Monday, January 23, 2012

Timelapse Photography: Yosemite

Yosemite HD from Project Yosemite on Vimeo.


It is important that when pursuing our own self-interest we should be “wise selfish” and not “foolish selfish”. Being foolish selfish means pursuing our own interests in a narrow, shortsighted way. Being wise selfish means taking a broader view and recognizing that our own long-term individual interest lies in the welfare of everyone. Being wise selfish means being compassionate.
  -  Dalai Lama

Sunday, January 22, 2012


The only person we really ever compete against is who we were yesterday.

Friday, January 20, 2012

 “Family isn’t always blood.  It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are.  The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.”

 - Unknown

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Piano Lessons 5

After many years and several different teachers I was assigned to a teacher that was new to the program but not new to teaching music. She had a great ear and a dynamic, encouraging teaching style.  She paid attention more than anyone else every had.  I was very excited.  Working with her would be tough but rewarding.

After a couple weeks I was told that she had decided not to join the program but would teach on her own out of her home.  Years of useless attempts at interactive communication at home had taught me that the answer to every question was “no.”.  Finally, my junior year of high school I walked out of Illinois Wesleyan University’s Music Building and their Piano Pedagogy Department.

At college I met many people my age who could play much more difficult music than I ever tried and would sound better at the first sitting than I would after months of teaching my fingers where to go.  Sometime after college I found out from my mother that she always wanted me to be able to just sit down at the piano and have fun with it; to play like my grandmother played.  My grandmother had a whole notebook full of popular songs going back to the ’30s and would pound them out during holiday get togethers while my aunts sang along.

All those years of classical piano lessons, all those hours of practicing, all that frustration at no support and no way out, all those other things I didn't get to do and none of it was for me.  It didn't raise my mother's esteem for me.  She did not respect me any more for it.  It was just to fulfill her desire to be like her mother that she couldn’t do for herself.

I haven't touched a piano in decades.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Marc Chagall

“When I am finishing a picture I hold some God-made object up to it—a rock, a flower, the branch of a tree or my hand—as a kind of final test. If the painting stands up beside a thing man cannot make, the painting is authentic. If there's a clash between the two, it is bad art.”

 - Marc Chagall

Saturday, January 14, 2012


My oldest brother, Steve, is 6 years older than I am.  We look like brothers but no one has ever mistaken one of us for the other.  Starting in 7th grade, after every public appearance, my mother would say to me, “You sure looked like Steve up there.” She said this seriously as if I was to take it as a great compliment.  Even though I respected my older brother, it seemed like a non sequitur from the beginning. 

She was completely consistent, saying it after every junior high band concert, Boy Scout awards ceremony, high school marching band performance, concert band performance, piano recital, summer band camp concert, Honor Society ceremony, high school graduation; “You sure looked like Steve up there.”

University of Illinois Marching Band members are given two free season tickets each year to give to their parents.  My parents were long since divorced but I was able to just give them the tickets and they would hand them off between themselves. 

The seats weren’t great.  They were in a corner of the lower deck, far from the action and not up high enough to see very well.  When I was in it, the Marching Illini was 300 strong; almost all wearing the same uniform and brass instruments covered our faces.  After the first game my freshman year; “You sure looked like Steve out there.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Piano Lessons 4

My teacher recommended me for a special program that was an evaluated performance in front of a judge.  If you received high marks for 10 years in a row you won a college scholarship.  The first year went ok.  The 2nd year I planned to play a challenging Chopin piece. I could play the piece just fine.  I had the technical ability and the musicality.  Chopin is known for having had large hands and wrote music that requires more than an octave reach.  My hands don't seem large but my fingers are long and I could reach all the notes.

But the level of concentration required to memorize the order of the themes and repeats could not be achieved at home and I floundered on stage.  After the director walked up and let me know I had gone over the allowed time I met my mother at the back of the auditorium and we walked home. She mentioned several times how embarrassed she was while I was fumbling at the keyboard.  She found the whole experience very embarrassing. How I felt? She never asked.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Fatherly Advice

I don't know how my brothers learned the facts of life, but I do remember that when the time came my father ignored his usual Depression Era spending plan and gave my older brothers really nice electric shavers.  I waited as long as I could but finally had to teach myself to shave using my mother's leg razor.  That summer at Boy Scout Camp one of the Scoutmasters had a disposable razor and encouraged me to use it.

Not to completely abandon his duties, a couple years later my father said to me, “You know, you're getting to the age where you need to start trimming your nose hairs.”

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Piano Lessons 3

Each spring the piano pedagogy department gave a recital in the university's nicest music auditorium.  Each student would walk across the stage, play their best piece on the music department's best concert grand, bow, and walk off.

There was a whole system:  All of the kids sat in one section by the stage door.  While one student was playing one would be waiting backstage for their turn to walk out and one would be waiting in their seat for their turn to walk back stage.

One year early in my career my grandmother came down for the spring recital.  Her first name was Mildred.  After the program she and my mother and father were standing around her car talking before she headed back home.  While talking my father called her “Millie.”  Even at that young age, and despite my mother’s and grandmother’s grace at not acknowledging the insult, I could tell that it wasn't right for him to call her by that name.

Several years later, at home after the recital, I picked up my father’s printed program.  He had written a one word review of each of the performers.  Several of the 16 and 17 year old girls were “sexy.”  I was “average.”