Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why the U.S. Needs Obama as President --

I encourage you to vote and to vote early, avoid the election-day lines. I voted for Obama. I voted for Obama because I feel that those of us who didn’t put Bush into office deserve an intelligent and caring president who will try his utmost to give us a chance for economic, ethical, environmental, and health-care respite, restoration, and renewal. We need him to help us rise out of the quagmire (actually a hellish cesspool) that the present administration has sunk us into; eight years of horrible damage in every category. Actually, at this point, probably almost everybody in our country deserves a respite, restoration, and renewal. I say "almost" because I still see vehicles with the "W" bumper stickers on them. These next eleven days will probably see a lot of dirt flying out of the McCain camp, more phony stunts like Joe the plumber. It is sad that a significant number of our citizens seem to fall in line behind such gimmicks to manipulate the rank and file. It would be nice (and healthy) if each of us, as Americans, could and would raise his/her self-image as a person (and realize our individual and collective potential to be part of the process of making things better). If enough of us do that, together we really can have the vision of a better country and a better world.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

About My Music ...

On and off, over the past year or so, I’ve wondered (and I’ve done a bit of posting about this) whether, regarding some personal circumstances, I’d continue public music performances. At the same time, I’d added an awesome, new original ("Rainy Day Blues") and several cover songs to my list, so I was really at odds with myself. I was thrashing this out during the weeks immediately preceding the July 27 shooting attack. For a while after that event, my head and ear pain was not conducive to playing piano or singing.Little by little, and beginning with the creation of new song "Give Me A Warm Shoulder To Lean On", I began working with my music again, cherishing every moment of it. Soon my newest song, "I Feel Like Singing Again", came into being. I realize that my "work" isn’t over. I'm defining my work as teaching, performing, and carrying forth the concept of musical healing. A good amount of thought and deliberation and struggle brought me to a place in my heart and mind where I've made a decision -- the decision that I will do venue and event performances only in response to invitations to do so (will not be soliciting dates). I'm thinking now, with a smile, of something I often said in years past when promoting my humane education program: "Invite us, we'll come"! And ... my cozy home studio's musical welcome mat is forever extended to one and all, where I will always enjoy playing and singing jazz, blues, latinesque, torch, and light classical for fans and friends.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cellular Level (not about phones) –

One of the three excellent post-trauma one-on-one counselors who met with me in recent weeks, raised the question of belief systems, God, and spirituality. We had an awesome conversation about our mutual feeling (more like "a knowing"), of being connected with other people, animals, and plants at a cellular level – that is, truly being bonded with, interconnected with them – in a very real, spiritual way. I enjoyed speaking with someone who so obviously understood my description of what I call the Universal Spirit or Energy. It is my awareness of that cellular level connection that fuels my immense affection for animals and plants and my caring about other people.

I used to tell the kids in my humane education classes and audiences, that all people and creatures in our world are The Earth Family. Most of the children seemed to really relate to that phrase and its meaning. My hope is that some of them (now teens and young adults) will hold it in their minds and hearts as they become adults and take leadership roles in our world.

Over the ten years that I did those speaking engagements, I did get an angry telephone call from a child's father who accused me of "preaching a new religion" and demanding "I want you to stop it"! But I didn't.

Just as one cell of an individual body knows and is affected by what is happening to another cell we each are part of an intricately-woven tapestry ... at a cellular level.

Musical Treasure –

This man’s music career was blossoming and thriving before I was even born!

His quartet (he on clarinet, Teddy Wilson on piano, Lionel Hampton on vibraphone, and Gene Krupa on drums) was the first racially-integrated U.S. band – and this was in the early and mid 1930s! His "big bands" were great, but his quartet was phenomenal.

As a lead-in for this post, I’ll begin with this little digression that may not, at first, seem relevant to my opening paragraph. But it lends light to what I say a little farther along in the post. It is this: An internet search of my name produces all kinds of web references, many of which are sites that have pirated my music (I’m sort of beyond caring that they did that), some that have nice U.S. reviews, some others that have great foreign reviews, one that has a weirdly-done "bio" that has just enough true facts to be eerily fascinating to me, and one that has a critic’s review, comparing me and my music to "the Benny Goodman era". That last one is clearly worded so that the reader knows the reviewer is expressing his utter disdain (and his coolness). When that review first appeared, about five or six years ago, my feelings were a bit hurt. Of course, I’d heard of Benny Goodman – part of his life had taken place during part of my life and I’d probably accidentally heard some of his music when I was a young child, but not with "listening ears". When I read the disdaining critic’s review, I figured BG music must be uninviting, or at least, uncool.

This summer, I became intrigued by a song title I found on a public domain website; the title is "When Buddha Smiles". Those of you who are well-acquainted with me know that I love the teachings of the Buddha and I greatly admire his ability to keep smiling. So I started searching for sheet music and a CD of the out-of-date song, recorded by the BG orchestra. Strangely, I rather easily found the sheet music (a fully orchestrated booklet that includes parts for many, many instruments, even drums) on the Internet at a place called Book Nook. I wanted the song in any format, so I could learn it. I did find the CD at Disk Exchange South in Knoxville, after a disappointing, unfulfilled order I’d placed with an online "oldies" CD marketplace that had claimed to have it.

I listened to the song, then to the rest of the CD. Wham! I was swiftly transported to a place that truly was thrilling, blissful, and refreshingly "new".

A subsequent visit to a local used books and CDs store found me, of course, in the CD section, where I picked up a Robert Cray blues album and then came across a small group of BG CDs in the jazz section. There was a vibe that seemed to be emanating from these plastic-clad disks. I bought several of them.

These Benny Goodman recordings have amazing musical tech, inspiration, endurance and are so healing and happy. I love them. Listening to them, I almost dance on my treadmill! The music is mesmerizing. And exciting. And cool! Very.

Out Of The Mouths Of ..... Comedians –

Always pushing the satirical envelope in ways that make us laugh – sometimes uproariously – at unfunny politics, Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert lately have been outdoing themselves. They are having a veritable feast on our country’s current political and economic fumbles, foibles, fakes, and fools. One recent scene that my mind still sees and hears is the Colbert Report’s observation that by "wearing these (a look-alike for the old cardboard-framed 3-D) eyeglasses, McCain almost seems to come to life". Well, it was hilarious the way Colbert delivered the line. Seeing and hearing the clip where Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says (regarding the economic crisis) that Americans "got put on the hook by the system we have, the system we all let happen, the system that Congress, the administration, future administrations let exist" pushed hilarity and outrageousness together as book-ends.

Truly, the arts (and comedy is certainly an art) can effectively convey the truth that other methods of communication can only struggle with. These guys and their writers are comedic and political geniuses.

The Wilmington (NC) Connection –

Stay tuned – I will say more about it in the coming months!