Wednesday, December 31, 2008

That Time of the Year...Again

It's that time of year again to look back and look ahead. While life and the economy are as volatile as a pinball machine, and we are ready to undergo some changes and start a new game, we must first look again at the year that's past.

It has been a remarkable year of disappointment and hope, but it is ending on a note of hope.... After a long and longer year of an endless political campaign that seemed destined to never end, it suddenly ended with a record-breaking election with long lines at the polls, after a seemingly endless supply of money was raised and many people became newly involved in the political process. No matter what stripe of politics you support, there was a demand for change and rethinking, and, for some, a new sense of hope for the future. It is now a future in which anyone (with certain skills and talents) can rise and become President, even while we work through a massive and complex economic crisis that finally caught up with our past economic "up ticks" (that had no end in sight).

It has been one for the books, while actual books, cds and newspapers continue to suffer, and gas prices explode--going first way up, and, then as quickly, way down within periods of a few weeks. There has also been a sense of loss of control while stock prices dip explosively lower and then a little higher. But we end with some deep disappointment at our banks, other financial institutions, our bankers and investment managers, and large corporations that were supposed to know better. So, we will all learn together, but we will save that for next year.

In the meantime, what kind of music passed our earbuds and airwaves and Internet blogs this year? Free radio and even satellite radio continued to weaken their holds on our ears, mergers and consolidations seemed part of the solution, and our musical tastes in pop also turned volatile with Britney our poster child/adult hitting both new lows, and reemerging in a Circus-like comeback with reworked pop pablum of earlier times. Even the New Kids were retreaded and popular again. It was just that kind of year.

Funk and soul showed signs of reemerging with new voices like Santogold, MGMT, TV on the Radio, and Sia, and and a new contingent of British voices, like Adele and Laurie Lewis, came shining to the front in the Lilly Allen style while Amy Winehouse (why do I want to spell her "Whinehouse") our last great vocal hope had to seek the real "rehab" and hopefully retooling. New jam bands emerged in Dr. Dog and Mountain Goat (who sometimes play with cellist Erik Friedlander), while more experimental sounds of School of Seven Bells, and modern classical artists, such as cellist Matt Haimovitz, and guitarist Benjamin Verdery, Professor of Guitar at the Yale School of Music, also did some interesting experiments, such as playing interesting versions of Jimi Hendrix songs. Vampire Weekend, and Fred showed their ska and African and Irish roots respectively. There was also the less experimental folky sounds of She and Him, the Watson Twins, Bird and the Bee, BellX1, James Yorkston, Noah and the Whale, and Earlimart (with the cleverly-titled "Hymn and Her). and the emerging Americana roots/folk, Southern (by way of Oberlin and Brooklyn) sound of singer/violinist Carrie Rodriguez with her latest CD, "She Ain't Me." A popular form of jazz vocalist/stylist reemerged (with thanks to Nora Jones) in the persons of Laura Marling, and Jane Monheit. Even new finds such as the Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, The Hold Steady, Glasvegas, Black Mountain, The Gaslight Anthem, Panic At the Disco, the Ting Tings, the Dutchess and the Duke, Shearwater and Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks tended to the safe and tested forms in this year of dealing with adversity and hope for the future, and the older Kings of Leon, and Coldplay, continued to turn out fine music but some of it sounded very familiar. Speaking of the new but familiar, Freedom Wind channels the Beach Boys, and thenewno2, the latest project of Dhani Harrison, the son of rock royalty, pleasantly updates the tried and true.

From the familiar to the even more familiar, it is doubly fitting to end this look back with two very familiar artists who came out with outstanding albums. Neil Young brushed off the intimate "Sugar Mountain," which is mostly acoustic, that comes in Neil's solo career right after the breakup of Buffalo Springfield. Bob Dylan gave us another great installment (perhaps the most ambitious one) in his "Bootleg Series," the well-titled "Tell Tale Signs," which included many fine previously unreleased recordings, live performances, and alternate takes of songs from some of his more recent albums. The songs sound fresh, alive and relevant. A Rolling Stone reviewer said that Mr. Dylan "sharpens and expands the vista of mortal and cultural disintegration that has been the chief theme of 1997's Time Out of Mind, 2001's "Love and Theft", and 2006's Modern Times - perhaps the most daring music he's ever made. Tell Tale Signs makes plain that Dylan knows the caprices of the world he lives in, now more than ever."

So it's Dylan and Young, modern troubadours, still relevant for our capricious times. Music, like many businesses and government are at the crossroads. So, here's to our lessons learned for a hopefully bright not blighted future.... The learning curve lies ahead.... More to come--some past, present and future.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The End of the Age of Innocence

Three popular figures from the 1950s recently died. Each of them contributed to the loss of innocence for a child growing up in the New York City area during that time period.

Preacher Roe, one of the "Boys of Summer" on the early 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers team, Herb Score, the Indians flash of the mid-1950s, and Jody Reynolds, author and singer of "Endless Sleep," all died within a few days of each other and all contributed in some small way to hastening the growing-up process and fostering a better understanding of the real world before there were reality shows.

Preacher Roe was a fine, lanky left hander with a 127-84 record in a 12-year career with the Dodgers, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. In 1949, Roe was 15-6 with a 2.79 ERA and pitched a 1-0 shutout in Game 2 of the World Series against the Yankees; in 1951, Roe put together one of the greatest seasons ever for a pitcher when he went 22-3 with a 3.03 ERA, and was named Pitcher of the Year (pre-Cy Young award). From 1951-53, Roe was about as unbeatable a pitcher as there was in baseball, compiling a 33-8 record, as he pitched in the days of Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider. He had been a mathematics teacher from a small town in Arkansas, and later became a butcher in the suburbs of New York, and he seemed to have no pretensions. But perhaps he is best known for his assortment of pitches which he later admitted to have included a spitball (the ‘Beech-Nut slider’). He retired from the game in 1954, and revealed in Sports Illustrated on July 4, 1955 that he threw the spitter for seven years, and hoped that it would be legalized. For a child, this revelation was hard to take especially from the Preacher, a rural school teacher.

Herb Score, was the next great left-hander, who began his career in the majors in 1955, when he went 16 and 10 and struck out 245 batters, a rookie record that stood for 29 years, until Dwight Gooden broke it with the New York Mets in an era of wild swingers. Score was the first first-year pitcher to reach 200 Ks since Grover Cleveland Alexander did it 44 years earlier. Score was named the American League Rookie of the Year in 1955.

The next year he was even better, going 20-9 and leading the league in strikeouts for the second straight year. Herb Score was considered the toughest lefty faced by Ted Williams and had phenomenal potential when his career was altered after being hit in the right eye in May 1957 by a wicked line drive off the bat of Gil McDougald. McDougald, who was in tears after the game, tried to see him the next day, along with teammates Berra and Hank Bauer, but the hospital did not permit visitors.

Score returned to the mound with much fanfare in '58, but he had only a 2-2 record when he was put on the disabled list with a sore elbow on July 18. The next year, Score managed to win nine games and lose five before the All Star break, but he was not pitching with his old dominance. He did not win another game that season, finishing 9-11 as the Indians wound up second, and he was never the same. Score became a legendary Indians sportscaster until retirement in 1997. Score had a friendly, folksy way of calling a baseball game, and he did that with the enthusiasm of a man who felt blessed to be in baseball. Score refused to feel sorry for himself and disliked sympathetic articles that pictured him as a victim because of McDougald's liner. "I'm a lucky fellow," he said. "I'm glad God gave me the ability to throw a baseball well for a few years. That drive could have killed me."

For me, the line drive hit sharply by Gil McDougald that had a serious impact on the life and career of such a promising superstar as Herb Score, was one of those moments of realization that broke through the youthful innocence of the times. Even though I heard of Carl Mays' fatal pitch to Ray Chapman in August of 1920, that seemed (to a child of the late 1950's at least) like a remote historical footnote that could be put safely into baseball's more brutal and rudimentary past. But to that same child of the 50s, the McDougald inadvertent line drive back at Herb Score signaled that baseball could be a destructive, more-serious game with life-threatening events; it was no longer just the children's game played by "the boys of summer" in semi-pastoral stadiums or in the residential streets of Northern New Jersey.

The death of Jody Reynolds at 75 reminds me of another moment of deliverance from the innocence of youth in the 50s. This singer/songwriter, the one-hit Jody Reynolds, was inspired by Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel (HH)," and wrote one of the early rock songs of teen tragedy. The Reynolds song led to Mark Dinning's "Teen Angel," Ray Peterson's "Tell Laura I Love Her," Johnny Preston's "Running Bear," the Everly Brothers' "Ebony Eyes," Dickey Lee's "Patches," the Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack," and ultimately "Last Kiss," a song written and recorded by Wayne Cochran (with his C.C. Riders) in 1962, and covered successfully by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers, and more recently by Pearl Jam.

Reynolds loved the desolate quality of the Elvis' HH story and the echoing vocal, and came up with a potentially darker tale, about a boy in search of his girlfriend after a fight, with even more echoey vocals.

"The night was black, rain fallin' down
Looked for my baby, she's nowhere around
Traced her footsteps down to the shore
'fraid she's gone forever more..."

The ballad begins with emotion-riden electric guitar chords and introduces Reynolds' voice double-tracked and soaked with echo, all contributing to the foreboding atmosphere. His voice was rated as somewhere "between Presley's sad-sexy drawl and Ricky Nelson's boy-next-door conversational style."

The song as originally written was rejected by several pop record labels as too depressing. Reynolds sent a demo version to Los Angeles-based Demon Records (with the pitchfork on the label), which liked it, but persuaded Reynolds to tack on a happy ending in which the guilt-ridden boy finds his girl in the waves, and lifts her in his arms and carries her back safely to shore.

The first time I heard "Endless Sleep" I was taken by it's uniquely echoing guitar and vocal sound, and the possibility that rock could move from its generally upbeat, but occasionally bluesy sounds, to a more teenage-tragic dark side. And another part of the innocence of youth was brushed aside.

Friday, October 31, 2008


The sound of Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson is a mix of melodic classical and electronic textures in his latest album, Fordlandia. The end result is gentle sounds that push you slowly towards an end of silence with some piano and waftings of strings… Is this a new wave for classical music?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ruach (Spirit ) Overflowing With A Few Disappointments On the Side

It was a wedding filled with the high spirits and energy of the celebrants, the calm warmth of the rabbi, the sparks of the dancers and the band spilling over, and the joy of a couple who have a sparkle in their eyes and smiles on their faces. And I will not forget their songs and dances. They are (or seem to be) happier than the sum of their individual happinesses.

The ceremony started with a calm procession of clear sentiments and warm blessings with the seven trips around the groom, and the seven sheva Brachot, and ending with a warmly sung blessing and the breaking of the glass.

There was a joy pervading on Sunday with just a few exceptions--I am convinced that there always will be. For example, there were some great and some not so great table assignments.
But shouldn't everyone be able to shake their disappointments and pick up on the spirit and joy of the occasion and of the celebrants? Maybe or may be not. Maybe I am asking too much. Did they understand what went into this, I may ask myself. But should they? No.

There were the people who were so delighted to be there. And then there were those who did not seem to care too much or at least enough to come. There were my disappointments for the people, including some cousins who could not attend for good or non-reasons. We had 230 or so people present, so I cannot be greedy for the other 100 or so who did not come. They did not come from as far as Germany and from as close as around the corner.

But what happened to the cousins, some of whom did not even answer or answered with a silent abruptness (no reason given)?

We tried to plan an event that family and friends would like. And it did indeed turn out so well.

But who are we to judge except through some feelings of disappointment. Would they have shared in parts of the joyous time that was there for the taking--they probably would have. But they did not try or they did try, and maybe tried hard to be there. But I will never know for sure, nor should I. And so, it was not meant to be for them. I must give them the benefit of the doubt and not judge. And hope that they can some time rejoin the ongoing celebration already in progress.

Overall, from the viewpoint of the father of the bride, it was a big success--more joy and warm feelings than I could have ever expected. My mother, two sisters, and two aunts could be there and share in the joy. And for all of that and all of the other guests who could attend, I am eternally grateful.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Leading with the Past

The Mets last game at Shea on Sunday could have been a real celebration of the present Mets (after Johan Santana pitched a brilliant game on Saturday with three-days rest), and the past Mets, with many Amazin's back to celebrate their time at Shea after the game. But it was not meant to be.

The present Amazin's were just not that amazing; they were a talented, but high-priced shadow of the teams that performed magic at Shea. This was the second year in a row for a sobering collapse in the last few weeks of the season. Yes, there was the failure of the bullpen and the loss of Billy Wagner, but there the frustrating at bats of David Wright, and some of the other sluggers on the last and lost Sunday.

The fans were frustrated by the end, but they stayed and were brightened by the memories of what had been the great and not-so great Mets of their 46 year history. It was time to focus on the winners of today and the playoffs to come, or so TBS thought in its coverage on Sunday. It might have been time for the cries of "wait til next year" in the new park a replica of Ebbets Field the symbol of Brooklyn teams that came so frustratingly close and won one year only to be taken away shortly thereafter. No it was not that time yet.

It was time to reflect on the greatness of the checkered past of the Amazins' and the stadium that hosted the improbable events of the short but rich heritage of the Mets. It was time to remember the grit of Lennie Dykstra, and John Franco; the great catches of Cleon Jones and Tommie Agee, and Ron Swoboda; the smooth and consistent skill of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Keith Hernandez, and Mike Piazza; the lost promise of Dwight Gooden and Daryl Strawberry, the privilege of watching Willie Mays and Duke Snider in Mets uniforms; and it was the time to remember how the likes of Rod Kanehl, Marv Throneberry, and Ed Kranepool and countless others could play over the head, and keep the Mets in most games against their more talented opponents. It was not yet time to move on.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Manlychildishness--a guy thing

Being a guy for all my life has been mostly fun, but a struggle at times. I work very hard and at work, I try to be as effective at solving problems (and helping people) as I can be. But when I am off from work, which isn't often, I want to enter more of a responsibility-free child-like state. Some men spend more time in this child-like state, and pose some difficulty for the women in their lives.

An intriguing new book examines how guyhood got that way. "Men to Boys," by Gary Cross, a "cultural historian" at Penn State, examines the gradual devolution of manhood over three generations. It goes from the lingering Victorian ideals of masculinity and self-restraint, being a gentleman and "measured deference to female culture at home" in the 1940s, 50s, and early 60s (seen currently on the TV series "Mad Men") to the comic outlandishness of radio host Howard Stern and ex-basketball player Dennis Rodman-- and then tells us what it means. The patron saint of manhood has morphed from Cary Grant (mature, decisive, and manly) to Hugh Grant (less mature, indecisive, and ambiguous), and we have left behind the Victorian patriarch without finding a good substitute.

In the Wall Street Journal's words, Mr. Cross's takes us on a "thoughtful journey through the male-strom of modern masculinity." Their review of the book is at the following web address:

Opera On-Deck

I like to break down barriers that tend to keep people in their boxes and silos, and mix them so we can learn from each other. So, it was a natural to see the simulcast of the Washington National Opera Company at DC's National Park on a clear Saturday night. There were some baseball fans who probably attend every event at the ball park, and families just out on a nice night for a free event (where kids could roam free), mixed mostly with opera buffs who probably do not set foot in a ball park often, let alone take the subway to an event. About 15,000 people came out to cheer the screened-in opera, and they mixed and mingled, and probably added some fans to both baseball and opera and everyone lived more happily ever after....

The Washington Post's take on the event is at the following Web address:

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Ear-Budding of America--Plug-In/Tune-Out

You see them everywhere. On the subway, on the bus, walking down the street, in stores, in restaurants, and at gas stations. When did it happen? When did the ear-buds start entering the ear drums of so many, shutting out the sounds of so much modern day life. Is it enough to enjoy your private playlist of your life, or is it too much isolation and shutting out of everyone else. The victims of the ear-buddotry seem so dead to the world around them. Is it life-fulfilling, or life emptying?

The ear bud became a silly part of Brian Williams' current slip down journalistic standards during the 2008 Olympics, when he asked Michael Phelps on Nightly News what he listened to on his i-pod before his last swim victory, and whether he took his ear buds out one at a time, or left one in until the last second before the start of a race. Even Phelps seemed embarassed by how far the interview had slipped into the trivial.

Ben Stein makes similar points with regard to the bondage of cellphones and the like in his column for the Sunday NY Times, "Connected, Yes, But Hermetically Sealed" at the following web address:

Sunday, July 27, 2008

B&B-Eeezy Listenable/Dancey/Jazzy/Poppy

I am listening to the Bird and the Bee, an indie, dance, jazz, pop duo from the West Coast, consisting of musicians Inara George ("bird"), daughter of Lowell George of Little Feat fame, and Greg Kurstin ("bee"), a producer of Lily Allen, Flaming Lips, and the Chili Peppers. They met while the two were working on her debut album and they decided to collaborate on a jazz, electro-pop project. The result, a debut EP, Again and Again and Again and Again, a full-blown CD/LP, the Bird and the Bee, and other EPs and soon to be released second CD on the jazzy Blue Note label, produces a light, breezy, easy to listen to jazzy-dance mood.

Additionally, now there is a new album, An Invitation, by Inara George in collaboration with Van Dyke Parks. It is wistful and expansive, with the music anticipating and leading the songstress through some interesting orchestral maneuvers influenced by a varied mix of Kurt Weill, Edith Piaf, Judee Sill, Sleeping Beauty(Tchaikovsky), Randy Newman, Brian Wilson, and Regina Spektor.

E-pic Battles

In an era when we are supposed to have little attention span, when mail now of the e-variety and photos now digital are instant and disposable, and we should be ready to multi-task 24/7, it was refreshing to watch the Wimbledon final and the 15 inning all-star game. Two titans of tennis, representing youth vs experience, fought for 4 hours and 48 minutes plus rain delays, often in long, breathtaking volleys that took especially incredible strength, in often wet, wild, and windy conditions. It almost did not matter who came up on top, because both contestants won in a thrilling contest.

The All-Star Game this year was led in by a Home Run Derby, a made-for-TV event, that featured the titanic, continuous long-ball blasts of Josh Hamilton, a reformed drug-addict, in the legendary Yankee Stadium. The All Star Game, itself lasted15 innings with many twists and turns from the eighth inning on that relied in the end on substitutes (all-star subs at that) performing above their level, and sometimes at positions they had never played. It went late into the night with no end in sight, but end it finally did with the same winner as always since 1996. The 15 innings tied the 1967 game for the most innings, and the 4-hour, 50-minute affair (two minutes more than Wimbledon) stands tall as the longest game in All-Star history.

All 63 available players saw action--and position players, J.D. Drew and David Wright were ready to take the mound had the game gone later. The long event brought on unexpected twists as it should.

"It seemed like the Stadium didn't want it to end," said Derek Jeter, one of three Yankees representing the AL. "That's what we were talking about. It just wanted baseball to continue. I thought it was fitting."

Two fitting, attention focusing events for an attention-deficient era.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Night At the Hotel

Finally, I made it out to the wondrously-named Rock 'n Roll Hotel in DC's newly up-and-coming NE Atlas neighborhood. The hotel makes good use of the faded elegance of the funeral home that occupied the space previously. It was the site earlier in the week for the unlikely double bill of Tim Fite, a NY punk, hip-hop prankster (who obviously studied at Pee Wee Herman’s Playhouse), and the Watson Twins, a friendly Kentucky, by-way-of LA folk-country alternative duo. The Twins were kicking off a North American tour to plug their new CD, Fire Songs, and Tom Fite just seemed to be in the neighborhood. For once, the W Post’s reviewer hit the target with his review—it was dead on. The review is at:

The awkward match kept the evening interesting, but each act was not enough to make it alone.

Fite seems slightly out of touch, like a neighborhood clown in for a kids party, with his orange pants and pink suspenders, and wayward act. But he makes it work for him, as a fun-loving, ready-to-do just about anything performer. He effectively teams up with his elementary background drawings and a trio of backing Fites flashed up on a screen behind him, and an energetic DJ carnival-barker partner-in-mirth, Dr. Leisure. The energetic duo (or group of five depending on how you are counting) captured the crowd more than the headliner, the Watson Twins.

Chandra and Leigh Watson's farmland alternapop, backed by a competent rock trio, started strong, playing a few of their new songs, and a fine cover of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven." Their fine voices worked for the rock ‘n roll songs, but when they changed the mood and went slower and mellower, they lost their audience, and the crowd noise impolitely overtook their competent vocals. They never gained back the crowd, and the night ended on a downbeat.

The Watsons have the potential to harmonize their way to a large, attentive following, but on this night, they were less than a full match for the mysterious energy and humor of Tim Fite.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Journal Jottings

The Wall Street Journal was starting to become more like other papers in the wake of the Murdochization of the paper, but on Saturday, it had two columns that were special.

The Peggy Noonan column on the memorials to Tim Russert, what set him apart from others, and when the memorials went over the top was very perceptive. It is at the following web address:

Another perceptive column in the same day's paper was the Terry Teachout column on the Dylan radio show. It not only captured the magic in the variety of music played and the perceptive intros by Dylan, but also went on to identify one of the problems with the iPODian age we live in--

"Teenagers and college graduates are less likely to listen to radio nowadays, a decline that media consultants attribute to the rise of the iPod, which allows its owners to choose from thousands of previously downloaded songs at will instead of settling for whatever a disc jockey cares to play. The assumption is that under-40 listeners are now choosing to withdraw into gated communities of musical taste, behind whose electronic walls they listen only to what they already know they like."

The whole column is at the following web address:

Monday, June 16, 2008

Half Time Clips of 2008

At close to the mid-year, I am listening to Shearwater, Bullion's mix of Pet Sounds, and Vanilla Swingers' "Goodbye Lennon"-- a decent mix of sounds. I will be adding more as time goes by...

Monday, June 9, 2008

E-motions in fractions of a whole

In this 500+page opus, you meet and remeet the Deans, as some Deans fall in and out of life, into comas and out with their memories intact, getting born and reborn under the Dean name or under an assumed name. The Deans take care of each other, but in odd and stubborn ways. In other words, its not your average American sit com family, but it may be a credible attempt at the great Australian, or any country novel.

The main characters are heroes and or villains, criminals and or moralists. They are weirdos and crackpots and or philosopher kings and visionaries. They are brothers, fathers, sons, lovers, haters, friends, and enemies--they are a little of all things. They are celebrities and people exploring their cosmic insignificance, they are sons becoming a part of their fathers or mothers, not always understanding that they may be part of something bigger than themselves. They may be starting with a credo and then spending the rest of their lives trying to prove it. It's not your run of the mill family story by any means...

You walk or crawl, then run with the characters through time from the New South Wales bush to bohemian Paris, from sports fields to back alleys to strip clubs, from living in a maze in Australia to living in the jungles of Thailand to living and dying in a leaky boat of immigrants in the Pacific. These are pieces of the puzzle, parts of a whole story, portions of a whole life or several lives-- they are truly "Fractions of the Whole." The Deans and associates are sickly, bloated, freewheeling, horrendous, funny and sometimes moving as they fight to leave the world, or stay, and leave a mark on the world or not. They are people taking themselves too seriously and not seriously enough. Often, this is a satirical view of individual searching, and societal reverential, hero-worship--which is after all all just a small step away from hateful, scandal-lusting.

This is a long tale of a world that often turns ugly. The book is sometimes well-written and sometimes not. It manages to stay out of the gutter of life, just barely, staying just a fraction ahead of full-blown despair. It is a compelling yet long read.

Much of this blog entry above was written from the third row of a bus from NY to DC with wi-fi. It is striking how the oddity of a rolling wi-fi on wheels is just another fraction of a whole...

It is difficult to capture the plot and subplots of this book within a book if that is what it is, but a good effort is made in the review at the following web address:

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Fan's Lament

I am a loyal baseball fan, but sitting under the stands at DC's National's Stadium for over two hours while it rained heavily reminded me of just how much a business baseball is.

While the infield was covered by the tarp, large puddles were forming in every other part of the ball park. Families with small children were waiting patiently--one family from as far away as Oklahoma. The field was clearly unplayable after an hour or so, but the scoreboard indicated that the Nationals were monitoring the weather and they would provide updates.

No updates and no information on the weather was provided; fans were not advised of what the chances of clearing were. Instead, there were just the constant ads on the scoreboard and the vendors selling their overpriced wares. When enough ads were shown and enough food and merchandise sold, the vendors packed up their leftovers, and the game was finally called off on account of profits--enough was made by the team, to end the torture of the fans sitting through the heavy rains patiently. And on the next day they would return to see the play again and pay again and again....

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Standing at the Crossroads

I am about to attend perhaps the last graduation of one of my daughters--a law school graduation. And she is about to enter a new phase of her life--a full-time worklife, and building her own family life. Looking back and forwards at the same time, there is a rich perspective ahead and behind. But there is something disconcerting about this time of finishing old paths and starting anew.

As culture and counter culture icons of my era pass into the obituary pages, I see a country somewhat divided by age in its outlook, its entertainment, and its politics (the craving for change and experience clashing at times). We value youth and apply creams (and sometimes cosmetic surgery) to keep everyone young. It works to a point, but it does not seem to unite young and old to value each other and treasure each others experiences, and outlooks. Something better--some better bridging of generations--is needed. It may be that we need to attract better leaders, and icons, but, in the end, it is something that we all need to work at. Using the internet, people can break down some of the barriers, but more can be done to bridge divides and cross aisles and reach beyond past, present, and future. It is time to do even small things to better understand and value each others views, and experiences. I welcome your ideas; to be continued...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Nu? and Old!

Take a story like the story of freedom at the Passover seder--a remembrance of the story of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. Some stick with the traditional story each year, learning more about the symbols and the story each year, and it is a tradition that keeps on growing.

Or add some history from then and now, some stories, some parallels and some other symbols of life and freedom, and you have another tradition that is ever growing.

This year, just being able to find the traditional foods eaten at the sedar at stores in the area became part of the challenge of telling the story. The current economic challenges apparently had an impact on food production, and we cannot take anything for granted.

At this self-led, participatory ceremony that goes back many years, we are reminded of new and old challenges. We look ahead to next year and what will be new--nu?

Monday, March 31, 2008

Nats Safe at Home

I walked to the new National's Stadium in DC from the National Mall, and it was a nice 25 minute walk to a dream site for DC. It was a perfect way to start a new season, when hope for a great season in a renovated neighborhood is at its peak. Oh yes, I miss RFK with its history and its claim to be the first home that ended DC's baseball draught. But what is passed is past.

The new stadium is a cross between the new Phillies Stadium and the recent-retro Orioles Park, with more of the Phillies modern look. Announcer Jon Miller apparently called the Nats Stadium the "La Scala of ballparks," while the Washington Post architecture critic called it a "missed opportunity" and an utilitarian means of sucking money from fan's wallets. It is somewhere in the middle of those comments.

The bright new park with the huge TV hi-def screen/scoreboard was a perfect setting for the perfect ending to a game. A passed ball allowed the Braves to tie the game in the visitors' half of the ninth, and a walk-off home run for Ryan Zimmerman with two outs in the bottom half of the ninth won the game for the Nats. It was a magical scriptwriter's ending to the beginning of what hopes to be a magical season (but I know that all seasons open with that potential for magic).

Sunday, March 2, 2008


Last year, we discussed rock, royalties, and Radiohead's decision to give its new CD away for whatever people wanted to pay. The discussion was at the following address:

Paste Magazine also offered the pricing choice for a subscription to the magazine last year.

Now there's a thought-provoking cover article in Wired Magazine, by its editor Chris Anderson who covers the FREE Market. Anderson is also the author of The Long Tail, and will be producing a new book, FREE, next year. The article is, of course, free at the following address:

The magazine can also be read for free online.
But this is not an endorsement. Although we like the idea of free- (and not fee) bies, we would never endorse either free or non-free items.

Saturday, March 1, 2008


In a newspaper article about a new book, The Age of American Unreason, by cultural critic Susan Jacoby, the author tells of a dinner conversation with a student who was about to graduate with honors from Michigan State University in 2006. After the author mentioned President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "fireside chats," the author watched as the student "looked absolutely blank" in response.
Is this par for the course?

The article goes to reach the following conclusion:

"A slew of new books, studies and films all tell a similar tale: Americans — especially young Americans — don't know much about much. Overfed on self-esteem, pop culture and digital entertainment, students are starved for genuine literary, historical, scientific and mathematical knowledge, critics say."

This complaint is nothing new. Down through the ages, adults have complained about the lack of knowledge of the youth of their times. But the charges seem more serious if not paradoxical now.

On the one hand, with the advent of the Internet, students of all ages, have every bit of knowledge known to "man/womankind" readily available, and know more. On the other hand, the bombardment of media of all types, including the Internet seems to lead to short attention spans, and less depth of knowledge. In certain respects students are given more challenging assignments, and courses are more advanced than ever before, on the other hand, many aspects of our modern life are being dumbed down. It will be interesting to see whether this knowledge gap winds up over the next few years.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Beach Music (Chesil that is)

"Chesil Beach" is a short novella about time in two parallel universes--in this case the world of the male and the world of the female struggling toward maturity in 1962, just before the world opened up to the freer sixties. The words on the page faithfully record a wedding night drama in almost real time, while lurching briefly back to the beginning of the relationship and forward through fifty or so years of life in just a flash of a few pages.

Two characters are stuck in time in a seaside resort beside a small eighteen mile strip of pebbles extending into the sea. Their story is part small part large, part trite part dire, part tender and part pathetic. In the short 200 pages, the author tackles topics of universal interest -- innocence and naiveté, confidence and self-delusion, desire and repression, opportunity lost or rejected -- and creates a small but complete universe around them.
The author, Ian McEwan keeps us on the edge of sympathy for each character, but stays with the male figure--even though it is female, Florence, that creates art as a tremulous lead violinist in a string quartet, while the male, Edward, only drifts through life being a rock record shop owner. The male starts as a ardent historian interested in writing short biographies of semi-obscure figures who lived close to the center of important historical events, but his ideas freeze when he confronts the bride he considers "frigid." The virginal and inexperienced male is demanding just a few years from the sexual revolution of the later sixties. The female is also virginal and inexperienced, but is closer to being non-sexual and pleads for time to adjust to the demands of her mate. But he cannot wait, and cannot find the words to communicate, and loses the love and the ambition of his life. Words fail both of them, and that's the book side of things.

Meanwhile, in the parallel universe of the CD version of the book, the beautiful narration by the author with his smooth British accent is a perfect fit for the words of the novel which have more of a reality coming through his voice. The narrated version creates a more vivid view of the distance between two selves, two subjective views of life: two who try to be “one,” and fail miserably.

Reading the book and hearing the CD at the same time, casts a huge spotlight on a small speck of time.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


After fighting off assorted Trojan Vundos, Downloaders, and pop-up ads, I am hoping to be back with more normal posts. It is a tough virtual world out there, but hopefully the worst is over. My XP was considered "unstable" and "open to attack," and Windows Security Pack 2 was summoned to the rescue (I hope). I am cautiously optimistic, but we will see.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Been Doing Some Hard Travelin'

Since my last posting, I have been to the northwestern part of Germany, to Amsterdam, and then back to the U.S.A. for a trip to Nashville. Each trip had a music and education connection. In Germany, I chaperoned a talented high school symphony orchestra rehearsing endlessly with their German gymnasium orchestra and then playing two challenging concerts very well. The concerts included pieces by Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, a tango, and some interesting vocal pieces by Vaughn Williams.

In Nashville, I attended an education conference, and one night went to the Grand Ol Opry, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. The sense of tradition at the Opry at the Ryman Auditorium with the traditional radio show, and the old and new artists was refreshing and very comfortable.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

2008 Finds

Picking up from last year, a new discovery is Priscilla Ahn, with musical ties to Regina Spektor and Norah Jones (a little silkier than the smokey-voiced Norah) and a debut album on the way on Norah's label (of course), Blue Note. Her site on My Space lists a good "coolection" of influences--Ani DiFranco, Pink Floyd, Jack Kerouac, Neil Young, Syd Barrett, Jeff Buckley, the color yellow, Radiohead, Nick Drake, Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird, Ayrton Senna, Pinback, The Kinks, Sparklehorse, Juana Molina, love lost-love found. Another find is Kate Gaffney, a strong-voiced folkie from Philly. A third 'newie but a goodie' is Bodies of Waters, a rather joyous bunch from LA with influences from Polyphonic Spree to the Mamas and the Papas to Arcade Fire to Sufjan Stevens. The group lists many more as their influences, but also describe themselves as "abba meets the muppets."