A woman named Jane Little showed up on a crawl at the bottom of my TV the other night. I was watching some political nonsense when the item moved across my screen and completely stole my attention. I haven’t been able to get her out of my mind since.
We don’t often hear much about symphonic musicians. When we do, it’s usually the star violinists like Itzhak Perlman or cellists like YoYo Ma. Tell me, when was the last time you heard about a string bass player? And we’re not talking about someone from one of the country’s top orchestras either, like New York, Boston, LA, Chicago or San Francisco. We’re not even talking top ten here (oh yeah, they actually rank symphonies).
Jane Little played string bass for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Nothing remarkable there. But last year she set the Guinness World record for longest tenure in a single orchestra. Jane started when she was 16, and played 71 straight years. 71 years with the same orchestra. Amazing.
Even more amazing was that a woman in 1945 could get a paying job in a symphony orchestra. Let’s face it, gender bias was in its heyday back then. Tough for women to compete with men for work. Even more so at her chosen instrument.
Yeah, we don’t want to admit it, but there are certain instruments women are “supposed” to play and be good at. Then there are ones we don’t think they should be playing professionally. Quick, can you name 10 famous female rock guitarists? How bout 5? I can easily name 50 famous male rock guitarists, but only a handful of female rockers. And I can’t think of even one famous female drummer (except for Sheila E, but she’s more of a percussionist than a drummer, though she’s a total badass on timbales). Continue reading Out With A Bang Not A Whimper
We have a popular tradition in our family called the Money Dance. Whenever we get a windfall, like a tax refund or a bonus, we deposit the funds in the bank, withdraw a representative amount in small bills, take it home, toss it up in the air of the living room and dance around like idiots as the bills float to the ground around us.
Silly, right? But important. Here’s why:
Too often we get caught up in the drudgery of daily life. It’s hard to feel like we’re making progress in life when there’s an endless amount of mundane tasks just to keep things going. If we don’t keep up, we’re soon overwhelmed by Summary of Benefits statements, broken knobs and switches, and the never-ending list of tasks we must attend to just to keep our households running.
Celebrating the wins, no matter how small, is crucial to our motivation. At every turn, there is a mountain of paperwork and drudgery between us and happiness. Because, as The Eagles say in their song New York Minute, “the wolf is always at the door.” Continue reading Celebrating Your Wins
Ever have a bunch of ideas come flooding into your brain? I do. But not in any steady, consistent way. They seem to come in waves and at very unpredictable times. But when they do come, they just tumble on in, one after the other, connected by thin strands of logic.
I’ve learned over the years to try to catch these waves when they happen. Write them down, record them in some way, then try to take action on them. But sometimes I don’t pay enough attention to the storm that’s coming, and when it makes landfall in my head, I get overwhelmed, and lose a lot of potential brilliance.
During a recent brainstorm, as I marveled at the speed and strength of the ideas coming to me, I thought of the cycle and how and when it happens. Suddenly, my vast knowledge of TV weather reporting came to mind, and a metaphor for creativity emerged. Continue reading BrainStorm
The end of the calendar year has always been a time for me to wrap things up, enjoy some down time, and get ready to start the new year strong. I know some folks believe that New Year resolutions don’t work, but they do for me.
I do an annual review and assess where I’ve been, where I am, where I want to be, and which course corrections I need to get me there. The symbolic starting point of January 1 always helps me re-commit to new and better habits and goals. Sure, I often fall off as the year grows, but that good start always helps me with whatever I’m trying to accomplish.
It also helps me create some urgency in my life. Why do that? Well, we just don’t know how much time we have left. No matter your age or physical condition, your expiration date is still a mystery. Sure, you can improve your odds with good, healthy choices on diet and exercise, but even then, those are just odds, not guarantees. If you have more to accomplish in your life, then you’d better get to it, ‘cuz you never know when you’ve seen your last New Year.
Just ask Kathy Baker. She was doing everything she was supposed to do. She went to college then worked hard for years to become CFO of the prestigious Lawrence Livermore Lab. She was an accomplished and well liked leader, and very disciplined about her exercise. 3-4 times a week she went to the gym for a 6:00 am class before heading to the office at 7:00 am. Every week. Like clockwork.
Until about three months ago. Continue reading Resolutions
Halloween was always my favorite holiday as a kid. It was the one time of the year when I could go out and get as much as I wanted. I just had to put in the work to get to as many doorsteps as time and distance allowed.
I had two major costume themes growing up. The first was the classic Hobo. Back then it wasn’t in bad taste as we hadn’t invented homelessness yet. I went with the classic depression era tramp look, baggy coat, crumpled hat, smudged face, and the iconic kerchief on a stick bundle thingee. The rail-riding vagabond type I’d seen on the Red Skelton show, warming himself over a makeshift trashcan campfire, cooking beans in a can and roasting weenies on a stick.
A rather romanticized ideal of life on the road. Not the mentally ill squalor of today’s homeless, but looking back, a need for freedom and escape, a yearning to be away from constraint and the tyranny of society. I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day analyzing my 12 year old psyche.
Then came the Knight in Shining Armor phase. No doubt a shrink would see a misguided attempt at the hero role in the family, but for me it was a practical approach to self defense.
At the end of our street lived an older guy who loved to terrorize us younger kids. Continue reading What Your Halloween Costume Says About You
There was a civilized ruckus going on in Union Square Park when I popped out of the subway. A large and raucous crowd was protesting police violence in the wake of yet another person dying while in NYPD custody.
These fellas here were on duty, eyeing the demonstrators with an air of irritation, boredom and wariness, seemingly nonplussed and on edge all at the same time. Judging by the plastic handcuffs on the officer’s belt, they came ready for business.
Soon the crowd began to mobilize and head toward 14th Avenue. The cops scrambled into action, mounting a very loud loudspeaker on the back of an NYPD pickup, blaring a pre-recorded notice that anyone blocking vehicular or pedestrian traffic would be arrested. Duly warned, the protesters stepped off the curb and the moving phase of the protest began – the crowd leading, the cops following… Continue reading Disorder Control
You may think this is crazy, but I’m a big fan of April 15th. Go ahead and hate me for this, but I actually think we should turn it into a national holiday.
Yes, I realize I am nuts. No, you’re right. I should hate the IRS like most everyone does, and I should hate everything about our annual day of tax collection.
But I don’t. I kinda like it and I think we should celebrate it. Just like the Fourth of July. Maybe not with parades, but certainly with fireworks and alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol…
Here’s the thing. As Americans what’s the one thing we enjoy as much as our freedoms? Our services. Very few people around the world get as many as we do, and at the level of quality as ours. Continue reading Happy Tax Day Everyone!
Oh boy, it’s back in the news again, the age-old showdown between Evolution and Creation. I can end decades of debate on this in three simple words. Put everyone’s mind at ease, clear it all up, end all the arguing once and for all.
On the one hand are the Fundamentalists. They know for a fact that God created the universe as we know it in seven days.
Then ‘ol Darwin came along with his theory that we evolved over the eons from lower life forms, and they pretty much freaked. They’ve been fighting his work ever since, and pushing to have “Creationism” taught in schools, a word they totally made up for just for this purpose.
Meanwhile the Scientists and the Atheists put forth all sorts of data to confirm Evolution and shout down the Creationists . They’ve got the Big Bang Theory, Carbon Dating, and of course, Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection.
Soon the Creationists roll out Intelligent Design, another made up word to suit the occasion, to counter the Natural Selection of Darwinism. Which pushed the whole pile of complexity into court where a District Court ruled against Creationism and defined it as a Pseudo Science, weakening the case for Intelligent Design.
Even with that ruling, there have been competing, confusing charges going back and forth. But I have the answer to bring it all back to one unified theory and end all the bickering
My solution would make both sides right, nobody wrong, and everybody happy. And all it would take would be these three simple words:
God Created Evolution!
End of Discussion. Now, everyone off to the bar for drinks!
My wife and I lived in Japan for 2 1/2 years in the mid ’90s. We were often amazed when our Japanese students would come back from vacation having visited sites in Northern California that we, born and raised in the Bay Area, had never seen. So when we moved home in 1997 we vowed to start playing tourist in our own backyard.
This led to a personal re-discovery of some very cool places. We went to the Marin Headlands and took pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge. We went to Fort Point, Fort Baker, Muir Woods, and the lighthouses at Pt. Reyes, Montara, Marin Headlands, Camarillo, and Pigeon Point, where we spent the night at the hostel and sat in the cliff-side hot tub watching the whales migrate north.
We also went through Pacific Heights in SF, down Lombard Street, on a Segway tour through North Beach, on a fishing boat tour around Alcatraz, to the Palace of Fine Arts and the Legion of Honor. We went champagne tasting in Sonoma, wine tasting in Napa, kayaking down the Russian River, to the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, saw the sun set at Carmel beach, drove the 17 mile drive in Pacific Grove, bought T-shirts on Cannery Row in Monterey, hiked through Big Sur, and took three tours at Hearst Castle.
We were feeling pretty proud of ourselves, and frankly, thought we’d seen it all. Until the day we stumbled on the hidden gem that is the Red Top Market. It happened on Highway 152, about 19 miles east of Los Banos. We’d passed this spot hundreds of times before and never noticed a site worth seeing. Continue reading Fish Museum
My dentist is a good man and very good at his job. But I don’t really like the whole ventriloquism thing I’m forced to do while lying in the chair. He always asks me questions while he’s jamming a mirror and pick down my throat so I can’t possibly answer. But he keeps doing it anyway so I’m compelled to try to throw my voice. It never works.
I went to see him this week and it all happened again like it always does. Then it got weird. He started hitting on me. Or at least he said a few things that, heard out of context, would make you think he was. Things like…
“Hmmm, impressive, nice and pink and firm.” (actually said while inspecting my gums, but sounding like he was checking out some young woman’s fancy parts)
“Feel free to go to sleep, as long as I can crack you open and scrape your teeth” (after I mentioned I wasn’t fully awake yet)
“That is the cleanest mouth I’ll probably see all day…” (well, er, thank you very much, Doctor, I think…)
No I don’t think he’s a perv, but I don’t think he hears what he sounds like to his patients. Then again, he does have a very weird job, cracking people open all day and scraping their teeth.