have always worked on it. Yes, I am more able to hit the high "C" than I used to be, but it is not solid or clear. My experience tells me I am not finding new ways to work on it to get me past my plateau. One of my goals this summer at adult Big Band Camp is to find one of the instructors who can help me figure that out.

Well, fleshing all this out will be one of the themes for next year. Which brings me to answer the question
  • What's coming on The Tuning Slide?
First, I'm not posting anything for the next two weeks. I will be at the adult Big Band Camp at Shell Lake taking my next step into jazz and improv. I will be taking notes and developing the next series of 8 posts here on the Tuning Slide- all about jazz and improv and how they apply to life and what we can learn from Jazz about living. I will try to keep it broadly about jazz and not narrow it down to trumpets. This has been a passion of mine for many, many years and now I will take some time to write about it. Watch for that beginning Wednesday, July 6.

I will also be at the Trumpet Camp at Shell Lake the first week of August, taking notes and talking to people, including you, Mr. Baca. My goal will be to develop and expand the thoughts and ideas for year 2. Year 2 posts will begin on Wednesday, August 31.

Let me know if you have any topics you want me to research or riff on. Much of what I do here is my own written version of improvising, which is not, as some people think, simply flying by the seat of one's pants. Send me thoughts, quotes, or questions. Add them to the comments on the blog and I will work on them.

So, have a good two weeks while I regroup and move this blog into the next phase. Hope to have you back in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, don't stop practicing and growing. It is easy in the summer to become distracted. If you want to continue to grow toward your expertise, keep at it.

Let me conclude with two paragraphs from the website, Create Yourself Today about the Anders and Pool book. This is her takeaway from it
It’s not what you are born with or not, that makes you great at anything, makes your performance peak. And it’s not your environment either, at least not the one you were born into.

Your performance at any given field is all about your intent, your readiness, your desire to get great. Exceptionally great.
Maybe even
Crazy great!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Flag Day Salute

I am well aware that in some ways we Americans turn our flag into an object of worship in ways many nations do not. But we have developed a love for the metaphor it has become. It is a metaphor for us- all of us. It is a metaphor for our history in the 13 stripes; it is a metaphor for our extent and diversity (!) with its 50 stars. I am offended when conservatives take the flag and wrap themselves in it as if they own it.

They don't.

It is the flag of my ancestors:

  • German, Jewish, Scottish, and who knows what else.
  • It is the flag my Great-uncle Jacob died carrying in the Civil War.
  • It is the flag under which my Dad treated wounded or dying comrades in the Battle of the Bulge.
  • It is the flag of the country and we liberals are just as strong about it as conservatives claim to be.

Here is the video I put together last year for Flag Day. In celebration of who we are, I present it to you again. Enjoy.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Calling Out Racism and Prejudice

Bill Moyers online presence last week posted an article by Todd Gitlin. (Link) It was titled

Trump’s Actual Racism and How It’s Thrived: Why has it taken so long for Republicans and for the media to call him on it?
He describes in some detail the history of Trump's racist statements showing that it didn't just start with an Indiana-born judge who just happens to be the judge in a case involving Trump U.
rhetorical excesses are not what’s roiling American politics. What we’re hearing is the white supremacy that speaks unabashedly of roundups, walls and rapists of color. Winking and nodding won’t serve the Republicans anymore. Dog whistles have been superseded.

Vox writer German Lopez isn’t having any of it:
“…Instead of calling it like it is, CBS News, MSNBC, The Washington Post and The New York Times have called Trump’s comments about Curiel ‘racially charged’ and ‘racially tinged.’ the weasel words the media typically uses to describe racism. It makes one wonder: What would it take for them to finally call Trump or his remarks just plainly racist? If claiming a qualified, vetted judge shouldn’t be able to do his job because of his race and ethnicity isn’t racist, then what the hell is?”
Oh, and then there's the oft-heard line that the African-Americans (you know, like the President of the United States) are racist against whites. Not to be too picky a wordsmith, but racism from a minority to a majority is not the definition of racism. There may be prejudice or discrimination, but it is not racism. Racism is a structural system of one race oppressing another, stereotyping them, keeping them from truly being part of the culture and nation.

After yesterday's killings it will only get worse. We will blame Muslim terrorism and ignore things like how it's okay for a terrorist to get a gun so easily. We will call for banning Muslims, but what will we do about those who are born in the United States? Deport American citizens? Put them in camps? Both have been done in the past. Our fear can do it again. Blaming all Muslims would be like blaming all Christians for the actions of the KKK.

I am tired of this. I am sick and tired of our national fear and anger leading us down paths of hatred and death and war.

Lord, help our human failings. Guide us in a way of peace.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Why, O Lord? Have Mercy!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

About Swearing

Imagine my surprise while reading a book on the life of a New Yorker Magazine proofreader to come across a chapter titled:

"Chapter 9. F*ck This Sh*t” (Actual title, not censored)
(From: Mary Norris. Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen.)
It was a whole chapter on profanity. Here's the opening paragraph (warning: not censored)
HAS THE CASUAL USE OF profanity in English reached a high tide? That’s a rhetorical question, but I’m going to answer it anyway: Fuck yeah.
(From: Mary Norris. Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen.)
One of the great difficulties of
a) growing up in a fundamentalist Baptist Church;
b) working in radio and
c) having a 30-year career as a preacher
is that the ability to swear in many places is frowned upon. I remember a book that I got at a Baptist Revival in the early-60s that frowned (understatement) on swearing. They went so far as to say that even use of the soft words (darn, heck, and shoot, for example) was forbidden because everyone knew that they really meant something else. To use even these was part of the highway to Hell. (Capitalized, therefore indicating a place and not a swear word.)

This resulted in the fear of swearing- and when hearing a swear word- feeling ashamed for having heard it. I would take a certain guilty pleasure in church when a hymn used the word Hell. Saying a forbidden word, in church, was perhaps my entry into the life of degradation Harold Hill warned of in River City's pool hall.

I managed to stay mostly pure during my first year at college. I probably picked up an occasional damn or hell, but that was about it. Then came my real slide into damnation. During the summer between my freshman and sophomore years I worked in a local factory. The high school locker rooms were mild in comparison. I heard words in combinations I had never thought would make any sense. Like they say, when in Rome...

It was actually liberating! I discovered the joy of letting words fly. I didn't get to the level of sophistication of a couple of my co-workers who would pepper every sentence with one of the bigger words, like the two Mary Norris censored in her chapter title. I was downhill slip-sliding away!

It was no time at all until my favorite word was "Shit." (Sidenote: I still have problems writing that as my own word, not that of author Norris! Some shame dies hard.) This was, of course, the late 60s when we had that wonderful, gross as hell phrase to imagine:
Get your shit together!
(Hey, this is kind of fun.)

I know what Mary Norris means when she talks about going with friends
to see the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid over and over, and never failed to laugh at the scene when Robert Redford admits to Paul Newman that he can’t swim, but, to escape their trackers, he jumps off the cliff into the river anyway, bellowing “SHHHHHIIIIIIIIITTTT” on the way down.”
(From: Mary Norris. Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen.)
I could ramble on about this, of course. I don't have any embarrassing stories that I remember. Perhaps the most difficult time was right after I was discharged from my alcohol treatment program. As one might expect in that environment the language is not what I normally heard on Sunday morning at church. Sometime in the first few months sober my wife and I were relaxing with our best friends (who were church members) and some topic or another came up. Without a moment's hesitation Mary Norris's chapter title came out.

Okay. Maybe I was a little embarrassed at that moment. But, as I quickly added,
Now you see why I don't ad lib anything in worship.
So, what's the purpose of this essay? Well, I'm not sure. Maybe the young fundamentalist ghost is getting some prurient interest in doing something "obscene" in public? Maybe the retired pastor is saying that he knows these words? Maybe I just wanted to say that these words, used in the right place and time have an important place in our language. I remember reading a few years ago that letting go with a good string of profanities when you hit your thumb with a hammer actually reduces the amount and length of the pain.

I didn't want to ask how they ethically studied that.

And of course, it's what came to mind and felt like fun to share.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Another 100 Added

Post # 6,300.

Since I started this blog of wanderings in March 2003 I have been having a great time. I have written about many things that struck my fancy. I have done special series's of posts on the church, my Dad's service in World War 2, music and life, photos for Advent, Lent, Easter, Sundays, and Saints.

And I'm not done.

I have had a kind of slow-down in posts over the past 6 - 9 months, down from my obsessive-compulsive having at least one post per day. I have been involved in other projects and enjoying my semi-retirement.

I have sort of reoriented myself into a new daily and weekly schedule. I seem to be back at a little more regular wandering posts as opposed to my ongoing special series. I have ended my regular Sunday and Saints photo and quote posts but haven't decided where I want to go next with those kind of posts. On the side I am working (very slowly) on editing the series on my Dad into a non-fiction essay. It was a significant experience for me and am figuring out how to share that. I also continue to be a non-paid, advanced, almost full-time amateur musician.

I have no idea how many of you are out there regularly or even sporadically reading this blog. I hope I bring ideas to you and make you think, or react, or just laugh. I am still enjoying it after 13+ years and 6,300 posts.

Let me know if you want me to talk about anything. I won't promise to do it, but I will think about it.

And remember:
Not all who wander are lost.
-J. R. R. Tolkein

Thursday, June 09, 2016

After California... Finished. For Now....

The last of the primaries is over for this year! Sing praise!

Yes- the primaries are history. This election is making history. To make the obvious quote: What a long strange trip it's been.

Unfortunately I think we have hardly seen anything yet. Nothing, absolutely nothing of traditional political insight and wisdom has held true this year.

It may be one of the strangest and out-of-left-field campaigns in American history. Nothing is working like it has.

Either Clinton or Trump could win. By default, the candidate who is least offensive to the greater number of people will win. I don't remember any election in my 50+ years of political interest where the election is balancing on an incredible distrust in both major candidates. Republican friends say to me that they are worried by Trump, but are scared by Clinton. Democrat friends have a distrust of Clinton but are terrified by Trump.

Both candidates have a 70% dislike rating. Which, in a completely unscientific, non-mathematical way it turns into something like:

  • Trump has 30% support;
  • Hillary has 30% support;
  • 40% goes to ?
That 40%- a huge number- will either stay home or vote for the less offensive candidate depending on their party preference. Again- I know this is not good statistics. Don't comment on that. It is a metaphor for how difficult this election is to figure out. I have yet to see a pundit on either side say they saw this coming. Only the extreme pro-Trump or pro-Sanders people can say they expected it to look like this.

I have also heard more stupid explanations this year for a particular candidate than I remember. Two strike me as good examples.
  • We don't need another politician.
    OK. But this IS a political system and a political world. It's like taking your car to a garage for maintenance but refusing to allow a mechanic to work on it since another mechanic messed something up.
  • He speaks what's on his mind
    Yes, but so does your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving! Do you want him to be the president?
Earlier in this election season I commented that I still have hope. We, the American people, often do the right thing at the right time. When I said that I really didn't think that the insanity would be as deep and broad as it appears. I did not count on the ability of a demagogue to have as much influence as Trump has shown. Nor did I think as much about how deep the distrust of Hillary goes. What worries me most is that this is a close, probably deeply divisive election. It is not out of the question that what we have seen over the past 8 years of ideologically-based decisions is but a start of even more division.

Personally, I am far less worried by Hillary than I am by Donald. Hillary IS a politician. She is a political animal and knows how to handle politics. Like any politician, she has her share of mistakes (Benghazi is not one of them, in spite of what a few GOP think. The email fiasco is.) As a politician she understands on some level what needs to be done.

Trump on the other hand is not a politician. Nor is he truly a business man. He is a self-centered narcissist who only seems to know what he thinks and cannot understand any way but the way of being a bully. I don't believe that he will be so irrational as to start a nuclear war over some perceived, probably personal, threat. But I can see him doing things that will crash the world economy because the rest of the world doesn't understand what he is doing any more than most of us do.

In addition, I have noticed that there are some out there who, while they don't like  him are working very hard to convince us that he won't be that bad. They are explaining, rationalizing, and even normalizing his positions. Which is what worries me as much as his statements do. The only exception to this, so far, has been the nearly unanimous reaction by other GOP on his racist statements against the judge. They need to know that this is the result of their normalizing his ongoing provocations and racism. These are NOT positions taken simply to gain a particular vote. Or if they are, it is just as bad!

Bottom line for me- if you are not a white, heterosexual, conservative Christian male, I say that you should be worried, very worried.If you are one or all of those things, I urge you to pay attention and get worried. Freedom, as we understand it, including freedom of the press, speech, and religion, is at risk.

Freedom of speech, press, and religion are First Amendment rights! Equal in importance and power to the Second Amendment right. No one is seriously trying to take away the right to own guns. Trump's statements indicate he would, in the name of safety and security, abridge the first amendment.

Yes, my comments are extreme. I hope I can look back in six months or four years and see how stupid they are.

In fact I pray that my statements are simply the rantings of someone who is afraid today because things looks so unusually bleak. I have always been an optimist. The United States is a great experiment in freedom and hope. We as a people have stood up to great issues in the past. And come through them. I believe we can do it again.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

The Tuning Slide: New Comfort

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Anxiety, it just stops your life.
-Amanda Seyfried

No, I'm not going to talk about anxiety as such. I'm going to talk about how we have learned to deal with it. We all know what it is, of course. But here's one definition:
a feeling of
  • worry,
  • nervousness, or
  • unease,
typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
One of our natural adaptations to the world around us is our response to anxiety producing times and places. When we face a situation of perceived fear or threat there are survival mechanisms that come into play.

Maureen Werrbach, MA, LCPC writes about this:
...your body is responding to a perceived threat. This is called the stress response. The stress responses, fight, flight, or freeze, help us in situations where we perceive physical or mental threat.
Link to Psych Central
Right there they are:
    • Fight
    • Flight
    • Freeze.
They are the things of anxiety that can "stop your life." They are essential responses to life-threatening situations. The problem is that they developed when almost everything in the world around us was a life-threatening situation. That rustling of the leaves in the bush was more likely a predator than a small bird. High-level awareness was a necessity to remaining alive. What is even more important is that these responses occurred deep in the early human brain, beneath consciousness. These responses were, and are, hard-wired into who we are. These initial responses would occur in a fraction of a second before the conscious mind knew what was happening.

We still have that going on. If you are standing on the sidewalk and suddenly a car veers out of control heading at you, your mid-brain response may be as long as .2 to .3 seconds before your conscious brain knows it is happening. You will probably jump out of the way. This will happen before you know with your conscious mind that it is happening.

Two-tenths of a second doesn't seem like very long. But a vehicle moving at even 40 mph will travel about 60 feet (!) in one second. In that .2 - .3 seconds it will travel 12 - 18 feet. That may be just enough time for you to jump to safety. You probably knew that you couldn't fight the vehicle. But you may have some background that causes you to freeze instead of flee, which is fatal.

The kind of threats that our ancestors faced, though, are much less common than they used to be. We don't have wild animals stalking us, for example. Our lives, in much of the world, in spite of what we often feel or hear, are far safer on a day to day basis than they have ever been. As a result we have developed ways of evaluating anxiety-producing situations and easing the fears and sub-conscious responses. Throughout our lives we develop these self-soothing mechanisms. They are defense mechanisms against  things we don't like to feel, don't have to feel, or don't want to feel. When we enter into an anxious place where fear, worry, nervousness or unease bubble up, we all have ways we have learned to cope with these. Therefore, these situations brings old issues up- old ways of finding safety or comfort. Even if they have become counter-productive!!

They are automatic thoughts!

We have all kinds of automatic thoughts going on all the time. They are like the trailer at the bottom of the TV screen during a ball game. While the game is happening on the screen, the trailer is telling you about other games, scores, etc. Our automatic thoughts are that trailer. Which means we don't pay much attention to them unless we have to.

If, in the middle of that ball game, you hear a "ping" or "beep" that is out of place you will most likely see something like a severe weather warning down in the trailer section. The "automatic thoughts" of the trailer are now conscious. You read the warning- and you miss the game-winning touchdown as the clock runs out. In spite of what we think we can do, multi-tasking is next to impossible.

When these thoughts are "negative" and get in the way we refer to them as "Automatic Negative Thoughts"- or ANTs. That can be a way of identifying them and putting them into a more healthy place in our mind.

Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way,
ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or
a pioneer of the future.
~Deepak Chopra

But these automatic thoughts, negative or positive, are how our brains work. They are finely tuned for survival- and anxiety is a sign that something feels threatening- or at least uncomfortable and we want to change it. Which brings us back to
  • fight
  • flight or
  • freeze.
I have spent years working in addiction counseling and treatment. For some people the anxiety response they have developed over the years is to drink or use chemicals. They are seeking comfort from, ease of the anxiety and fears. It becomes the default response. They are not even aware how it happened or, at times, even why. It has become hard-wired. It is a "flight" response. Escape. Get away.

That is an extreme example, but the way it happens is similar to the many other ways we respond. Here are some other ways:
  • Flight: not taking solos because of anxiety; dropping out of the group since you can't "keep up"
  • Fight: always be a rebel and a trouble-maker; be unwilling to accept what someone else is suggesting because it makes you uncomfortable; passive-aggressive responses can be just as much "fight" as some overt action.
  • Freeze: Not responding to a suggestion, keep doing what you have always done and ignore the ideas. (This can look like passive-aggressive, but is different in attitude.)
When these become habitual they are also chemically wired in the per-conscious mid-brain. Does this mean we are now stuck in these old ways of dealing with these situations and feelings? Fortunately, the answer is no. One of the discoveries of neuroscience is that the brain is quite "plastic," It can "rewire" itself. If it couldn't a person who had a stroke could never learn to walk or talk again. The brain develops work arounds. We can help that process.

Actually, we have to or it won't happen. That is the purpose of physical therapy/rehab after a stroke or traumatic brain injury.  That is the purpose of recovery activities for an addict. These help the brain rewire itself in more healthy ways. Learning anxiety work arounds will help our brains move beyond the ways we have always done it and find new sources of comfort in anxious times.

On the website mentioned earlier, Maureen Werrbach suggested these proven methods (Link to Psych Central):
  • Embrace imperfection. Striving for perfection always leads to stress. Practice replacing perfectionistic thinking with more acceptable, less extreme ones.
  • Identify automatic thoughts. Uncover the meaning of these thoughts and you can begin to replace them with more appropriate thoughts.
  • Become a neutral observer. Stop looking at the stressful situation through your emotion-filled lens. Imagine that your stressful thoughts are someone else’s. You will notice that you can see things more objectively this way.
  • Practice breathing exercises. Focus your attention on your breath. Fill your lungs slowly and exhale slowly for a count of 10. Start over if you lose count. This exercise is meant to reduce your body’s response to stress.
  • Accept and tolerate life events. Acknowledge, endure, and accept what is happening in your life at the moment. Focus on the present and be mindful of your surroundings. Be deliberate about allowing this exact moment to be what it is, rather than what you wish or hope it to be.
Don't expect an immediate, extreme change. Anxiety and stress response habits are as ingrained as any other long-term habit. But as we learn the newer responses and practice them as needed, they will slowly but surely become our new comfort and new normal.

P.S. You’re not going to die. Here’s the white-hot truth: if you go bankrupt, you’ll still be okay. If you lose the gig, the lover, the house, you’ll still be okay. If you sing off-key, get beat by the competition, have your heart shattered, get fired…it’s not going to kill you. Ask anyone who’s been through it.
~Danielle LaPorte

It Can't Be Any Clearer

Seen today on Facebook from an Instagram post:

"Consensual sex" is just sex. To say that implies that there such a thing as "non consensual sex", which there isn't. That's rape. That is what it needs to be called. There is only sex or rape. Do not teach people that rape is just another type of sex. They are two very separate events. You wouldn't say "breathing swimming" and non breathing swimming", you say swimming and drowning.
Posted by guerrillafeminism
Neither is, as is pointed out in the comments on that page, "forced sex" "sex."

This whole story so clearly illustrates "male privilege", sexism, and patriarchy that it boggles the mind. The news articles are even referring to his $^%$#$% swimming times.


STUPID! (Yes, I was shouting!)

And then I came across another one:
If someone is a rapist and an athlete,
They aren't an athlete who made a mistake.
They are a rapist who can also swim.

Folks, this is 2016, for God's sake.

Next thing you know we will have a racist for a presidential (sic) candidate.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

It Happened Last Week

Actually, not a news review but a personal event. For the first time since I moved into my semi-retirement mode I fond myself saying

I don't have enough time to do everything I want to do.
I remember retired people I have known over the years saying that. I always thought it had to do with chores and "To-do Lists." I didn't ever think that time would seem to be going so fast that I had more things I wanted to do than there was time.

Now I get it.

I have several writing projects that I want to work on. There is the music- practicing, rehearsing, and performing. I haven't had a chance to ride mu bike on any trails and take pictures. My every-other-weekend work schedule seems to be more of a chance to gather my breath.

I will admit that some of the problem does lie in a personality quirk that I have never been totally able to overcome: I am not now, and never have been, a natural-born morning person. Most morning people refuse to believe that anyone can't become a morning person. It is real. Even all the years when I did get up early to go to work or whatever, it was not an easy task. No matter the hours of sleep, that alarm was not a welcome thing. Even getting up early does not automatically translate into early to bed.

But when one has to get up in order to get paid, well, you just do it.

Now I'm not paid to get up early. So I do "waste" some otherwise precious time not getting out of bed early enough. If I could just do that I would have more time to get the things done that aren't getting done. I know all the psychological tricks that I can pull on myself to get me out of bed earlier, but they don't work that easily.

Which means, since I seem unable to motivate that earlier time, I will just have to be satisfied with what does- and doesn't get done. Makes sense. But I will keep trying.

Monday, June 06, 2016

I Guess Then IS Now

I wondered how long it would take. The answer is, today.

A post on Facebook today said

9 U.S. soldiers died this week...
No one bats an eye...

Racist boxer that dodged
the U.S. draft dies..
Everyone loses their minds.
So much wrong with this I can't even begin.

I will just bow my head in shame at the long way we still have to go.

May God have mercy on us.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

If Then Were Now (or Vice Versa?)

Muhammad Ali's death on Friday started me thinking and reminiscing. I remember the highlights and controversies of his career and life in the 60s. Starting out as Cassius Clay he became more radicalized as those 60s became more contentious. He became part of the Nation of Islam, changed his name, refused to be drafted, and had his championship revoked.

He was not as widely loved as it would seem from the eulogies these past couple of days. In fact, he was downright reviled in many quarters. His patriotism and commitment to the country were questioned. The sports biography/documentary, The Trials of Muhammad Ali, covered the legal battle to overturn his conviction for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War.

Watching the new reports and honors placed on him since he died made me think about how time changes things.

"A powerful, dangerous political force" the (LA Times) said in an editorial.

Yes. He challenged a racially-based political system. He turned away from the fame to stand for a point of justice. "Boxing is nothing," he said, "just satisfying to some bloodthirsty people. I’m no longer a Cassius Clay, a Negro from Kentucky. I belong to the world, the black world. This is more than money.”

A dangerous challenge, but done with a sense of peace about himself and about what he was working for. A boxer, known for fighting with his hands, calling for peace between people. A remarkable stand.

I haven't (yet) seen any posting or note denigrating Ali since he died. Oh, I am sure it's out there somewhere. Someone has or will write about his un-American stands, his turning to Islam, or whatever that will want to knock him out of the heights he rose to. If the events of his life from the 60s were happening today he would probably be more hated than he was then. Just being a Muslim would be enough to set outside the centers of American culture.

I hope there is a lesson in this for those who would point fingers, racially or religiously profile individuals, or strike out with prejudice toward those who may stand differently. Muhammad Ali was a political pioneer. He stood up and did what he felt he had to do. Don't let the fine eulogies hide his positively dangerous and revolutionary witness and life.

Thanks for your willingness and stand.

Rest in peace!

Saturday, June 04, 2016

R. I. P. Muhammad Ali

1942 - 1916

Thursday, June 02, 2016

In Case You Were Wondering

We have all become familiar I am sure with the fact that a lot of things need our awareness. One of the ways a lot of these come into our field-of-view is through "awareness months." You know- making a month the awareness for something in particular. So I Googled the topic and, as you might guess, Wikipedia has a page listing the commemoratives for each month. (Link)

It is interesting to note that some months are almost bereft of commemoratives. July and August each have only two. (But it is noteworthy that July is Ice Cream Awareness Month, and, well, my birthday is in August.) March has only 3 listed. Sadly, at least on the Wikipedia page, December has only one.

June is not a particularly busy month for commemorations. But at least it has some. So, in case you were wondering, my public service for today is to give you the list for June. Do your part. Go become aware.

  • National Dysphagia Awareness Month
  • Caribbean American Heritage Month
  • LGBT Pride Month
  • National Safety Month
  • PTSD Awareness Month
  • Hemiplegic Migraine Awareness Month
  • National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month
Endnote: After I wrote and scheduled this post President Obama issued a declaration about LGBT Pride Month. Needless to say the right-wing-nuts jumped on it as another example of how bad and depraved and awful he is as a president. I feel that if Obama came out in favor of National Safety Month or PTSD Awareness they would have argued that the world is too dangerous for safety and there is one psychiatrist in the outer boondocks who says PTSD doesn't exist.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The Tuning Slide: Inner Game 3 - Developing Harmony

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

You are only afraid if you are not in harmony with yourself.
― Hermann Hesse

I have written several times about the idea of The Inner Game of Music, the book in which Barry Green adapted the original work of W. Timothy Gallwey and tennis to music. Basically Gallwey and Green describe two parts of who we are, Self 1 and Self 2. Simply put,
  • If it interferes with your potential, it is Self 1.
  • If it enhances your potential, it is Self 2.
Candace Brower on the Albuquerque Music Teacher’s blog writes about three fundamental skills for the "Inner Game": (1) awareness, (2) will, and (3) trust. A great deal of what I have covered over the past months has been focused on these ideas. With inspiration from what Ms. Brower has written as well as my own experiences and the increased knowledge of how the brain works, let me move to a new dimension of the inner game.

It would be easy to read the books and come to a logical conclusion as pointed out by Ms. Brower:
  • Self 1 is the bad guy, the enemy;
  • Self 2 is the good guy, the hero.
Which is too much of a black and white dichotomy for Brower and for me. All we have to do, it seems, is get rid of Self 1 and give Self 2 free reign. We will then flourish, bloom, become great. (Overstatement on purpose!) Brower asks the question:
...does Self 2 really have what it takes to learn the refined skills of playing a musical instrument or to perform a complex piece of music from memory? None of us is born with the innate ability to play a musical instrument, and in fact, it requires many years of training, and the development of very precise motor skills.
She goes on:
... I have found it helpful to recast the relationship between Self 1 and Self 2 in more positive terms that align it more closely both with Timothy Gallwey’s original conception and with what neuroscientists have since learned about the brain and nervous system. In The Inner Game of Tennis, Gallwey does not demonize Self 1, but rather encourages us to “improve the relationship” between Self 1 and Self 2. According to Gallwey, harmony [emphasis added] between Self 1 and Self 2 comes not when Self 1 disappears, but when Self 1 becomes quiet and focused, so that the “two selves are one.”
Without going into all the advances and insights in neuroscience that inform and affirm this let me simplify it very quickly.

Self 1 is seated in the thinking, decision-making part of the brain. It is hard at work doing its essential tasks when we are learning something. It is an essential part of the learning process. As we practice and repeat the new skills, the actions move deeper into the brain. We have heard people talk about "muscle memory", for example. This is when the less conscious and pre-conscious parts of the brain have taken over the activities. This is Self 2. When Self 1 begins to see that Self 2 knows what to do, Self 1 is free to learn the next thing. Hence we improve our skills, move on to more complex activities, etc.

Before putting this all together, let's go back again to Ms. Brower's thoughts:
Thus it appears that the “inner game” skills taught by Gallwey and Green—awareness, will, and trust—are skills to be learned by Self 1. It is Self 1 who must be aware and set goals, and who must learn to trust Self 2. If Self 1 cannot let go of self-judgment, driven by the need to win the approval of others, this can get in the way of performing the many other tasks that it needs to carry out.

In my own teaching, I encourage my students to think of Self 1 and Self 2, not as adversaries, but as collaborators working together in a spirit of cooperation. I help them sort out which tasks belong to Self 1 and which to Self 2, and help their two selves to work together to master the complex skills of playing a musical instrument.
How does this work, then. Here's an example:

Technique: Scales and Key Signatures
  • We learn and practice up and down the scales. 
  • We look at that key signature and use Self 1 to name what the flats and sharps are. 
  • We then play that scale. In doing that we are learning the relationships between the different notes through hearing and seeing, at least at the beginning, the notes on the page. 
  • We begin to learn consciously that this is the movement of our fingers, embouchure, air, etc. as we play this particular scale starting on whatever note we begin with.
Months and years later we are playing a piece written in that key. Self 1 pays attention, appropriately, to the key signature.  It tells Self 2, in essence, it's now in your hands. Experience has taught us that we know the key and how to play it. Self 2 takes over and does what is needed to play in that key.

Self 1 relaxes. However, it remains aware, mindful, ready to catch things like key changes, accidentals, particular rhythms, etc. Then Self 2 goofs. (We are, after all, human.) This is a new piece and as we were playing, Self 2 misses that F# or Eb of the key. Not a big deal. It is practice or rehearsal. So what do we do? Self 1 jumps back in and reminds us. We stop and circle that note. Self 1 is overriding the automatic mistake of Self 2. Self 2 is still in control. It is the driver. But Self 1 has become the navigator, as Brower describes it. The circle around the note becomes a navigation aid. Self 1 catches that and immediately sends the message through Self 2- play the sharp or flat.

The work of the brain and mind, Self 1 and Self 2, in tandem, each doing their appropriate tasks.

  • Collaboration is at work- just as between ourselves and the other musicians in whatever group we are participating with. Now, though the collaboration is with ourselves! The three skills of the "inner game" are being utilized effectively.
    • Awareness is at work- the mindfulness to what is happening around us in tone, style, etc.
    • Will is at work- Self 1 has done its job setting goals and guiding the process to get where it is today.
    • Trust is at work- or the collaboration wouldn't be happening. Self 1 knows Self 2 is competent. Fear is reduced allowing for harmony as the Hesse quote above notes.
  • Harmony is the result- music is being made.
Circling around then we have the same concerns we have always had as well as the same answers. Not to be too cliched about it but it does boil down to
  • practice and
  • how we practice.

A 50-Year Memory: Video for June

As June began, I was no longer a high school student. A summer of freedom was ahead. I was working as a cashier at the local swimming pool, learning to swim in private lessons with one of the lifeguards, and probably getting nervous about heading off to college in the fall.

On the radio as I graduated and moved into June:

Two weeks in May/June at #1:
When A Man Loves A Woman- Percy Sledge

Trivia: this was the first number 1 hit recorded in Muscle Shoals. It is also one of seven number 1 hits to debut on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 100.

Then the Stones came roaring into town:

Two weeks in June at #1:
Paint It, Black- The Rolling Stones

Trivia: the third number one hit single for he Stones in the US and sixth in the UK. Since its initial release, the song has remained influential as the first number one hit featuring a sitar.

I'll save these guys until next month. They took top spot on the last week of June.
One week in June at #1:
Paperback Writer- The Beatles