Wednesday, July 01, 2015

A Video for July and a 50-Year Memory

The summer before my senior year. 1965. Exploding onto the scene, this song took over the month of July- number one for virutally the whole month. It IS one of the great rock and roll songs. Looking at it today, I don't remember Jagger being that young- but did he know how to play to the camera. The power exudes even in the old black and white. No wonder our parents were afraid.

50 years later, it's still very real and still an almost perfect summer song!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Harriet Beecher Stowe (1)

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

Harriet Beecher Stowe
Writer and Prophetic Witness
July 1

Harriet Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896) was an American abolitionist and author. Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) depicted life for African-Americans under slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the United States and United Kingdom and made the political issues of the 1850s regarding slavery tangible to millions, energizing anti-slavery forces in the American North, while provoking widespread anger in the South. Upon meeting Stowe, Abraham Lincoln allegedly remarked, "So you're the little lady who started this great war!" The quote is regarded as apocryphal.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Immersed in Miles

Following a conversation with a fellow trumpet player a few weeks ago, I was inspired to pick up the book, Miles- The Autobiography by Miles Davis. No, surprisingly I had never read it. It is an amazing course in jazz history of the mid-20th Century. Davis, of course, is one of the greatest jazz innovators, ever. He is right there with the pantheon of Armstrong, Ellington, Parker, Powell. Few beyond those four have had the kind of influence that Miles Davis had on music.

Son of a dentist from East St. Louis, IL, Davis was powered by music. He started at Julliard but left after one year- it was too confining. It is clear from his music and his writing though, that Julliard helped unlock the knowledge and awareness that Davis utilized so effectively over his musical career.

The book is interesting for the history and how Davis fit into the milieu of the era. It is also interesting in the language, which is far more than even an "R-rating" at times. Quincy Troupe is the co-author, and it is obvious that in many places he simply transcribed the unique Miles voice allowing us to feel the emotion and inspiration that Davis wanted to portray.

But perhaps most importantly for a jazz-fan is the insight that Davis gives to how and why he did what he did. He talks about the changes in his style, where they came from and sometimes even a little music theory about them. He talks about many of the famous names he played with and who played with him. He spends quite a few paragraphs on the ideas behind one of my favorite albums of his, Sketches of Spain. Intriguing and interesting as he describes the background of the haunting "Saeta".

He clearly had a very strong ego and a need at times to justify himself. It has been a journey into a musician's heart and soul.

Davis's album, Kind of Blue is often rated as the greatest jazz album of all time and is most likely the best-selling jazz recording of all time. All the cuts are remarkable, but here's the one that has a light, comic touch, "Freddie Freeloader".

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Downtown Train

I have many memories of freight trains, growing up along the New York Central line in northern Pennsylvania. That, and the fact that my grandfather and uncle worked for the railroads, helped me fall in love with the rails. One year we took a plane to New York to visit the family in Brooklyn. But we experienced air sickness on the trip to NYC so we came home by train. That sealed it.

Over the years I have had several friends who shared my love of trains and would be out doing what is called "railfanning"- chasing trains, taking pictures and just enjoying the majesty and power of those engines and the call of the railroad. I have often lived not far from train tracks, even having c cabin along the Penn Central line in the wilderness of the Pine Creek Gorge in Pennsylvania. I have had a number of interesting train trips of my own as an adult. The distant call of the train whistle is irresistible.

A couple weeks ago I was downtown on the top level of the parking garage when that whistle came echoing through the buildings. One of the local switcher trains was coming. I was in a good location to get some video, so I pulled out my trusty iPhone and started taking the video. I went home and did some editing, added a bluegrass song (of course!) and came up with a 1:11 view of a downtown train.

Enjoy- and one of these days I may make another one with all the train pictures I have from the past 60 years.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Calendar of Saints: James Weldon Johnson (2)

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

James Weldon Johnson
June 25

In the fall of 1916, because Johnson excelled as a reconciler of differences among those whose ideological agendas seemed to preclude unified, cooperative action, he was asked to become the national organizer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Opposing race riots in northern cities and the lynchings that pervaded the South during and immediately after the end of World War I, Johnson engaged the NAACP in mass tactics, such as a silent protest parade down New York's Fifth Avenue in which ten thousand African Americans took part on July 28, 1917. In 1920 Johnson was elected to manage the NAACP, the first African American to hold this position. While serving the NAACP from 1914 through 1930 Johnson started as an organizer and eventually became the first black male secretary in the organization's history. Throughout the 1920s he was one of the major inspirations and promoters of the Harlem Renaissance trying to refute condescending white criticism and helping young black authors to get published. While serving in the NAACP Johnson was involved in sparking the drive behind the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill of 1921.

By the 1930's, he had tired of politics, and "retired" as Professor of Creative Literature and Writing at Fisk University. He died in an automobile accident in Maine in 1938.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Classic Melody

From the Rochester Community Band's Concert at Charter House
May 28

A fine band arrangement of Copland's Variations on a Shaker Melody

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Calendar of Saints: James Weldon Johnson (1)

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

James Weldon Johnson
June 25

James Weldon Johnson (June 17, 1871 – June 26, 1938) was an American author, politician, diplomat, critic, journalist, poet, anthologist, educator, lawyer, songwriter, and early civil rights activist. Johnson is remembered best for his writing, which includes novels, poems, and collections of folklore. He was also one of the first African-American professors at New York University. Later in life he was a professor of creative literature and writing at Fisk University.

He was born in Jacksonville, Florida, into a middle-class black family of Bahamian ancestry. He graduated from Atlanta University and became the first African-American admitted to the Florida bar. From 1906 to 1913 he was Consul in Venezuela and then Nicaragua; during this period he wrote the fictional Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man.

In 1913 he returned to the U. S., lived in New York, and engaged initially in songwriting and the theater with his brother, but then became involved in political activism.


Monday, June 22, 2015

The Enchantment of Gatsby

I was slow in reading this "Great American Novel." I finally got around to it in the past year. It awed and amazed me. The Great Gatsby is a remarkable and readable book. But what is even more interesting is its history, insights, imagery and beautiful writing. NPR Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan has written an easily accessible book about this novel that continues to deserve its following. So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures gives both insights into the book's construction and commentary on the US in the mid-1920s and the writing and ups and downs of its author and its popularity.

When I mentioned to my daughter, who loves the book, that I hadn't read the book in high school she was shocked. Reading Corrigan's book, it would appear that my high school years (the first half of the 1960s) was when this novel was beginning to become the great novel it is now. Chances are it may not even have been on reading lists in my high school at that point. Corrigan covers the novel's critique of the "American Dream" and how Jay Gatsby et. al. lay it bare. Her deep knowledge of the book was refreshing and enjoyable.

Another "Great American Novel" I am currently reading for the first time is The  Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck's critique of the American economic system of the 1930s. I am mesmerized by his use of language and description. His attention to the smallest details of the land and people in the dust bowl years is entrancing and pulls me into the world of the howling wind, lost dreams and living hopes.

There are reasons why some of these books have become standards. Finally I am enjoying them. Better late than never.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

It's Time for Summertime

11:38, Central Daylight Time
June 21, 2015

It's here!!!

Happy Father's Day

Since last Fathers Day I have been spending a lot of time with the memories of these three men.

  • I have walked into the history of the last year of World War II with my Dad and the 80th Medical Battalion/10th Armored Division in the Battle of the Bulge and the Race to the Rhine.
  • I have spent hours examining the world of Central Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna Valley that was my Grandfather Lehman's environment.
  • I have pored over census data and dug into the world of the new immigrants from Russia in the early 1900s that was my Grandfather Moldawsky's experience.

In doing so I have deepened my understanding and appreciation for all three of them.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

That Which Cannot Be Named

I am thinking of the phrase used to describe Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series. Voldemort is, as most probably know, the evil one, the devil. He is the Dark Lord. Even to say his name is to invoke his power, hence the use of epithets. "He who cannot be named" kept a lot of people from invoking the awful name.

Over the past few days I have been feeling like we are doing the same thing in some ways in our nation- or at least parts of it. The mass killings in Charleston on Wednesday have again brought our national original sin to the forefront. Except when you don't want to admit its existence. All kinds of spin and "explanations" have been given.

  • One presidential candidate called it "an accident" which the president politicized into gun control.
  • Another presidential candidate said he didn't know what was going on in the shooter's head, in spite of the fact the shooter made it very clear what was going on in his head.
  • Certain news outlets spun the whole thing into an attack on Christians and the church, a favorite right wing explanation. Again, the shooter was very clear about his reasons for shooting and even choosing this particular church because of its historic role in gaining civil rights.
  • Others have gone so far as to "blame" one of the victims, a South Carolina State Senator, because he voted for gun control. If he hadn't, there would have been people there in the church carrying weapons and would have stopped the carnage.
And yet:
  • Accident? You've got to be kidding me!! 
  • When a black teen robs a store for cigarettes, he is a "thug" almost deserving of being killed. Nobody asked if he was on any psychotropic meds that could have caused him to lose his ability to make good decisions.
  • When a black church was bombed in the south in the 1960s no one saw that as an attack on Christians. They would have been laughed out of the media.
  • Many churches in open-carry states forbid guns in the building. It would have been the church's fault, then, if they had refused to allow open- or even hidden-carry.
That which cannot be named. Our national original sin, present since the creation of the country.

Racism. Through slavery. Through the subjugation of native people. Through Euro-centric superiority. Many groups have felt its sting. But only those who looked different- of different color most often- could never escape it. They could not blend into the white background. They could not change their names, "anglicize" them.

That which cannot be named.

And why the hell not? What are we afraid of? Are we afraid that if we admit that it still exists we might have to confront it in the sometimes subtle ways it shows up? Are we afraid that if we admit its ongoing existence we will have to look at ourselves and see where we might still be impacted by it in our own actions? Are we so concerned that we look and feel "perfect" as a nation that to admit to any shortcomings or national character defects will be "unpatriotic" and blow the cover on our denial?

As I ponder this I realize that I am talking about the need for recovery at the deepest places of our national soul. Here, watch this video:

To be American is to be Euro-centric? Wrong! Forever wrong!

Denial only allows the illness of prejudice and racism to grow, just as addiction. In the Twelve-Step fellowships, not to mention the fellowship of Jesus' followers, it is only when we can admit to the presence of the problem that we can deal with it. If it cannot be named, we can't change. If we don't get down to the nitty-gritty of our national character defects we can't confess them to our higher power and ask for them to be removed. We can't because we don't believe we have it. We are cured; we are healed; we are open to people of all colors and creeds. And when we are not, well, it's their fault.

I have been challenged many times by my own ability to fall into my character defects. I can't begin to count the times when this systemic racism has reared its ugly head in my own head.

Damn, I thought I was passed that. But no, I am human, and as imperfect as the next guy. Like with my addiction, I need to be always aware of the possibility of falling back into old habits, old behaviors, old ways of thinking that I didn't even know I had.

Let's talk about this. Let's listen to each other and the pain that is still being felt in our society. Let's be honest about ourselves and what is happening. To admit to it and work on doing something about it does not undermine our national identity. It shows our strengths and willingness to care for each other!
O God,
Your children of all colors
Have been hurt by racism.
Help us heal together.
Help us do the inner work
To be open to your grace
And to the "balm in Gilead"
So our hearts are converted,
And we can join hands
To do the constructive work
Of love and justice.

--Education for Justice

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Evelyn Underhill (2)

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

Evelyn Underhill
Theologian and Mystic
June 15

Miss Underhill (Mrs. Hubert Stuart Moore) taught that the life of contemplative prayer is not just for monks and nuns, but can be the life of any Christian who is willing to undertake it. She also taught that modern psychological theory, far from being a threat to contemplation, can fruitfully be used to enhance it. In her later years, she spent a great deal of time as a lecturer and retreat director. She died on June 15, 1941.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Evelyn Underhill (1)

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

Evelyn Underhill
Theologian and Mystic
June 15

To go up alone into the mountains and come back as an ambassador to the world, has ever been the method of humanity's best friends.

Evelyn Underhill was born in 1875 and grew up in London. Her friends included Laurence Housman (poet and brother of the poet A E Housman) and Sarah Bernhardt (actress), and Baron Friedrich von Huegel, a writer on theology and mysticism. Largely under his guidance, she embarked on a life of reading, writing, meditation, and prayer. From her studies and experience she produced a series of books on contemplative prayer.


Monday, June 15, 2015

I Couldn't Resist

Sitting down the first base line I saw Twins 2nd baseman Brian Dozier watching the pitcher warm-up. Yep- he was chewing bubble gum and blowing bubbles. So I zoomed in and got this shot.

Sadly, that's one more thing that Brian can do that I can't.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Flag Day 2015

Flag Day is celebrated on June 14. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened on that day in 1777 by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. The United States Army also celebrates the Army Birthday on this date; Congress adopted "the American continental army" after reaching a consensus position in the Committee of the Whole on June 14, 1775.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day; in August 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress. Flag Day is not an official federal holiday. On June 14, 1937, Pennsylvania became the first U.S. state to celebrate Flag Day as a state holiday, beginning in the town of Rennerdale.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Will Be Gone

A mural on a downtown wall, a now-closed bar. The building will soon be demolished for progress. I don't miss the bar, but will miss this great musical mural. Glad I had the chance to get this picture.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Columba, Abbot of Iona (2)

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

Abbot of Iona
June 9

The historian Bede tells us that Columba led many to Christianity by his "preaching and example." He was much admired for his physical as well as spiritual prowess. He was a strict ascetic and remained physically vigorous and unflagging in his missionary and pastoral journeys throughout his seventy-six years of life.

The memory of Columba lives on in Scotland, and Iona, though desecrated during the Reformation, today houses a flourishing ecumenical religious community.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Musical Summer and Bucket Lists

I realized this past year that I am in the midst of fulfilling a bucket list item. My entire adult life I have wanted to be more involved in music in a broader way. I knew I could never earn a living at it, but I kept my musical chops at least somewhat in shape. As many of you know I have continued to play my trumpet and, in the past five years, greatly increased the amount of time I spend. This has been made possible by going into "partial" retirement.

I am currently in two community-type concert bands, a brass quintet, a big band and sub in another big band. As a result I was looking at my musical schedule for this summer and realized that I have become a musician. Between May28 and August 30 I will have 18 different concerts, performances or gigs. That will be seven concerts, six big band performances, a parade, Trumpets at Twins, Salvation Army Donut Day and a Quintet gig as part of a vintage band festival. On top of that, of course are the practices for the different groups, not to mention my own personal practice time. This adds up to several things.
  • It is almost like being a real, full-time musician without worrying about earning anything for it.
  • My skills have increased radically over the past couple years.
  • As a consequence so has my confidence.
  • My embouchure has never been in better shape.
  • It’s a lot of fun!
All this as I turn 67 this summer.