Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Best Is Yet to Come

There are days when I can and will gut it out late at night to get my post completed.  And then there are days like today where, after 40 minutes of nodding off at my desk and not being able to form complete sentences, it's just better to make the post short and sweet and come back fighting tomorrow.  So, a thousand pardons.  I have a topic, and I have two paragraphs or so, so that's better than nothing.

In the meantime, enjoy some holiday images and pay no attention to me while I collapse.

One of the reasons I'm so tired?
Today was taco Tuesday.
On a Wednesday.
Taco Twednesday?

This is me right now.
And two hours ago.
And six hours ago.
As long as it isn't two hours from now,
it's all good.

This is also me right now
in the form of an exhausted yet lovable cuddly polar bear.
Or, maybe this is my Petronus.
Expecto Patronum?

More tomorrow.  And dang it, it's already tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Internet Roundup

Today isn't a day for deep thoughts, so instead I'll give you a few gems from the Internet.

Google Doodle
In honor and celebration of
Wassily Kandinsky's 148th birthday.

and clicking through I also discovered there is a
This Day in History
on the Google Doodle Page.
So I also give you
the 132 birthday of Zoltan Kodaly.
Way cool.

Yet another movie I want to see.
From the same people who did The Secret of Kells
and the soundtrack is once again by Coulais.
Way Way Way Cool.

Tonight is the First Night of Hannukah,
and these guys are great!

and neither last nor least is
I know it seems like a Saturday Night Live sketch, 
but how incredibly awesome is it that it isn't??
There may be no better Internet viewing than this clip.
"Oh, God... It's Mom"
Instant Classic.

with perhaps the best synopsis
of this gem.

I can hardly wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hashtag. You're It

Today was another day and another hostage situation and another tragic ending.  This time the location was Sydney, Australia, and every time I saw a CNN News Alert in my email I cringed a little and wondered what the next round of bad news would be.  The immediacy of news -- bad news in particular -- is one of the real downsides of our global electronic connectivity and insatiable desire for the latest morsel of information.

Finally the hostage situation ended, the casualties were tallied and identified and then the finger pointing and the hostility began in roll in like a tidal wave.  The gunman's nationality, religion, and political views were immediately prime sources of blame, and since blame only paints with an extraordinarily wide brush, it quickly spread to anyone who shared the name nationality, religion or political views.  The act of guilt by association (however vague) is sad, regrettable, and in this day and age, unfortunately entirely expected.

But Australia did something different.  Something refreshing.  Something compassionate.  Something human.  Through the act of one person and a single tweet, a revolution of kindness spread across the internet.  


"I'll ride with you" was born of a simple offer to accompany Muslims on public transportation in solidarity, in peace, in healing, and in order to diffuse the possibility of racial and religious backlash. And with that one little hashtag a revolution was born.  #ILLRIDEWITHYOU became a trending topic on Twitter and provided violence-weary people something to hold on, believe in, and DO during a time when it seems the only thing we can do is despair and be angry.

Reading through some of the thousands of tweets, it was gratifying to see that most thought this offer was a wonderful thing.  It was a chance to display tolerance and show mercy and compassion to others.  Others, predictably (and just as quickly), resorted to name-calling, inflammatory rhetoric, and questioned the timing and the motivation for such a selfless gesture.

If only we could all do something as simple and selfless.  If only we could empathize with those who are different in any one of the million ways that we are all different.  If only we could ride with those who live in fear, or walk with those who are abused, or listen to those who are lonely, or light the way to those who live in darkness.  If only we could be brave enough to speak up, to step forward, to make a stand. Convictions don't need to be treatises, and actions don't require armies.  Today it proven with one person and a 140 character limit.

If only we could see the possibilities.
If only we could believe them.
If only we could act on it.
If only.

We can if we believe.
We can if we see.
We can if we act.

How about it?  Take a ride, live your convictions and change the world.
One hashtag at a time.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Lucky 13

Today is a big day.

Looking over my posting habits (OK, my lack of posting habits over the last couple of years), there are some startling similiaries.

2012 - 13 total posts
2013 - 13 total posts
2014 - 13 total posts (so far)..

I fared slightly better in 2011 and 2010 and my numbers were even bigger in earlier years when TinyTuna was still a TinyTuna and not a 20-year-old-Tuna, and I had a little more time and definitely more stories to tell.

I know my posts for for 2012 and 2013 were entirely due to my posting for Holidailies, but obviously in the past two years I didn't even manage to make it to the end.  This year, though, I'm going to break the streak of 13 and make it to 14 AND BEYOND.  What might be more exciting for me is that at the moment it's only 10 PM, and I might be able to break my streak of writing until 11:58 pm and hastily pressing post to get it in under the deadline.

I don't recall what got the better of my attention in 2012, but I have a vivid recollection of the events of last December.  I'll save that story for another day, because today I'm focusing on smothering myself with positive reinforcement to get me up and over the 13-hump. It's the little things, you know.

Today, in the effort to remember things later, is a tidbit I ran across when I was down the rabbit hole of music.  I don't even remember why I found this (sadly, it won't let me imbed here, but take a listen because it's beautiful).  Trolling the web I also discovered that the composer, Johann Johannsson, was also responsible for the soundtrack for the movie The Theory of Everything, which I just so happened to see today.

It was beautiful and moving and sad and inspiring, 
With a soundtrack to match.

And then I saw this.
It was very, very different.
Most definitely not a film for everyone,
Confusing, interesting, troubling, thought-provoking, challenging.
With a soundtrack to match.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Stuff Takes Time

Way back a thousand years ago, also known as this past September, I remember going to a rehearsal where it was our first time the group had been together since the previous May.  As we chatted during a break and had one of those "what I did during the summer" kind of conversations, I was asked if I had read any good books over the summer.  As strange as it may seem, this question took me by surprise, and I found myself scrambling uncomfortably for an answer.  Without thinking (an occurrence more common than I might wish) I blurted out "no... BUT I BOUGHT SOME."  As soon as I said this I heard the sad trombone music in my head and thought, "You. Are. An. Idiot"  as the conversation and my credibility came to a grinding halt.

But the statement itself was entirely true.  I had a whole stack of books I had gotten over the summer, and simply hadn't the time to read any of them.  Life happened, I got busy, and books went unread. In fact, they are still in the same pile, only to be joined by another pile of books this fall that are also (you guessed it) waiting to be read.

Today, with 12 days until the Big Red One, I'm quite certain that, compared to most people, I'm WAY behind in the holiday bonanza.  What's weird for me is that so far, I'm not particularly upset.  I'm perfectly content to get things done when I can, and not worry about the rest.  So, if you see me and ask me, "Have you decorated your Christmas tree yet?"

I'll most likely tell you, "No... BUT I BOUGHT ONE."

After all, it's not like the Three Wise Men 
arrived Second-Day Air.
Stuff. Takes. Time.

Friday, December 12, 2014

All for One and One for All

I am a singer.
I am a musician.
I am a communicator.
I am a story-teller.
I am the voice of the poet.
I am the interpreter of the composer.
I am singular.
I command attention.
I stand in the front with an army of musicians behind me.
I am sparkles and grace and attitude.
I train to achieve utmost resonance and power.
I train to navigate the highest, loudest, lowest, softest.
I study languages and history.
I possess equal parts narcissism and insecurity.
I absorb criticisms like an enormous sponge.
I process opinions like a holding cactus, afraid of it's barbs.
I am left at the end of the day with myself, my instrument, and my own convictions about music, expression and the world around me.
I am a soloist.

We are singers.
We are musicians.
We are communicators.
We are story tellers.
We are the voices of the poet.
We are the interpreters of the composer.
We are many.
Together we command attention.
Together we stand as a team -- One voice yet many.
We are unity and pride and attitude.
We train to achieve balance and blend.
We train to be one voice that is neither highest, loudest, lowest or softest.
We study languages and history.
We possess equal parts love of community and love of expression.
We absorb criticisms with professionalism and grace.
We offer opinions carefully like a cactus, careful not to hurt.
We are left at the end of the day with voices in our ears, music in our hearts,
and an overwhelming love for the singular experience that we share together.
We are a choir.

One is not better than the other
One is not greater.
One is not more glamorous.
To be a soloist is not harder
To be a choir is not easier.
Each has its demands.
Each has its rewards.
But the applause is the same.
the gratitude an equal blessing.
No matter the tune, 
No matter the words,
Everything we have is a gift.
A voice to sing
A heart to share
Music itself is its own best reward.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Over the River and Through the Woods

Everything about this picture is a lie.

Growing up we spent a lot of time travelling and visiting family.  There were near-weekly visits to my grandparent's house in Detroit for Sunday dinner.  There were visits during Christmas and summer vacation, which mean throughout the course of my childhood, my family spent a lot of time on the road.  Back in the olden days of the early 1970s, car travel was nowhere as near as glamorous as it is today.  The driver controlled the radio, and as far as entertainment goes, that was it.   This was all before the age of computers, tablets, DVD players, iPods (I-anythings), or any other personal music or gaming device.  You passed the time by reading a book, sleeping, or annoying your siblings by leaning your head against the car window and singing.  Well, at least one of us did that.  You tried to play the system in order not to get the middle seat in the back with the "hump" on the floor, and that took some strategy.  There were, it seemed, two options: 1. get in the car 20 minutes early so you can stake your claim at a window seat, and then refuse to budge because you got there first, or, 2. be the last one to the car, stand directly at the door of the person by the window, and use every guilt and intimidation tactic in your arsenal.  Glare at them, yell at them and tell them to move over until they either do or your parents get so tired of it, they order the window person to move over, awarding you the win.  It was a brutal game, and it should come as a surprise to no one that as we grew into into surly teenagers, these weekly visits were not what any of us wanted to do, and we were very good at making sure everybody understood that.

Decades later, we've survived our own adolescence, managed not to kill each other, and yes, we still travel to visit.  We have dealt with surly kids and pets of our own who, unsurprisingly, exhibited the exact same behavior we did (despite the fact that they a multitude of personal gadgets and electronic doodad available to entertain their poor tortured souls).  But finally, something has changed. Being older and (dare I hope), wiser, now we visit because we want to; not because we have to.  This December two college-aged kids are coming home and even better, are excited about it. All my brothers and sisters will be in town at the same time.  There will be parents, kids, and kids of kids, and a plethora of furry family members to meet, cuddle and play with.  Our glasses will be raised to those far away, and those who are with us in the stories we tell and the memories we share.  And although we don't have every moment of every day planned (in fact, we don't have formal plans at all), the only thing that matters is that we'll be gathered together, for a little awhile anyway, to tell old stories, make new memories, eat a lot, laugh even more, and enjoy every minute.  Not because we have to, but because we want to.

That will be the best present of all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Blogger's block got you?
get your fingers ready and
count the syllables.

Two more days and then
finals are over and done.
Sanity restored.

No poems tonight
that include the bad "s" word.
Shit! You yell.  Wrong.... "snow"

Fitbit confusion
when I play the piano.
Twenty-thousand steps.

Middle school choir sings
"If I win I'll share my nuts"
Oh Dreidl, Dreidl!

Current affliction?
Eternal pessimism
of the snowy clime.

Yawning my face off
Pretty sure this is a sign
to finish and post.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

List and Learn

I am notorious in my family for not supplying Christmas lists.  I could give you a hundred reasons why, and maybe they are excuses and maybe not, but among the reasons are a big one -- I'm too busy to sit down and think of things like this.

However, today I'm making a change.  Behold, a list!  Have at it.


1. Pencils that don't fall into the grand piano where I cannot retrieve them.
Honestly, in all my years on earth, I have never EVER had the problem with pencils falling into the Steinway abyss like I have this fall.  I have lost at least three pencils down the Steinway in my office, and retrieving them takes real tools and an office mate with the patience of a Saint, the willingness to retrieve my errant writing implements, and the good will to do it all on the promise of adult beverages as payment.  FYI - I almost dropped another one today in the grand at the high school.  This is getting ridiculous.

2. The ability to retrieve everything on my DVR and have it forever.
There must be a way to do this.  There. Must.  I haven't figured it out yet.  And that really, really annoys me.  How could VHS technology actually work better in this instance?

3. An Eighth Day of the Week with Rules
The rules being -- nothing can be scheduled on this day, ever.  It's the magical do whatever you want to do (or do absolutely nothing) day.  There are no other commitments, no choices of activities that have to be made, and since it's a magical day, everything you want to do is open, free of charge, and as full of humanity or as empty as you would like.  That goes for noisy or quiet, too.

4. More efficient Transportation (see: Magical)
This includes but is not limited to: flying cars, teleportation, a safe place for people and bikes and skateboards and scooters and mopeds and roller skates to also exist that is flat, dry, clean, beautiful and separated by a real live barrier, so my flying car won't have to worry about hitting anything.

5. A Sob-Free Season of Masterchef Junior
This. Show. Is. Killing. Me.  Every week two pipsqueak junior chefs get eliminated, and I am so ridiculously invested in these kids and their passion and their talent, that I hate to see any of them go home.  I like them exponentially better than the adult chefs, and I think they are more polite, and often, more creative.  They're definitely funnier.

6. A Self-Editing Blog
I've learned it's dangerous to write late at night on minimal sleep when you're trying to get your post completed.  Sometimes I look at it the next day and wonder if English really is my first language.  Maybe my blog needs a Princess Bride inspired add-on that would say, "I do not think that word means what you think it means!"

7. The metabolism of a Teenage boy
'Nuff said there.

8. Self-Destructing Junk Mail
The same goes for Spam email and telemarketers phone calls.

9. Justice, Equality, Peace, Cooperation, Respect
If not now, when?

10. More Llamas with Hats.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Joy to the World

Not the hymn.

On another little blog I resurrected (I know, what what WHAT?) I've been having a bit of fun with a meme I ran across called Advent Music.  Now, to be truly hip, it's actually called #AdventMusic because in this day and age, if it doesn't have a hashtag, it's not real.  Technically, I'm still not doing it right because as of day 9, I haven't posted a single one of these links on twitter, so I'm currently  engaged in reckless hashtaggery (which I think might also be a good band name).

I didn't run across any official rules to these exercise because truth be told, I didn't look very hard.  What I did see said something about picking one song for each day of Advent, starting with the year you were born.  An astute somebody commented that it's not going to work so well if you are under the age of 24, but oh well.  Guess you'll just have to leave this for the geezers.

It's been a blast checking out the annual Top 100 songs lists.  Most of my choices don't include a profound story linking the song to  milestones of my childhood.  Most of the time it's been songs or singers that I have loved then and still love today.  I pick what I like and make whatever connection I can.  

Tonight I'm jumping the gun on tomorrow's selection and telling the story on this blog first because it's one I will never ever forget, and it's too good not to share.  

For me, #AdventMusic Day 10 means the year is 1971, and the list is fascinating.  It appears to have been an off-year for Motown, and Simon and Garfunkel had just parted ways, so the list was open for some big changes.  And that's what it got.  The Top 100 list for 1971 included two offerings from The Partridge Family (HA!), four from The Osmonds (whoa), two from The Jackson Five (slipped this year), and a smattering of real oddities, including Andy Williams, Olivia Newton John and Perry Como (whose dates I just checked and go figure, he lived until 2001!)

Sometimes I pour over these lists and really have a difficult time picking just one song.  Not this year.  In fact, I've been on the lookout for this song for awhile, hoping that it would be in a year where there wouldn't be other strong contenders.  And while I'm sorry to pass over David Cassidy and The Partridge Family, the choice for 1971 is crystal clear:  

1971              Joy to the World  (Three Dog Night)

There is no doubt about that one.  This song has everything:  joy and fishes in the deep blue sea and Jeremiah the bullfrog, and for me, a story to go with the song.

The story takes place somewhere in the neighborhood of 1984 or 1985 (I think), and it's the final day of moving out of the family home.  The process of downsizing from a two-story house with a full basement to a two-bedroom apartment was... how do you describe it? It was impossible yet we did it, but really, it was impossible.  It was a nightmare of epic proportions to get through the final cleaning, the tossing, the storing and the moving to an apartment which, extremely inconveniently for our purposes, was on the fifth floor.  But we moved and we moved and we moved and we moved.  The apartment began to become a wall of stuff starting in the back corner and creeping forward like the water filling the Titanic.  One bedroom stuffed.  Two bedrooms stuffed.  The whole concept of boxes being labelled and things being put in the corresponding room started out as a nice idea, but lost any hope of happening after the clock struck midnight.  Load after load we hauled, up and down the elevator, from the apartment to house and back again over and over and over.  The bedrooms were full.  The bathroom was full.  The kitchen was full.  And now, we only had the living room, Obi-Wan Kenobi; our only hope.  So we piled and piled and piled some more, and the stacks moved closer and closer to the front door. The good new was we were approaching the finish line, so we thought and hoped and prayed that we might be able to fit all this stuff inside.  I wasn't sure how the people would fit, but our assignment was stuffing the stuff, not the people.  At one point towards the end there were three of us standing in the doorway, staring at a wall of possessions and feeling like a puny pee-wee offensive line facing off against the pros.  One of us had an armful of something -- I think pots and pans -- and after taking one look at the options, sent them airborne into the center of room where they went careening and clanging into void.  And that was the end. 

We all fell over howling with laughter because, what else could you do?  We were hot, sweaty, and absolutely exhausted.  So we laughed, and then we laughed some more.  And then we got sternly shushed by our mother for MAKING NOISE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT.  Which of course, only made us laugh harder, but we went into stealth silent laughing mode so as to not incur any additional wrath.  Our tiptoeing became pantomime gold, and we snickered and whisper-yelled at each other to SHUT UP PEOPLE ARE SLEEPING.

We finished at 3 AM and went outside cool down for a minute, quietly, of course BECAUSE PEOPLE WERE SLEEPING.  And then we heard it: loud as a truck and clear as day from somewhere nearby.  It was a a very drunken college student singing at the top of his lungs, "JEREMIAH WAS A BULLFROG... WAS A GOOD FRIEND OF MINE!!!"

It was the perfect ending to a physically and emotionally draining day.  Jeremiah made sure the day wasn't just about sadness.  Now it had a song to go with the aches and pains.  It had flying pots and pans, and it had shushing and laughter.  In my family, somehow there always manages to be laughter.  The day may have marked the end of an era, but at least there it had Jeremiah and joy.

If you want to read the rest of the #AdventMusic posts in chronological order,
head on over to Fickled Fancies or just follow the links in order
(if orderliness is important)

Sunday, December 07, 2014

The Gift is in the Living

It's right about at this time every year that I begin to vacillate about the entire December holiday extravaganza.  There are times when I'm cool, calm and composed.  I've got this Christmas thing down.  I have plenty of time.  I've had years when I'm much farther behind than now.  And then there are other times when I open my eyes and examine my surroundings:  no tree, no decorations, no wreath, no tinsel, no advent calendar, no nothing.  In fact, at the moment my house looks the same as it does in February or September.  A bit on the cluttered side, stacks of music everywhere, piles of books to read, enough chores to keep me busy for a long time, and two furry felines who spend their entire existence eating, sleeping, and beating each other up for fun.

There is not one outward sign of Christmas in my personal orbit.

And then there are the good-meaning, always prepared Christmas people.  Are you ready for Christmas? they ask. Have you finished your shopping?  Have you wrapped your gifts?  Have you baked the cookies, bought a tree and decorated your house?  My answers are no, God no, Ha Ha no, nope, negatory, and do cats count?

I try to calm my own sense of guilt by reminding myself and others that December is a very busy month.  In a musician's life of feast-or-famine, December tends to be feast, and believe me, we gorge ourselves as much as we possibly can.  This leaves next to no time for the usual holiday activities of of the season:  Shopping, Christmas Tree Everything, Baking Baking Baking! and Wrapping: The final frontier.  Call me a whiner, but it gets stressful.

Last night I headed out to see my gal in Kalamazoo (mazoo mazoo) and hear their choral Christmas concert.  It had already been a long week and was looking to be a very long day.  But I wanted very much to be there and support my family.  I plopped myself down in the pew and assumed a common doubting attitude of "OK, let's hear this."  And one song in, and then two, and then an hour later, I found myself grateful, alive, challenged and uplifted.  I may have been tired, but the concert was so good that we stayed to hear it again that evening.  My heart and my soul can confirm it was worth every second.  Music has that power, and I was lucky to have been in the audience to receive that gift that was so freely and wonderfully given.

This morning, after a somewhat frantic rehearsal prior to Sunday morning services, I started the service by singing a Gregorian chant common during Advent.  As I sang I was struck by how quickly I was able to calm myself, refocus and recenter.  With every breath and musical phrase I was able to relax and chip away at all the non essentials that seemed to be clinging to me like stubborn barnacles.  And then I was able to share that sense of peace and calm with others.  It was a gift I was lucky enough and open enough to receive, and it was a gift I was happy to give to others.  

So if you ask me if I'm ready for Christmas, I'll answer you with a question.  If you're asking if I'm ready to exchange presents I've bought in a store, the answer is no.  But if you're asking if I've been lucky enough to both give and receive gifts of the spirit and gifts of the season, the answer is a resounding yes.  I'll get to the rest, but this is the part of the holiday season I like the best.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Flip the Script

Things I wish my GPS would say instead of RECALCULATING 

 Try Again 
I don't think so 
Simon didn't say 
no no no no NO!!! 
Your other left 
Are you doing this on purpose? 
*long exasperated sigh*
 I don't have all night
 So close and yet so far
 I didn't want to go there anyway
 Jesus take the wheel. No really, TAKE IT
 For the love of Pete, it's not that difficult!
 Would an interpretive dance help?
 I guess you had a better idea.
 Maybe you should call a cab.
 Why don't you listen?
 I go on break in ten minutes
 I'm telling mom!
What did you do without me?
 OK, let's try it your way. 
 Time for Wapner

Friday, December 05, 2014

And Straight On Till Morning

Oh Advent.

You glorious time of hope, of waiting, of renewal.  You invite us to watch and wait, to be still and open.  You are a season of wisdom and preparation, rising above the din of humanity to a higher plane of awareness.


It's a great idea, but I'm here to tell you, if you're a musician, there is no watching and waiting, unless you're watching the clock, waiting for the next gig to be over, and attempting to rise above the din of humanity by playing louder, singing higher or dancing faster.  We need a candle on the Advent wreath for sanity, high notes, a bonus hour of sleep, or a get-out-of-caroling and/or Nutcracker free card.  No offense to the great gang over there in Bethlehem, but we need an Advent calendar that counts down the days until the holiday concert season is over.  For most people, December is a time of festive colors: holiday green and red, opulent gold, silver twinkling stars and icy white lights.  But for me and my brethren, we round out our calendar year with concert black day after day after day after day.  Ho Freaking Ho.

So if you find us begging out of a lovely afternoon of holiday cheer, don't take it personally.  Ditto for eggnog, sleigh rides, car drives in the neighborhood, or the worst -- shopping.  This is the season for hoarding every spare second we can find, and carving out a December soundtrack free of swimming swans, reindeer, dead grandmas, bells, merry gentlemen, ships and roasted nuts.  Looking at my calendar, I think that spare second might happen sometime around December 26th.

And believe me, I'm watching.  And waiting.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Hate Watch, Look and Listen

Tonight is the second year NBC television is broadcasting a live musical theater production.  It's on as I type, and currently Peter Pan and Captain Hook are having a sword fight of sorts, but it seems a bit anemic, as if they are both allergic to the sound of clanging metal.  Because I didn't get home until an hour into the broadcast, I'm not paying a lot of attention tonight, but have no fear, tomorrow I'll be watching it with critical eyes and ears.

There has been a great deal of chatter about this show, due, in large part, to last year's live musical theater televised broadcast of The Sound of Music -- which was an epic production, and by 'epic' I mean really, really bad.  This particular production of The Sound of Music relied heavily on celebrity name recognition, and as the viewing audience learned within the first thirty seconds of the show, being a highly successful country pop singer in no way means you can adapt to Broadway singing, much less act.  And believe me, there was much, much MUCH less acting.  Despite the problems, though, there were still bright spots by several performers.  Unfortunately, those high points only seemed to make the low points even lower.  In a nutshell, it was a train wreck.  A much talked about, ridiculed, snickered-over train wreck.

Once the cast of Peter Pan was announced, the talk ramped up, and as the time drew closer to tonight's show, the inevitable comparisons started to fly.  Allison Williams, the Peter in Peter Pan, made a point of asking that people not "hate watch" the show.  "People are cynical, and that's a much more fun way to watch television," she said, but added that if viewers were approaching the show from an assumption of hate, the show would be destined for failure.  "Peter Pan lives and breathes by people believing in fairies.  I mean, that's a literal moment."  

I can understand the concern, but I don't buy the argument.  Watching with critical eyes means just that -- comparing the production and performers to a standard of excellence.  There is a big difference between anticipating a poor performance and hoping for a poor performance.  The last time an audience was actively hoping for something awful was the summer broadcast of "Sharknado 2."  And bless the rubber shark industry and a plethora of chainsaws, the awful was fabulous and we loved it and hugged it and squeezed it and called it George. We're great cynics.  Just ask Mystery Science Theater 3000.

I hope tonight's production is good, or at least adequate.  But whatever it is, the only right thing to do is to judge it -- for better or for worse -- against all its brothers and sisters.  It can have it's own spin and creative liberties with characters, but if it's a musical, people better be able to sing AND dance AND act.  If it can't live up to its hype, Peter Pan deserves to get the hook.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Our Common Senses

See No Evil -- Hear No Evil -- Speak No Evil.

The story of The Three Wise Monkeys is an interesting one with more than one interpretation as to its meaning.  For some it represents the Buddhist philosophy that encourages people to refuse to participate in evil things.  Don't see it.  Don't listen to it.  Don't speak of it.  It's a admirable philosophy and a worthy goal, to be sure.  For others it speaks to everything that is wrong with those who refuse to acknowledge evil as it exists in our daily lives.  If you do not see evil, hear evil or speak of the evil, you live surrounded by blind ignorance and apathy.

Lately it's everywhere: Evil.  Ignorance. Apathy.  It doesn't seem to matter whether we talk about it, fight against it, ignore it, or refuse to live in its presence, it's still there.  Sometimes I think if I just didn't have a television, it wouldn't be so bad.  I wouldn't be smothered hour after hour and day after day.  And even though I don't watch much anymore, it's still there.  Always there.

Sometimes I think if I didn't read so many Facebook posts, or news sites, or op-eds, I wouldn't feel the crushing weight of sadness every time another helping of injustice is heaped on the plate of humanity.  So I try to limit my daily intake, and I stopped reading comment threads a long, long time ago.  But whether I read them or not, the stories still rain down in torrents, and the people argue about who is right and who is wrong.  And the name-calling.  Oh, the incessant, insane, juvenile, hurtful name-calling. It gets more vicious with every passing day.

And just to be clear -- I don't have a single answer to this problem.  I can't wrap up this post with my usual final sentence that ties up the loose ends in one simple yet profound thought. On the contrary.  This is a maze without a clearly marked exit, and I'm at an utter loss as to what to do and which way to turn.

All I know is that living a life that is free of evil is impossible.  It's a beautiful, idyllic thought, but for me, it's a exercise destined for failure.  But then what?  To do nothing seems as bad as evil itself.  To refuse to see only makes us blind.  To turn away from the cries of others only makes us deaf to ourselves.  To sit on the sidelines and do nothing only lays waste to our own lives.  

There's got to be a better way.  We need to see no evil while shining the light on injustice.  We need to hear no evil while recognizing the cries of the oppressed.  We need to speak no evil while living an active, purposeful life.

We need to do something, whatever that something might be.  Black lives matter.  Women's rights matter.  Education matters.  Equality for all people matters.  The environment matters.  Our children matter.  Our parents and grandparents matter.  Peace in our world matters.  I don't have any answers, but the one thing I know for certain is nothing will change and nothing will get better if nothing is the only thing that happens. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Defining Moment

Strabismus.  May I please have the definition of the word?
"The inability of one eye to obtain binocular vision with the other because of an imbalance of the muscles of the eyeball."
And use it in a sentence, please?
"In the schoolyard Billy protested that he wasn't cockeyed.  'I suffer from strabismus,' he said, whereupon the bullies beat him harder."
Putnam 21st Annual Spelling Bee


We start out as simple definitions that describe the absolute:  Male. Female.  Big.  Small.  We are indisputable definitions according to those who define us.

As we get older the definitions begin to broaden.  Serious.  Silly.  Cheerful.  Sullen.  Smart.  Slow.  A joy.  A handful.  Smart.  Slow.  Strong-willed.  Shy.  Now our definitions contain words which are subjective, and still somehow they manage to stick to us as if they were statements of fact.  No matter that we wake up every day a changed person, the words that are used to define us do their best to determine our shape, our movement, and our spirit.


'Different' is nice, but it sure isn't 'pretty'.  'Pretty' is what it's about.
I've never met anyone who was 'different' who couldn't figure that out.
A Chorus Line


Pretty soon you're in school taking tests designed to tell you who you are and what you are going to be ("best suited for" they say) when you grow up.  They plot your strengths and weaknesses on a large circular chart, which seems more Ouija board than fact.  Take the test, find the results plotted on a graph and chart your life course as if you were navigating by the stars.

I remember this test clearly, or, to be more accurate, I remember the result.  I was excited to learn what I would be when I grew up.   I had lots of interests, and like an enormous buffet, it seemed impossible to choose one.  This test was going to help me.  No, this test was going to tell me.  Imagine my surprise when I looked at the result and saw a solitary dot sitting dead center.  I scored a bulls-eye at the exact moment I didn't want one.  The single dot in the center meant all options were open.  There was no direction., no answer, and no help.  Now what?


Although how can you know who you are 
til you know what you want (which you don't),
so then which do you pick?
Where you're safe out of sight and yourself, but where everything's wrong?
Or where everything's right and you'll know that you'll never belong?
Into the Woods


Without a defined course of action, I wrote my own and I did what I loved.  I surrounded myself with music and poetry and theater and books.  And with every class I took, every song I sang, opera role I learned, play I watched, book I read and adventure I dared to take, my eyes grew wider, my horizons stretched farther and I realized I was a wonderfully complicated, complex person.  Some still defined me, but without an easy employment distinction --   Doctor, Lawyer, CEO -- it became easier for others (and harsher for me) to define me by what I wasn't rather than by what I was.

All these years later, things have changed and yet not changed at all.  I have a job for which I am grateful.  It pays the bills, covers my insurance and keeps a roof over my head, heat in my house, and has provided for me, my family and our two furry monsters.  But I am not my job.  My job is a defined absolute with rules and requirements all predetermined like points on a graph.  My role is well-defined:  follow the rules, run the maze, get a reward.  But that's a job, and it could never, will never define me.

I'm that thing -- whatever it may be today -- that speaks to me down in my gut.  I'm the song newly discovered with the words that moved my spirit and the melody so beautiful all I could do is play it again.  I'm the book that made me think, the poem that made me sigh, or the play that made me laugh a little too loudly.  And tomorrow?  Who knows.  Tomorrow I'll be different than I am today.  But what I do know is I'll have all the tools necessary, not to define who I am, but to celebrate it.  


Your word is Capybara.
Is that a word?
That's a word, yes.
No way -- what does it mean?
"a tailless, largely aquatic South American rodent often exceeding four feet in length"
Awesome.  What else can I ask?
You're allowed to ask for a word's language of origin or to have the word used in a sentence.
Oh -- can you use it in a sentence?
Yes -- "Don't look now, Pedro, but I think that tailless, largely aquatic four-and-a-half foot rodent swimming next to you may be a capybara."
Wow!  That didn't help at all!
Putnam 21st Annual Spelling Bee

Monday, December 01, 2014

Finnegan Begin Again


I have a love-hate relationship with stairs.  It's in no way a 50-50 proposition.  It's closer to 83-17, like a blob of hamburger.  The hate part seems obvious.  I mean, just looking at stairs makes me groan.  They aren't pretty or cheerful, and after hauling yourself up x-number of flights, you spend the next several minutes wheezing like the blob of hamburger that you are.

Ditto for stairwells.  They are dusty, drab, and discouraging.  They just keep climbing into the sky, giving you no clue whatsoever as to how far you've gone or how much farther you have to go.  They are the indoor version of "just one more switchback until the top of the mountain" -- always looking promising but taking far too long to deliver.

But here's the thing about stairs.  They are always there.  Always the same level of difficulty.  Always ready no matter the weather.  And they are free.  Stairs require no commitment of money or equipment.  You don't have to wait to use them, wipe them down, impress others while you use them.  You go up, and then you go down.  Stairs are a tool that offer no excuses.  And I hate that.

So I climb stairs.  Or I did, anyway, almost two years ago.  And I hated every single minute of it.  I climbed and climbed and then walked and huffed and puffed as quietly as I could in between the book stacks.  Over the weeks and months my route got longer and longer, and my time got shorter and shorter.  Start in the basement.  Run the stairs to the fourth floor (88 stairs total. Oh yes, I counted).  Walk the stacks of the fourth floor, go back down the stairs to the basement.  Run the stairs to the fourth floor, walk down to the third floor.  Walk the stacks of the third floor, go back down the stairs to the basement.  Run the stairs to the fourth floor, walk down to the second floor.  Walk the stacks of the second floor, go back down the stairs to the basement.  Run the stairs to the fourth floor, walk down to the first floor.  Walk the stacks of the first floor and finally go back to my desk and sweat.

I can't tell you that I ever discovered that magical love of running the stairs, but I can tell you that it got  easier over time.  I can also tell you (with an eye roll and a look of absolute disgust), that there was never a time when I finished that I didn't feel better from running those damn stairs.  Even when I didn't want to, even when I was tired, or frustrated, or had a headache.  When I finished, I felt better, body and soul.  I hated that.  And loved it.

I loved it because it became clearer to me that I had it within myself to feel better.  To make changes.  To challenge myself.  To encourage myself.  The stairs were the constant and I was the variable.  Once I was able to battle the formidable obstacle that is my brain and my will, the stairs weren't such a tough thing.  And, I began to appreciate the view from the top, which was pretty nice.

After faithfully whining, complaining and forcing myself up and down those damn stairs all winter, I took to the outdoors when the weather got nicer.  But here, well, here there were variables.  Uneven paths, people, bikes, dogs, construction, and the fact that being mobile on a mostly horizontal plane was very different than a mostly vertical one.  But now I was in a groove and it wasn't such a struggle to keep pushing and not allow the excuses to take over.  

And then, after eight months, I felt like I had made it.  It was the top of the stairs.  The end of the run. It was finally time to enjoy the view.  I had achieved success.  I had completed a goal.  I was done.

And that was a big mistake. 

Success, completion and done quickly turned into apathy, fatigue and excuses.  The stairs sat in sedentary stillness all winter, spring, and summer, and so did I.  And now I'm faced with starting again.  I'm not necessarily all the way back at square one from two years ago, but I'm far enough back that today between the third and fourth floor, it was obvious that I wasn't finished, and should never think that I am.

There are as many stairs to climb and paths to run and places to explore as I'm willing to face.  Successes are mileposts along the way, but there is no terminal point, unless I stop climbing. So it's time to start again, to huff and puff a little, to remember where I was and look forward to what comes next.  It's been awhile since I ran the stairs, just like it's been awhile since I posted online.  I'm not going to make excuses, I'm just going to start again.  There are stairs to climb, places to go and stories to tell.

I hope to never be done, and I'm ready to get started.
One step at a time.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Voices in the Night

It's a little too cold
I'm a little too tired
It's a little too late
to be very inspired.

The computer is on
The TV is too
I sit here and wait
for a sign or a clue

Is there a truth to impart
or a story to tell
is there a picture to share
or a song I know well?

There are so many options
For topics, instead
I think I'll choose nothing
and crawl into bed.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Voice Reunited

It doesn't much matter that the house is a mess,
...that bags and clothes and books and the laptop are strewn all over the living room
...that dirty dishes once again turn up in random locations
...that the TV remote is not where you left it so you'd be able to find it again
...and that it's late, really cold, and exhaustion seems to have taken up permanent residence.

When your child comes home from college for Christmas break
...the mess reminds you of all you have
...the dishes remind you of your great fortune to have enough food to eat
...the lost remote reminds you that you'd rather make your own stories than watch those of others
...and that time is precious, love fills the house with warmth, and exhaustion takes a back seat to raucous laughter, wild adventures, and a life filled with wonder, happiness and surprise.