Monday, July 27, 2015

An Invitation for Saturday

If you are in the Northfield, MN, area next Saturday, here's an invitation for you.

Here is the official press release:

Vintage Band Festival will present a one-day mini-festival on August 1, 2015 in downtown Northfield, Minnesota. There will be 12 different brass and wind bands playing throughout the day from 9am-9pm. Each band will have the stage for 45 minutes and the musical formats will range from Civil War to Old-Time to Jazz to Ethnic. There will be a German band, several community bands, a Mariachi Band and the “Red Bull Band” from the 34th Infantry Division of the Minnesota National Guard. Perennial favorites include the Sheldon Theatre Brass Band and the Copper Street Brass Quintet.
Here's the schedule:

And, not too humbly, I ask you to note the 1:00 pm group at Bridge Square. We would love to see you!!!!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Better Saying

I have often been hard on Church signs that have sayings that don't make sense, are overly cute, or just plain inane. Once in a while I do come across one that manages to say something that is a good reminder to me of my daily walk with my God and Higher Power. Here's the one I recently responded to in a positive way:

Is God your first thought or last resort?
My first response was easily
Great question!
As I pondered it further I naturally went to the old line that
there are no atheists in foxholes.
I'm not sure that is explicitly true, but it does clearly say that when our backs are up against a wall and there's no other way, people are more likely to turn to something or someone for help.

God as a last resort.

There's nothing wrong with that, of course. Most of the time we don't need to be stopping and praying to God for the least little thing. Those are the things I have always referred to as "parking place prayers." You know, you are running late, need to get to a store and out quickly so you say a prayer- God help me get a parking place quickly. [Full disclosure: While I admit to believing that the Creator of the universe has more important things to do, I do say those prayers from time to time.] But if that is the way I live, it is probably not the healthiest, in the long run. It can become simply a way of doing whatever I want to do and then asking God to bail me out.

So, I continued pondering the quote. I realized that this is the basic philosophy and way-of-life of the Twelve-Step groups. It is, in fact, Step Eleven:
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry it out.
In the Big Book of AA, Bill W. wrote,
We shouldn't be shy in this matter of prayer. Better men than we are using it constantly. It works, if we have the proper attitude and work at it.
The basic message is the challenge to make God our first thought instead of last resort. That means living my life in the presence of God, knowing God's love and grace, ever aware of my need for God's power(!) and God's daily willingness to provide we what I need, not always what I want.

In other words, God's will should be my first thought, my daily prayer, and my constant source of gratitude. As one begins to live that in more and more ways (and it is not as simple as some make it sound!!!) one  learns the truth of the admonition to
Pray without ceasing!
What a burden is lifted at that point. I don't have to know what's next. I just have to work at keeping myself in God's will or, as one hears in the Twelve-Step fellowships
just doing the next right thing
I guess that church sign did its job the other day. It didn't get me in "their" church, but it did keep me thinking about my faith and spirituality.

Must have been my Higher Power at work.

As usual.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

An Extra Quote From The Saints

This week's Celebration of Saints was from women who were pioneers in the work of equal rights. I found an extra quote from one of them that seemed to me to more than appropriate for some of the conversations we have been seeing in the country these past months. As Elizabeth Cady Stanton fought for rights and change and freedom for more people, she made the following powerful observation as a note to those who don't want to see things change. Heed this. Please.

Come, come, my conservative friend, wipe the dew off your spectacles, and see that the world is moving.
-Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Friday, July 24, 2015


Some days...
...all I want to do is play music and 
forget all the craziness, drama, 
disagreement, and dysfunction of the world.

Whether it's my trumpet or iTunes, it makes things better!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Women Pioneers for Equal Rights (2)

Twice a week I post a quote from saints from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Women Pioneers for Equal Rights
July 20

The Episcopal Church has added to its Calendar four American women who were pioneers in the struggle for black emancipation and for women's votes. The date chosen for commemorating them is the anniversary of the Women's Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, New York, 19-20 July 1848.

Harriet Ross Tubman was born in 1820 in Maryland. She was deeply impressed by the Bible narrative of God's deliverance of the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, and it became the basis of her belief that it was God's will to deliver slaves in America out of their bondage, and that it was her duty to help accomplish this. In 1844, she escaped to Canada, but returned to help others escape. Working with other Abolitionists, chiefly white Quakers, she made at least nineteen excursions into Maryland in the 1850's, leading more than 300 slaves to freedom. During the War of 1861-5, she joined the Northern Army as a cook and a nurse and a spy, and on one occasion led a raid that freed over 750 slaves. After the war, she worked to shelter orphans and elderly poor persons, and to advance the status of women and blacks. She became known as "the Moses of her People."

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born in 1815 and reared in the Presbyterian Church. She found the Calvinist doctrine of predestination dismaying, and rebelled against it. She denounced the clergy of her day for not upholding women's rights, but as she travelled giving speeches on the subject, she found no lack of pulpits available to her. She undertook to write what she called a Women's Bible. It never got beyond a series of notes on selected Biblical passages.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Last Miles

One more post from my recent reading and experience of Miles Davis. It was part of what molded him into the kind of artist he was- and what earned him some of the disdain of others who found him aloof and not willing to engage.

It is the issue of racism- and, as recent months have seen, it is an issue that is still very much with us.

Davis had a deep and abiding anger at the American racist foundations. He speaks of returning from Europe in the 1950s and 60s where he was accepted on a different level- as a human being. He speaks of the way white musicians took what the black musicians developed and earned more money doing the same type of thing.

He did not begrudge the great white Birth of the Cool, Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain, among others. But he always was aware of the racial divide in the country.
jazz musicians, composers, etc. He welcomed them into his groups, even when black colleagues didn't like him to do that. His ongoing work with composer Gil Evans, for example, produced

He recalls the time when he was arrested outside the NYC club where he was headlining because he reacted to the white policeman who didn't think a black man should be hanging around there. He knows he was often treated as less than the whites even though he grew up in an upper-middle class life in East St. Louis, IL, the son of a successful dentist. He refused to "perform" on stage in ways that would reinforce the old stereotypes of the black musicians. He had great love for Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie, but regularly took them to task for their racially stereotypical grinning. It is hard to find official pictures of him that show him smiling. He refused to give white America that satisfaction.

In many ways he refused to be anything but Miles Davis, as he understood himself. His continued openness to white musicians throughout his career was as much a part of that as his unwillingness to be a sideshow clown or black version of the black-faced expectation of many whites. He paid little attention to most white critics who he felt were judging his (and most black jazz music) on white standards that were irrelevant.

Remember- he lived the 50s and 60s and all the preceded them. His racism-radar was finely tuned. He put up with no BS, especially when racially based.

Let's be willing to admit that some of this was Miles' personality. It was what made him who he was, and what made his music so exciting, innovative and never the same from year to year. He did not suffer fools- nor was he willing to wait for what he saw he should be doing. The jazz world - and all of us even these many years later - continue to reap the benefits.

In this ongoing time of renewed racial tensions, challenges and counter-challenges in the United States, reading Miles' words reminded me that no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to get inside the feelings of racism from the black person's experience. I blend in; I am white; I don't know that pain that has been deeply planted in the souls of those who have been slaves. I believe there is such a thing as "racial" or "ethnic" memory. We know much more about genetics today and we believe that the experiences of our ancestors makes "epigenetic" changes in genetic coding that can be passed on to future generations. While I have always been a strong advocate for civil rights, reading Miles' thoughts and hearing his anger from 50-60 years ago, opened new awareness and reflection.

While it may not be at the level it was in the 50s and 60s, we still face it, we still must be on guard for the subtle and not so subtle ways that racism plays out in our national American psyche. None of us is immune to it. Perhaps Miles Davis can also have something to teach us about our racial relationships that may be even more profound and important than his music.

That would be quite an accomplishment.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Women Pioneers for Equal Rights (1)

Twice a week I post a quote from saints from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Women Pioneers for Equal Rights
July 20

The Episcopal Church has added to its Calendar four American women who were pioneers in the struggle for black emancipation and for women's votes. The date chosen for commemorating them is the anniversary of the Women's Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, New York, 19-20 July 1848.

Sojourner Truth, originally known as Isabella, was born a slave in New York in about 1798. In 1826 she escaped with the aid of Quaker Abolitionists, and became a street-corner evangelist and the founder of a shelter for homeless women. When she was travelling, and someone asked her name, she said "Sojourner," meaning that she was a citizen of heaven, and a wanderer on earth. She then gave her surname as "Truth," on the grounds that God was her Father, and His name was Truth. She spoke at numerous church gatherings, both black and white, quoting the Bible extensively from memory, and speaking against slavery and for an improved legal status for women. The speech for which she is best known is called, "Ain't I a Woman?" It was delivered in response to a male speaker who had been arguing that the refusal of votes for women was grounded in a wish to shelter women from the harsh realities of political life. She replied, with great effect, that she was a woman, and that society had not sheltered her. She became known as "the Miriam of the Latter Exodus."

Amelia Jenks Bloomer was born in New York in 1818, reared as a Presbyterian, and as a young woman became an activist for the anti-slavery, anti-alcohol, and women's votes movements. Mrs. Bloomer and her husband eventually settled in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where she worked to promote churches, schools, libraries, and progressive and reform movements. On one occasion she said:
The same Power that brought the slave out of bondage will, in His own good time and way, bring about the emancipation of women, and make her the equal in power and dominion that she was in the beginning.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Some Musical Happenings on This Day

Makes sense to me:

1940 - Billboard publishes its 1st singles record chart (#1 is "I'll Never Smile Again" by Tommy Dorsey, vocal by Frank Sinatra)

1962 - Dmitri Shostakovitch completes his 13th Symphony (known as "Babi Yar")

1963 - 1st surfin' record to go #1-Jan & Dean's "Surf City"

1965 - Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" was released.

1968 - Iron Butterfly's "In-a-gadda-da-vida" becomes 1st heavy metal song to hit charts, it comes in at #117
1968 - Cream's "Wheels Of Fire" hits #1

1975 - Steve Van Zandt (also known as Little Steven) performed for the first time in concert as a member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band.

So, for history's sake, here's Dorsey and Sinatra from 75 years ago this week...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Easy Way of Being a Prophet

Last Sunday the Gospel lesson was the end of the story of John the Baptist- where he lost his head to the whims of the king. The Hebrew Bible lesson was from Amos who got into trouble for speaking the truth to power- the King. They fit right in with my sermon two weeks ago on Jan Hus and his martyr's death at the instigation of the Pope and the church powers in 1415.

THAT'S not an easy way to be a prophet. What is the easier, softer way?

The pastor then talked about a recent experience he had at national convention where he and 1,200 others did a march against gun violence while carrying signs that said, "Black Lives Matter." It was a very moving spiritual experience for him, as I am sure it would have been. We had done a simple march in Miami 20 years ago as part of a world mission conference. All we did was walk as a witness to our faith. That was amazing. This was standing up to power and pointing out one of the deep divides and cardinal sins of our culture that no one wants to talk about.

The pastor then commented

It's easy being a prophet when you are with 1200 other people.
Yep. A lot of truth in that. It is easy when we can get lost in the crowd. When all of you are chanting the same, protesting the same, but just face the reality and, well, things can get a little more difficult.

I discovered that back in the early 70s in the midst of the Vietnam War protests. I had gone down to Washington to participate in the May Day protests. I had been there a week earlier with the big protests. It was fun and an anti-war carnival. Many people came back a week later with the expressed purpose of shutting down Washington in acts of civil disobedience. We arrived on Saturday, May 1 and camped out in West Potomac Park near the Washington Monument. It was a picnic-rock fest with people hanging-out and listening to the music. There were about 35,000 people there.

I fell asleep that night, though fitfully, aware that civil disobedience could get one arrested.

I awoke on Sunday morning and looked out the tent flap. As I remember it now it was the sight of riot troops (we'd call them SWAT teams now) lining the streets around the park. It seemed like an endless number of them. The Nixon administration had cancelled the park permit. They were urging us to leave. Later in the morning the troops started to move across the camping area, tearing tents down, using tear gas to disperse the crowds.

I never saw that part. I gathered my stuff and, along with about 25,000 others, left D.C. heading back home.

Sometimes it isn't even easy being a prophet when there are 35,000 of you- and 10,000 of them with guns.

Or you are standing on a Memphis motel porch, there's one lone gunman across the street and your name is Martin Luther King, Jr.; or Robert Kennedy, surrounded by supporters as Sirhan Sirhan pulls the trigger; or Mahatma Gandhi about to enter a prayer meeting as a gunman came up to him and fired three times.

 It appears that it is never easy being a prophet when you have to stand up to the ways of the world that lead to death, destruction, hate, and fear.

I give thanks for those who are willing to take that prophetic stand of speaking out, of challenging those who would use their power to oppress those already under oppression; those who would conspire to take dignity and hope, health and support from others who are different; those who would use their religion and their patriotism to denigrate others and turn them into non-persons.

I know that I am a weak prophet. I want people to like me- and I certainly don't want to be tear-gassed or have my head beaten by a billy-club. But I also know that I have to find ways to stand up for what I believe to be right.

The easy way of being a prophet is to stay at home and not speak out. Because one is no longer a prophet. Maybe I need to find more people who are willing to do it with me.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Just for Some Saturday Fun

An incomparable scene from Jerry Lewis in The Errand Boy. One of the great comedy/music scenes as Jerry pantomimes to Count Basie's Blues from Hoss' Flat.

Have some fun on this Saturday afternoon.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Bucket List Items?

Stopped into my local coffee shop and the question on the blackboard was "What is on the top of your bucket list?" The funny thing was I almost posted that on Facebook an hour or so earlier. So I started thinking.....

I am in the midst of filling one of those this summer (and beyond, hopefully.) I am devoting significant time to becoming a much better trumpet player. My technique etc. is probably the best it has ever been. (I know that because I can almost play the whole Al Hirt part of the song Java.) I am playing all kinds of music this summer from classical band to brass quintet to jazz-big band. I am wrestling with improvising right now. Our quintet will be playing at a local band festival in three weeks. It is exciting!!

So, what else is there to look forward to? Here goes:

  • Playing in the pit orchestra for The Music Man
  • Finally getting to the Grand Canyon and perhaps someday
  • rafting in the Grand Canyon
  • Finishing my first book and
  • Getting the book published
  • Visiting Cuba
  • Visiting Alaska, esp. Denali
And the #1, top bucket list item, and perhaps the least likely to occur:
  • Biking at least 300 km or more of the Camino de Santiago de Compestela in Spain
In the end it also reminded me of a pastor colleague I once knew and greatly respected in spite of some of our disagreements. He was a Bishop and a truly spiritual person! Every year, like most of us, he would get upset with the tedium of the church annual report that had to be sent into the denominational headquarters. In addition to stats and all those things you had to list both "short-term goals" and "long-term goals."

One year, in one of his flights of fancy he decided to see what would happen if he gave a really true answer to the "long-term goal" question. His answer was simple:
  • To get to heaven! 
My ultimate bucket list item! And obviously the last one to be fulfilled.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Righteous Gentiles (2)

Twice a week I post a quote from saints from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Righteous Gentiles
July 16

Although the phrase "Righteous Gentiles" has become a general term for any non-Jew who risked their life to save Jews during the Holocaust, it here appears to apply specifically to: Raoul Wallenberg [Swedish]; Hiram Bingham IV [American]; Karl Lutz [Swiss]; C. Sujihara [Japanese]; and Andre Trocme [French].

Hiram "Harry" Bingham IV
(July 17, 1903 – January 12, 1988) was an American diplomat. He served as a Vice-Consul in Marseille, France, during World War II, and helped over 2,500 Jews to flee from France as Nazi forces advanced.Anxious to limit immigration to the United States and to maintain good relations with the Vichy government, the State Department actively discouraged diplomats from helping refugees. However, Bingham cooperated in issuing visas and helping refugees escape France. Hiram Bingham gave about 2,000 visas, most of them to well-known personalities, speaking English, including Max Ernst, André Breton, Hannah Arendt, Marc Chagall, Lion Feuchtwanger and Nobel prize winner Otto Meyerhof.

André Trocmé ( April 7, 1901 – June 5, 1971) and his wife Magda (née Grilli di Cortona, November 2, 1901, Florence, Italy - Oct. 10, 1996) are a couple of French Righteous Among the Nations. For 15 years, André served as a pastor in the town of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon on the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon in South-Central France. He had been sent to this rather remote parish because of his pacifist positions which were not well received by the French Protestant Church. In his preaching he spoke out against discrimination as the Nazis were gaining power in neighboring Germany and urged his Protestant Huguenot congregation to hide Jewish refugees from the Holocaust of the Second World War. Trocmé and his church members ... established a number of "safe houses" where Jewish and other refugees seeking to escape the Nazis could hide. ... Between 1940 and 1944 when World War II ended in Europe, it is estimated that about 3500 Jewish refugees including many children were saved by the small village of Le Chambon and the communities on the surrounding plateau because the people refused to give in to what they considered to be the illegitimate legal, military, and police power of the Nazis.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

More Distance of Miles

I have obviously been thinking a great deal about the legacy of Miles Davis this past few weeks. I read his autobiography and have been digging into the making of his seminal album, Kind of Blue. He died in 1991 after making more innovations in jazz music than anyone except maybe Louis Armstrong. Even Ellington did not go as far as Davis went in changing the music. His influence on jazz (and hence American music) in the 2nd half of the 20th Century is beyond description.

Underneath all the change and innovations and legacy lie several pieces that are of interest as well. The first is his up and down wrestling with addiction. He was a heroin addict, used cocaine and pain pills for many years, even long after kicking heroin. He had alcohol problems but they were pale in comparison to the broader addiction issues. He was not alone in the heroin habit, of course. It was epidemic in the jazz world he inhabited. He fought it; he was clean and then he would do the things that addicts often do, believe they could handle it. So he would keep on drinking or using cocaine, "socially" of course. It never worked as he would spiral backwards.

Perhaps it is amazing that he managed to accomplish as much as he did. Unlike many of the others so hooked, he did not die young. He lived out his potential, although I wonder what it might have been like if he had managed to completely kick the addictions? He never said that his drugs helped him be creative. He was not stupid; he was an addict in a time and place that did not understand the disease and its ability to control the brain. I began working toward my addiction counseling license the year Davis died and we knew next to nothing compared to what we know today.

The second part of Davis' compulsive side was his inability to maintain healthy relations with women. He was not monogamous and probably never even tried. He kept looking for something that he was unable to experience, love and stability. Some of that was his endless curiosity and creativity that encompassed everything. He was guided, even imprisoned by his sexual needs and searching. This, we know today, as having the same roots as addiction. The process of the human brain is biochemical, regulated- and dysregulated- by neurochemicals that carry everything from memories to pleasure, fear to ecstasy. Davis' relationships were almost as controlling of his life as his addictions. He admits that his use of drugs did get in the way of his sexual drive. Not a surprise.

This side did not have the kind of periodic impact on his creativity that addiction did. Addiction is powerful, overwhelming, and ultimately in complete control. That did prevent him at times from performing to the level he could have.

In that way, Davis' story is a cautionary tale. There are those who, in spite of incredible personal dysfunction, can change the world. (Steve Jobs' narcissistic, even anti-social personality comes to mind.) As I have been reading these different accounts of his music and accomplishments I have at times been in awe of what he was able to do. He was a genius who heard what he wanted in his head and moved with it. He was able to pick out people who would work within the framework he dreamed of. He turned many of them into music leaders in their own right.

I was also deeply saddened by many aspects of his story. Some of it- perhaps even most of it- was beyond his control. That's the old idea of powerlessness found in the recovery community. He was unable to ever see that. But that was also why he was as creative and innovative as he was. He refused to be told that something wasn't possible- that it was beyond his ability or control.

The paradox of a person like Miles Davis, then, is that tension that for many a lesser person will drive them into an early grave. He was who he was and for that the world has been given insights and music that the lesser person would never have been able to give.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Righteous Gentiles (1)

Twice a week I post a quote from saints from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Righteous Gentiles
July 16

Although the phrase "Righteous Gentiles" has become a general term for any non-Jew who risked their life to save Jews during the Holocaust, it here appears to apply specifically to: Raoul Wallenberg [Swedish]; Hiram Bingham IV [American]; Karl Lutz [Swiss]; C. Sujihara [Japanese]; and Andre Trocme [French].

Raoul Wallenberg (August 4, 1912 – July 17, 1947?) was a Swedish humanitarian who worked in Budapest, Hungary, during World War II to rescue Jews from the Holocaust. Between July and December 1944, he issued protective passports and housed Jews, saving tens of thousands of Jewish lives.

Carl Lutz (b. Walzenhausen, 30 March 1895; d. Berne, 12 February 1975) was the Swiss Vice-Consul in Budapest, Hungary from 1942 until the end of World War II. Once the Nazis took over Budapest in 1944 and began deporting Jews to the death camps, Lutz negotiated a special deal with the Hungarian government and the Nazis: he had permission to issue protective letters to 8,000 Hungarian Jews for emigration to Palestine. Lutz then deliberately misinterpreted his permission for 8,000 as applying to families rather than individuals, and proceeded to issue tens of thousands of additional protective letters, all of them bearing a number between one and 8,000.

Chiune Sugihara (1 January 1900 – 31 July 1986) was a Japanese diplomat, serving as Vice Consul for the Japanese Empire in Lithuania. During World War II, he helped several thousand Jews leave the country by issuing transit visas to Jewish refugees so that they could travel to Japan. Most of the Jews who escaped were refugees from German-occupied Poland or residents of Lithuania. Sugihara wrote travel visas that facilitated the escape of more than 6,000 Jewish refugees to Japanese territory, risking his career and his family's life.


# 6,000- In Memory of Another Pilgrim

Normally I would simply note the passing of post # 6,000 in the history of this blog which started over 12 years ago. But in the last couple weeks a fellow-pilgrim, friend, and very special person came to the end of his pilgrimage.

So I dedicate this post, number 6,000 of pilgrim wanderings for my friend, Ron, a true and dedicated pilgrim throughout his life.

We met about 45 years ago in the midst of our shared objections to the Vietnam War and our desire to help those who wanted peace. We spent the next years in our common interests. He and his wife gave me a place to learn a bit about what it means to mature and become yourself. He was almost exactly 10 years older than I was and became a role model and older brother.

We shared a common desire to grow and wrestle with our Christianity and what it means in these days to be a Christ-follower. We knew that this included standing up for what is right, caring for those who were the least and the lost, asking hard questions of ourselves, the government, and the churches. We learned and challenged each other to keep the faith and trust in the God who is the Creator.

His living room sanctuary was where I came to know another pilgrim who was soon to become my wife. We all worked together for peace as being something more than anti-war. It was a way of being and accepting, even in our human imperfections, the ways of God as the way of life.

He is also the impetus that got me into the Moravian Church and on the path that I have followed for these past 40+ years. God puts the right people in the right place at the right time. I was a young college graduate who had no idea what it meant to find his way in the world. He was present at the creation of what I have become and with his wife and mine helped me discover me.

It seems like a cliche to say that he was one of those people who is the "salt of the earth." Yet, in all the ways Jesus meant that phrase, that describes Ron. He was a "blue-collar" person who was able to relate to people on a deep and intuitive level, regardless of their place or standing. This included the gay co-worker (in 1971!), the kids at the local youth center that I directed for the city, returning Vietnam veterans- or this seminarian trying to be real.

It is appropriate that he died on July 4th. He was patriotic, again in the very best sense of the word. He wanted this country to live up to its ideals in the midst of a time when those principles were being torn to shreds, we felt, by the government itself. It will also be easy for me to remember his "Saint's Day", the day his pilgrimage found its answers and the reunion with his wife and others who have gone before us.

Rest in Peace, my dear friend. Thanks!!

An old American folk song made famous by Dave van Ronk, Bob Dylan and others speaks of my feelings these past months since I learned of his terminal situation. While it isn't about Ron, it is about all those friends who walk into our lives and will not leave us unchanged.

Monday, July 13, 2015

In Memoriam: Jim Ed Brown

I missed this last month when the singer Jim Ed Brown died on June 11, just before he was to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. We had the good fortune of seeing him in January when we were at the Grand Ole Opry. He was 81.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

I Can't Believe THIS Is News

From time to time I like to find those really stupid, offbeat, or out in left-field kind of stories that I just shake my head at. I then respond, I really can't believe THIS is news. Here are a few I have found recently.

  • With the Fourth of July just past, there were two that won my disbelief- and possibly even a Darwin Award.
    There were two, yes, two, separate stories of people men, in different parts of the country, dying over the holiday when they put fireworks on their body and set them off.
    Alcohol was involved in at least one of them. Why does that NOT come as a surprise.
  • Here's one reported on the Huffington Post:
    A man at a Broadway show desperately needed to plug in his phone climbed onstage before a recent performance to connect his device to the nearest outlet, according to Playbill. Unfortunately, that power outlet was a part of the set, and very much fake.
    Maybe he wanted to call his agent about a job in the play.
  •  ABC News found this one:
    Police in New Jersey say a drunken man twice called 911 to report a fake accident because he wanted officers to give him a ride home.

    Hackettstown police say the initial call from the 38-year-old man came in Tuesday night around the same time the department received a domestic violence call. Some officers who were headed to the domestic violence call instead were diverted to the reported accident.

    While officers were en route, the man called 911 again and asked the dispatcher "where the police were."
    Alcohol again. Something's never change.
  • From The News of the Weird:
    The federal Medicare Fraud Strike Force obtained indictments of 243 people in June in a variety of alleged scams and swindles, and among those arrested was a doctor from Fort Worth, Texas, who once billed the government for working 205 hours in a single day (October 16, 2012)
    Come on! Don't you know everything is bigger in Texas- even the length of the days?
  • Finally, one that I would be very remiss if I didn't post. It comes from everywhere on the news these days.
    Donald Trump says Mexican immigrants are rapists, etc.
    Actually, maybe the real story is that the news outlets are still reporting it. OR, at least one of the other candidates seems to think Trump is a hero.

      Saturday, July 11, 2015

      Still Worth Celebrating The John Adams Way

      Okay, it's only been a week since the Fourth of July. Since it is pretty difficult to do a video of THIS year's fireworks before the Fourth, I thought I would still post it on the 1-week anniversary of the Fourth of July. That way, if I forget by next July, I will already have it done.


      Friday, July 10, 2015

      About That Flag Thing...

      I am a Northerner. I was born and raised in the North. I have only "lived" in the South on vacations. I am a Yankee through and through. As far as the Civil War is concerned:
      • The Battle of Gettysburg saved the United States. 
      • The Gettysburg Address was brilliant. 
      • My great, great uncle was killed at The Wilderness while being the flag bearer for the US army.
      • The death of Abraham Lincoln was a tragedy for the south as much as the north, perhaps even more so. 
      • Jefferson Davis was a traitor to the United States.
      • It was not a war of northern aggression
      • It was always about slavery- state's rights meant the right to own slaves.
      And, because of all the above, I have always been offended by the flying of the Confederate battle flag. It has always been a symbol of at least a bunch of good ol' boys wanting to whoop it up and at worst- racism.

      As such it does not belong hanging on the same flag pole or near the flag that all these conservative pundits claim they want to honor and wear on their lapels- the American Flag- the official flag of the United States. If you want to be patriotic, it is not for the so-called heritage of the south. It is for the USA. My father did not go to war to save the confederate flag. He fought under the Stars and Stripes.

      Let's get over it and be Americans- citizens of the UNITED States, not the confederate states.

      [Does this mean it should be illegal to own or sell the confederate flag. No, I don't think so, any more than it is illegal to own or sell a Nazi flag or Soviet flag, two other defeated nations. It may be in bad taste and offensive at times to display it, but it's not illegal.]

      Thursday, July 09, 2015

      Calendar of Saints: Jan Hus (2)

      Twice a week I post a quote from a saint from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

      Jan Hus
      Priest, Prophetic Witness and Martyr
      July 6
      600th Anniversary

      In 1414 he was summoned to the Council of Constance, with the Emperor guaranteeing his personal safety even if found guilty. He was tried, and ordered to recant certain heretical doctrines. He replied that he had never held or taught the doctrines in question, and was willing to declare the doctrines false, but not willing to declare on oath that he had once taught them. The one point on which Hus could be said to have a doctrinal difference with the Council was that he taught that the office of the pope did not exist by Divine command, but was established by the Church that things might be done in an orderly fashion (a view that he shared with Thomas More). The Council, having just narrowly succeeded in uniting Western Christendom under a single pope after years of chaos, was not about to have its work undone. It accordingly found him guilty of heresy, and he was burned at the stake on 6 July 1415.

      After his death, his followers continued to insist on the importance of administering the Holy Communion in both kinds, and defeated several armies sent against them. In 1436 a pact was signed, by which the Church in Bohemia was authorized to administer Chalice as well as Host to all communicants. The followers of John Huss and his fellow martyr Jerome of Prague became known as the Czech Brethren and later as the Moravians. The Moravian Church survives to this day, and has had a considerable influence on the Lutheran movement. When Luther suddenly became famous after the publication of his 95 Theses, cartoons and graffiti began to appear implying that Luther was the spiritual heir of John Huss. When Luther encountered the Pope's representative Johannes Eck, in a crucial debate, Eck sidestepped the questions of indulgences and of justification by faith, and instead asked Luther whether the Church had been right to condemn Hus. When Luther, after thinking it over, said that Hus had been unjustly condemned, the whole question of the authority of Popes and Councils was raised.


      Wednesday, July 08, 2015

      More Miles and Miles

      I have been a fan of Miles Davis for years. His "understated" style of trumpet playing stood in marked contrast to the screamers like Maynard Ferguson or Doc Severensin. That of course made it okay for a middle-range player like myself to feel like trumpet playing isn't just the high notes.

      But reading his autobiography for the first time in the past few weeks, I have come to appreciate even more of his amazing ability and the revolution in jazz he created and took to fruition, even as he was moving on to the next thing- a sign of a truly revolutionary and creative person.

      So I went digging for quotes from Miles. Some are from the book. Others from interviews and other places. They give a broad-stroke picture of his thinking and music. They also give some good advice for all of life, not just the music.

      Miles saw all that he did as part of the creating:

      • 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.

      He would never be done with it, never resting on what had
      • I know what I’ve done for music, but don’t call me “a legend”.(…) A legend is an old man with a cane known for what he used to do. I’m still doing it.”

      He started playing in the clubs when bebop was new and exciting and young. But he knew that bebop, like everything else, has to keep growing:
      • Bebop was about change, about evolution. It wasn't about standing still and becoming safe. If anybody wants to keep creating they have to be about change.

      "There are no wrong notes in jazz" is a truism he brought forward. It's what you do with it:
      • If you hit a wrong note, it's the next note that you play that determines if it's good or bad.

      Which leads naturally to:
      • Do not fear mistakes - there are none.

      All of us are "works in progress." We are never finished growing until we stop- and then we're gone. Find yourself. I would add, keep finding yourself as you evolve.
      • Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.

      Miles Davis
      (1926 - 1991)