Being about "that" age, my parents eventually turned to talk of missions and things - and the conversation always came around to my girlfriend and what I was thinking. The expectation that I would go on an LDS mission was always implied, always a given, expected. It was spring now, and during the spring General Conference of the church, they announced that they were changing missionary calls from 24 months to 18 months. This was good news for me, as I was feeling drawn to come back to this city as soon as I possibly could swing it.
All in all, and though I had no idea at the time, I was very ill prepared for life in general. My parents had always given me money, I had no bank account to speak of, and I always had a car to drive, and gas in said car. Never really had a job actually, as that would have taken time away from lessons and things like being a footloose and fancy free teenager. I hadn't been taught about money at all. Or the world, or politics, or much of any of that kind of thing. My interests were music, and music alone, aside from the social aspects of being 17-18 years old.
It was during this time that I began to listen to a lot of Luciano Pavarotti and other tenors like Placido Domingo, who was making a name for himself internationally as well, and whose voice I found particularly heroic. I was performing a lot, and somehow I caught the attention of the University Of Washington, whose head of the voice department told me to call him when I was ready to come to his school to study. My voice had been taking shape for a while by this time, and I had been taking lessons from prominent professors at the university in my home town, and had even been invited to sing in the school's opera workshops with regular university students, even though I was only 16-17 at the time, and only an 11th grader.
My voice was in the true tenor range (I could hit a high C without a problem, given a proper warmup...), but it had a dark timbre, like a baritone, which made me unique and I got a fair amount of attention early on. The term for this type of voice is "helden tenor". Loosely, helden is the German word for "hero", and its implication in this instance is that parts for this voice were often lead roles, and often very difficult to sing well. There are several opera roles for this type of voice, particularly in the German style, written by guys like Richard Wagner etc. My university professor/teacher recommended that I look into taking lessons from a well-respected lady named Selena James at the Royal Conservatory of Music in the city where we were going for the year. Which I did. (Ms. James still teaches there, by the way...) My voice flourished during this time, and I was put into the program in the Conservatory. I was happy with where that all was going.
I tell this part of the story to illustrate the many forces at work in my life at the time: a flourishing musical "career", albeit in its very infancy, nay, in utero even, a girlfriend, friends whom I dearly missed, etc. And the mission thing. I knew it was there all along, and I was having an increasingly hard time reconciling all these things with the fact that I was to be gone, and I do mean GONE, for an extended period of time, whether it was 18 or 24 months. No matter how long it was to be, I was feeling the angst of it all as the spring progressed toward graduation, and my impending departure from my girlfriend loomed larger on the horizon every day.
"NAY" ??? Where the hell did that come from?? See, that's part of that very formal, almost british writing style that I try to purge from me... works sometimes, sometimes not... Anyway, back to this story, which you are hopefully NOT finding too droll. Part Four tomorrow morning, if all goes well, and I don't go skiing - which seem imminent at this moment.....
Here is Part Two:
As our instruments were unloaded, it must have seemed like a tour truck for Chicago, Tower of Power, or some other horn-heavy band of the day, this girlfriend started asking questions about the new occupants and owners of all these horns. She was told that there were two sons, one a senior and one a junior, who were coming to go to school at her school.
This apparently scared the silliness out of her, and by the time we showed up two or three weeks later, we had almost gained cult status - our supposed and implied reputation had preceded us, and the stories circulating had grown to mythic proportion, based on the sheer number of instruments, and possibly their brands. They must have thought we were there to play a year-long gig. This stuff was started and circulated by this girlfriend who was over at the house all the time, and by the time we actually showed up it was clear that there was no way we would live up to this expectation.
Anyway, long story short, we got into school and settled into band, jazz band, marching band, the vocal program, etc. One day when we were goofing off in the gym during lunch time, the volleyball coach saw us (my brother and me), and asked us if we would try out for the volleyball team. I came to find out later that this school had a pretty good reputation for both volleyball and tennis, because of this coach. He had a bad mustache and a lisp, but he was a damn fine student of both games.
I bring this up to note that we were effectively in the "Y-Vowel" category of people at the school - sometimes in the jock crowd, sometimes in the band-geek crowd, and most of the time, in both. We were busy and generally well-received at school - something for which I was thankful then, as now - it would have made for a very long senior year of high school otherwise. It was during this time (and the only time in my life) that I finally learned to slam dunk a volleyball and hang on the rim. I could never do it with a basketball because my hands are too small to palm the ball with one hand, though that never stopped me from trying, using additives like Stickum (which was acceptable in the NFL at the time for receivers...), but I never could get it down. But I could palm a good clean leather volleyball with just a little spit.
During the whole band process, I was placed as a tenor player, alternating first chair in all the different ensembles, with a girl named Joanne. She was the best friend of the aforementioned girlfriend. It didn't take long for us two to begin a friendship that would shortly turn into more than that. She was tall, slender, had GREAT legs, and a lovely moon-shaped face with sparkly blue eyes. She had an older brother who was married, and a younger sister who played clarinet in the band as well. All of a sudden we were a "thing" at school and quickly became inseparable, at school and the rest of the time too. Our prom experience included a small-club Police concert followed by a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show, complete with rice and toast. This was 1982. Do the math, and you know basically how old I am... Anyway, I remember walking to and from her house so many times in the dark of night listening to my (newly invented) Sony Walkman playing Billy Joel's Songs In The Attic album on cassette.
By Christmas time I was desperately in love with her. We had talked about the fact that I was only to be there for the year, and we would be leaving at the end of August so my dad could go back to his job, and the guy whose house we were living in could go back to his teaching job at the university in time for fall semester. And although we did talk about it, we were content to be in the moment, making out in her garage. We dealt with several issues, like her best friend resenting me for taking her best friend and her first chair position in the band, and more notably, the general disapproval of my parents for dating a catholic girl. We were just content to "be". And be left alone.
In general, the school year was fine, and I was successful. I missed my three best friends back home - badly. We were very close and did everything together, good and bad. We had done so many things together - we basically grew up together and were the very best of friends. We memorized the script of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, we raced our dads' Pontiac Bonneville and Chevy Citation with the air filter lid turned upside down so the motor made more noise. We had purchased an attachment that would allow us to play cassettes of things like Blondie, Devo, The Police, Elton John, Billy Joel, and any-and-all disco we could get our hands on, in the cars' 8-track tape players. We peed into circular parking garages from the top floor, we gave a guy two nickels at a bus stop, then watched him smoke his heroin (or whatever it was...), the nugget carefully placed between the ten cents. We had grown up together, and had started a little barbershop group (with THREE people) where we would modify the written harmonies to accommodate only three singers. We had a lot of fun doing this, and even had business cards made up - we were called Three Piece Suit ( we each wore a piece of a suit as our "getup"). I missed them a lot. I also had a large network of other friends as well back home and I felt that loss for the entire year, in spite of Joanne's presence in my life.
More to come...
I've said a couple of times that I started this blog as a venue to practice a more casual writing style. One of my first real jobs was as a technical writer, and from there, I moved to a marketing role for a company that had a very casual product line, somewhat irreverent, even, and I found it a challenge to write in that way. It's much easier for me to write in a more technical and precise way, and sometimes that shows up as very stilted language in a personal blog setting.
I like to write, and as for a career, I've stated here that if I had it to do over again, I'd be an architect. That is 100% true, and my second career would be writing. I like (romantically) to think that I have a novel somewhere in here, but I don't really know. I know that I have a creative mind for stories and that kind of thing - and I appreciate a good plot twist, but like I said, who knows?
So the start of this blog was primarily to practice some of that casual tone. Sometimes that goes better than others.
One of the side benefits to blogging is this: when you decide to blog, you need to find a way to post things on a semi-regular basis. For me, that has led to putting more of myself out there a little more than I thought I would be willing to do. And you know what? It's been quite therapeutic for me in that way.
There are some things you already know about me: I came to the US about 20 years ago. I am not a citizen, but I am a legal resident. I used to be a member of the LDS church, but now I'm not. And I'm totally fine with this concept. I have four kids (biologically) and four who are step kids - although they are all "my kids". By and large, and most of the time, all of our family members are fine with where we are, both immediate and extended. And I am totally at peace with where my life is in terms of what I think about life generally, and religion specifically.
But there are deeper things. Most of my extended family doesn't know about this space because I have never told them about it. All of my immediate family is totally aware, and many read regularly, many others read occasionally. There are others who have not been told about it on purpose.
My parents don't know about it - I believe - and I have been fine with that as well. Early on, I espoused some pretty critical thinking, along with a healthy dose of downright liberalism, and while I know they love me, I wasn't sure they would be all that thrilled about reading about it.
This is where I relax and finally recline on that nice leather couch in the office, and tell you all about it....
When I was going into 12th grade, my dad took a year-long job exchange with a university in another city on the Canadian Left Coast. I was VERY not happy with being uprooted for my senior year of high school, but obviously, there was nothing I could do. So I went along.
We shipped our stuff out to the rented house we would live in for the year, and followed it out a couple of weeks later. Part of that shipment included 4 saxophones, at least 2 trumpets and a flugelhorn, 2 guitars, several boxes of accompanying music books and other ephemera, among the rest of a garage full of personal effects. Dad was to teach music classes at the university for the year, and so there were also many boxes of university-level books and things as well.
Turns out that the house we were going to live in was owned by a family with a son the same age as me, whose family was also off to another city as part of this job exchange. This son was popular at school, and had a girlfriend who spent a fair amount of time over at the house, and was there when our stuff showed up. She was very pretty, with wavy brown hair, tanned skin with freckles across the bridge of her nose, and slightly large teeth, and a pretty fine arse. She happened to be the first-chair alto sax player in the school's band program. Her best friend was the lead tenor player. (This little tidbit would become important soon enough.)
Part two coming shortly. (Yes, it gets better...)
When you (as a 13 year old boy) seek the mental REWARD of successfully jamming a wine cork into your dad's nice scotch decanter, you RISK the very real possibility of him trying to break your teeth out with his boot.
I got the cork out, and am now qualified to build a life-size model of the QE-II inside a beer bottle.
When you get dressed, you know your stuff doesn't match, and YOU JUST DON'T CARE??
This morning I was standing in the closet, looking through the clothes, deciding what to wear, when I just said, screw it, and grabbed whatever there was hanging there in front of me... here is what came out:
Gray T-shirt with a white silhouette of Barack Obama on it, a medium brown pair of pinestripe texture khakis and to top it off, my Chuck Taylors, which, in medium light, look gray, but in the sunlight, look like a drab olive green. And I just didn't care. I believe I saw ThatOneWife look at me out of the corner of her eye, as if to say, "Dude, WTF??"
I'm usually a well dressed individual, which you know if you remember my RANT about people showing up to nice restaurants in crappy jeans and a T-Shirt. I take pride in what I wear - most days, but every once in a while - I just couldn't care less, and I end up wearing something that looks totally stupid. That "I don't care" attitude often wears off by about 10 AM, and I feel like a moron for the rest of the day. We'll see if that happens today, or if my apathy continues on through the entire day. Note to self: Gray/Brown/Dark Olive = NOTAMATCH.
That person up there, by the way, is not me - it's just a random picture of a dude apparently named Robin, that I stole from Teh Innernets.
However, that Brings Me Round Again To Find, I'm Not The Man They Think I Am At Home.... oops, sorry, random Elton John Lyric crept in there...
What it "Brings Me Round Again" to, is ROBIN, or more correctly, ROBYN.
A few weeks ago we had the kids out skiing and while we were standing in the lift line, there was a "slightly" heavy female in line in front of us who was wearing those stretchy ski pants, as opposed to the bulky kind of ski pants. The kids got a kick out of this, and I proceeded to tell them the story of Robyn. Robyn was my secret 10th grade Total Crush. She was all sorts of hot, and was a very accomplished skier who skied on the school ski team. She had long brown hair, and fiery blue-gray eyes and a dark complexion. And she wore THOSE ski pants. Needless to say, I joined the ski team. For one reason and one reason only. So I could drool all over myself on a regular basis, with an excuse this time.
She won every race she entered and I was right there at the bottom, watching her and waiting for her to cross the finish line.
Those, people, were the days.
From The Bakersfield Californian:
Mr. Abney, your home is worth $140,000 less than when you bought it a year ago, not $60,000 or $70,000.
Deeply discounted new homes go on sale Saturday in two northeast Bakersfield communities, an event that has inspired stakeout tactics in some would-be homeowners and a measure of concern among those who paid full price to live in the neighborhoods.
D.R. Horton Inc. is selling homes at up to a 50 percent discount in 23 Southern California developments starting this weekend. One home plan, formerly listed for $380,000, has been reduced 48 percent to $199,990, according to a company sales flier.
Industry observers said the sale is a drastic measure, and a sign of the impact large national builders have had on the local homebuilding market. ‘They do things that we’ve never seen before,’ custom homebuilder Phil Gaskill said of his national competitors. ‘They overproduce homes when the market’s hot. And then when it’s not, they slash prices to move (inventory).’”
Jon Hess is betting on securing one of those bargains. He set up camp in front of the Contessa’s Vineyard II sales office Sunday, and was still in line Friday afternoon.
‘I think it’s a good value,’ Hess said of the model home he had in mind. Still, he was realistic about what this kind of sale might say about the health of the real estate market. ‘Who knows?’ Hess said. ‘Maybe by this time a year from now it’s going to be worth half of what I paid for it.’
At least one Lavender Trails homeowner, Billy Abney was worried Friday that the sale might further depress the value of his home, which he estimates has fallen $60,000 to $70,000 since he bought in the summer of 2006.
The 2,600-square-foot home plan he bought for $371,000 is being offered for sale at $230,000 this weekend.
This is a tactic used by large home builders, especially the publicly traded ones, and is probably the thing to be most cautious about when buying a home from them. This week it's this price, but if the sales office doesn't sell everything in a timely manner, look out for the discounts. Think about it - if you could buy a brand new home for $50K less, right across the street from where a guy is selling that exact same floor plan, lived in, for which he paid $50K more, which one are you going to buy, and what is the "new appraised value" for BOTH homes. It's the lower amount. If the guy who has lived there for a year bought with little or no money down, he likely now owes more than what it will appraise for. This effectively kills the neighborhood, and will cause an upward spike in foreclosures, not abate them, as the builder will tell you.
If you owe more than it's going to appraise for, you can't sell or refinance without having to come out of pocket for the difference. Not cool.
William Krisel came onto the Mid Century Modern scene as an architect fairly late in the game. guys like Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra were garnering a lot of the attention in the 50's, when Bill Krisel came to Palm Springs as a recent USC grad.
Krisel retired as a practicing architect 20 years ago. But he notes that he was "just a bit surprised" to be asked again recently to create plans for the little butterfly-roofed, post-and-beam structure that became a kind of signature Palm Springs residence half a century ago. In fact, if a developer follows through, a whole new colony of reproduction Krisels could rise in the desert. See Here.
Working with the Alexander Construction company in the 1950s, Krisel saw 2,500 of his tract houses built in Palm Springs, nearly doubling the size of that city. Whole neighborhoods of his original homes still exist, as if in a time warp.
Wide, curving streets front gardens behind which Krisel carefully angled the houses in varying positions on their 100-foot-square lots. He alternated styles of roofs, so that each house looked different from its neighbor. A casual observer still might take these streets for charming communities of custom-built homes, but all were mass-produced and have the same floor plans, Krisel says.
He helped to break the mold for affordable housing not only in Palm Springs, but also in the west
"Before that, affordable tract houses were tacky, low-ceiling cracker boxes with holes poked out for windows," he says.
Over the years, his legacy seems to be the butterfly roof, an engaging and revolutionary design for the time, where the roof line is inverted to be lower in the middle, rather than higher. This does a couple of things. From an exterior standpoint, this look was very different from what had been the norm up til then: either flat toppers, or the more traditional peaked-middle roof. For newer times, the design lends itself well to water collection and conservation, as the water from the entire roof can be collected via one spout, and then used for irrigation, or other gray-water recycling as that becomes more popular and affordable. From an interior standpoint, the roof line lends itself to more dramatic interior spaces in the center of the house, and more possibilities for light at the outer edges of the floor plan, where bedrooms were typically located.
The construction technique for this type of roof lends itself well to hollowed out, open floor spaces in the public areas of the home. And that is a concept that was revolutionary at the time, and still very sought after now. Designing for southern California, Krisel was able to blend outdoor and indoor spaces, letting the open floor plan of the public spaces flow out to courtyards, gardens and pools.
With updated construction materials and techniques, the butterfly roof is a practical and easy way to differentiate a home design. And even here in the Mountain West, home buyers name the blending of outdoor and indoor spaces as being very important in their decision to buy a home. Done correctly, they don't leak, and as I mentioned, water collection is very easy, as people begin to turn to more "green" building designs and methods for their homes.
As a design concept, Alexander Construction wasn't sure of the appeal, and only gave Krisel a few lots to build his homes on, as a test. Obviously, his designs were readily accepted, and he went on to be an iconic figure in modern architecture, though not with the name cachet of the Schindlers and the Neutras.
What Bill Krisel did was bring modernism to the masses. Before him, only the wealthy could build modern homes, commissioning well-known architects and the costly materials they used. Krisel packed excellent architecture into houses of modest size, made of modest materials, and he did it on a very thin dime.
Not only were his test houses accepted, but they sold faster, and made more profit for the construction company. They sold for $20,000 then, and today, you can buy one of the originals in Palm Springs for about $900,000 on a 100 x 100 suburban lot. Or you can buy plans and have one built, with 21st century amenities. From an appraised value standpoint, comparing apples to apples, that new-construction home would also cost you about the same - $900,000 to $950,000.
Here in Utah, you could build this style of home, even using original plans purchased from Krisel, for a lot less. Of course, one of the complaints about houses from the 50's, and consequently, of house designs from the 50's, is the lack of storage space. With a new-construction project, this would be easy to alleviate.
I like the Butterfly Houses. Wanna build one? I know somebody who could help you do that....
More Pictures: San Lorenzo Rd, Palm Springs .
This was not fun, but I recovered. Over the years, the discs in question have been sensitive, as have the muscles surrounding them - they are very protective, and when I strain my back, those muscles go into spasm - they basically revolt - at having to protect those discs from further damage.
So, about twice a year those lower back muscles seize up and give me pain for maybe a couple of weeks. In the last 5 years or so, this has become more of a once a year thing. I attribute this to a little more time spent at the gym, and being more physically active over that time. That's not to say that it still doesn't go out though. About 5 years ago I bought a nice upright bass. I remember one day while paying it, I could literally FEEL the old disc in my lower back pinch and move (what we call a herniation). I was immediately in excruciating pain, and by the time ThatOneWife came home from work, I was lying on the living room floor, writhing in pain. I had taken an ungodly amount of pain killers, to no effect whatsoever.
So, it was off to the emergency room I went. This was later in the evening, when it became obvious that I was not going to be able to mitigate the pain myself. (I had learned some tricks for stretching and applying pressure in certain spots to help from the time I was in Physio - but this was not working at all...) Anyway, after a few scans/X-rays, whatever, I was given a shot of Demerol in my arse and was sent home with a pain prescription. I was warned that the shot may make me nauseous. About a block from home, this prediction had become true, and I ordered ThatOneWife to pull over immediately, whereupon I puked all over a fire hydrant in our neighborhood. Funny now, but then, not so much.
Long story short, then, my back has been "out" in a minor way for almost two weeks now. Just muscle pain, not a disc slippage - and I can tell the difference now. It has been stiff and sore, and has kept me from doing some of the things I want to do. It's almost all better now, but it's never fun. The last couple of years, it has only happened about once per year, and to a pretty minor degree at that, so all in all, I'm pretty pleased with that. But it's no fun for anybody when it's bothering me. Let's just say, I can be a bit of a grump.
Obviously, that's not the "backing out" thought you were thinking you were going to read about here today, is it..?
So, here are a couple of thoughts on the backing out you were likely thinking about:
A week or so ago now (seems like 6 months since Super Tuesday), Mitt Romney pulled out of the race for president. There has been a lot of talk about the machinations of this move, who (if anyone) urged him to bow out, and how it might effect the race for a republican white house.
For the record, the race for a republican white house is as dismal a prospect as it has been for a long time now - but that's just my opinion.
Here in Utah, Mitt Romney won the primary by a virtual 90% to 10% for all others on the ballot. Obviously, this was a given. (I saw NO republican ads on tv running up to the vote) Mormons here gave him the nod by a landslide vote.
And here's my problem.
When the rest of the country goes through the process of evaluating a candidate's past performance, his current positions, and his political platform, and decides that he is a say-anything-to-get-elected flip-flopper, liar, and general snake, and then a state full of people who share only his religion, votes FOR him in a landslide, that makes the state look like they will vote for ANYONE who shares that same common trait. Which, apparently, is exactly the case. Which, in turn, makes the rest of the country even LESS inclined to "be ready for a mormon president." It makes everyone here look very provincial indeed. It makes the state not matter even more.
And that's all I'm going to say about that.
But wait, there's more.
It's interesting, really... whenever there's lots going on that I think would make a good post, I tend to get overwhelmed and not post anything. So, I'm going to (metaphorically) scribble some randomness here, under all sorts of categories, and we'll just go from there.
First, whenever the Utah Legislature is in session, there are often things that come up that make me so incensed, so embarrassed to live here, so riled up that I can hardly find the words to express my thoughts coherently. Seriously. Our "star" Republican Moral Sheriff is at it again, working hard to legislate from a state level, laws for cities. If you're not from here, I imagine it's hard to understand how deeply the fear and loathing of those whose lifestyle is not in keeping with the LDS church's stance.
This past fall, Salt Lake City continued it's recent tradition of electing a democrat mayor in the most republican state in the nation. Within a few days of his swearing in, he organized and passed a bill (unanimously passed by the city council) that created a domestic partner registry, allowing people to register (whether gay or not) allowing people to officially declare a partner relationship for health benefits, hospital visitation rights, and health insurance benefits.
Now, just two months later, Sheriff (though not really) Buttars has proposed legislation that will effectively outlaw this registry, saying it "opens the door to the demise of the husband/wife nature of marriage..." Last year, the Leg passed (and the state voted to ratify via referendum) a constitutional amendment making marriage between and man and a woman only. Buttars was the major cheerleader for that as well.
Seriously, every time this hateful, bigoted and sad, sorry man opens his mouth, something painfully stupid and embarrassing falls out. I am ashamed for him. That our state tolerates his presence is stunning - he's been re-elected on more than one occasion. People of South Jordan, WHAT THE HELL IS IN YOUR WATER OVER THERE??? Seriously, people, it's absolutely disgusting, what you have perpetrated upon the people of this state.
Seriously, those are the most publishable words I have been able to find for about three days now. If you want a more level-headed look at this, you can check it out here and here.
Now on to happier random things. It's been so wonderfully warm and sunny here the last two days. I went up and skied a few runs before hitting the office this morning. Even though it was overcast and flat light, the sun was breaking through as I was about to leave. There is enough snow up there at this point that they have some areas directly under the chair lifts closed, because the snow is so close to the chairs. There is a danger of hitting your noggin on people's skis who are riding the lifts. Insane. I hope it comes out of there slowly, and not all at once.
I was delighted to note that Herbie Hancock won the grammy for Album Of The Year, beating out some more mainstream nominees. I noted in my "On My Hard Drive" post last week that I had not listened to the record yet. But I have now, and it's great. Unlike other tribute or duet albums, it is truly a jazz record first, set to Joni Mitchell's lyrics second. And I must sayt, tina Turner is in GREAT voice on it as well. For a woman in her 60's, having gone through the career she's had, she's lucky to be standing, and she does so much more than hold her own on this album. Lovely. Honestly, it's a good day when that ass-jack Kanye West is shut out of that award. I did see his speech for the last one he won though. "We run this.." WTF is that?? Dude, you run nothin but Ho's. You can't sing worth shit. And you proved it on Sunday night. Again.
Speaking of Sundays though, I did enjoy the Super Bowl. Oops, I mean "the Big Game".... Great game, great catch, great upset. I called that about a month out. It was sad to see, though (and I admit to feeling old as a result), Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at half time. It was more like Tom Petty and the Pacemakers.... Pretty old. He needed his top hat too.
I think that will do it with the randomness at the moment. More to come though, I'm sure.
Or it seems so, anyway. I can't remember a winter in a very long time that we have had this much snow. Being a desert, the national weather service monitors snow pack, and all of Utah is above 100% of normal. It's actually more than 160% in some places. If the spring is late, and the weather warms up fast, it will all come rushing out of the mountains in a big hurry, and with the valleys already pretty wet, there will be no where for that water to go, and the few "rivers" here will overflow. I say rivers in quotes because what passes for a river here is really nothing more than a big stream and a few canals.
We took this picture over the weekend in Park City (those are the Park City Ski Area runs you can see carved into the mountain in the background...). We took it because it shows how much snow there is up there in the mountains. Even the deer have been forced out of the extreme high country.
Anyway, we took a drive into the back country over the weekend to be the surrogate checker-outers of a couple of snowmobiles that a remote friend is thinking about buying. We drove out to the Peoa/Oakley area, and I'm here to tell ya, if you think there's lots of snow here in the immediate Salt Lake area, take a drive up there. We saw one house where the entire covered front porch of a house was collapsed because of the snow - the entire thing was there, in a pile of broken wood and shingles, sitting on the front steps of the house. About 50 yards away, there were people up on the roof of another house, shoveling the snow off. They were standing in three to four feet of snow. On the roof.
And as a product of that time, I, like everyone else, have a "100 things about me" type of post.
Here are two things that are not on that list:
1. When I brush my teeth, I do in front of the sink, with the cold water running full blast. If I don't do this, I am wont to GAG. The sound of brushing teeth to me is disgusting and putrid, and I need the sound of the water to drown it out. (That picture over there even makes me wanna gorp.) When our kids were very young they would say things like, Dad, Barney says to turn off the water when you brush your teeth, because it wastes water to just let it run like that. My reply was always, It wastes less water to let it run now, than to clean up the puke all over the floor when I blap on the floor.
Similarly, when I see someone else who is brushing their teeth, NOT in the bathroom, I instinctively have the impulse to gag. People who walk around with a toothbrush hanging out of their mouths need their eyes poked out. I saw someone DRIVING while while brushing their teeth the other day, and I almost flurbed in my own lap.
2. I have roughly the same reaction to people who chew with their mouths open, and talk at the same time. Dude, I can wait to hear what you have to say til after you swallow, I promise. I'm not going anywhere. When I go out with people who do this, I seek (sometimes aggressively) to sit beside them, because I can't stomach the idea of sitting across from them in a dinner conversation. This leads them to believe I really want to sit beside them, but really I just want to hold my dinner down for the entire time, and I don't want to witness the gaping maw that is their eating habits.
I come from a time and place, although I don't know how I got this way, but I know how to signal the waiter, with where I place my fork and knife, that I am finished with my plate. I tend to tip really well (20%) for those who know this and respond quickly to the signal. We went out for dinner with the kids a couple of weeks ago, and I only tipped 5%, but it wasn't because they didn't clear my plate promptly. It was more about not getting my entire meal at the same time, not getting it while it was hot (one of my MAJOR meal pet peeves, whether at home or out to eat), and not getting all the meals for the table at the same time, and having to ask for more to drink. I'm also not above writing on the back of the credit card ticket either. I've actually had a waitress follow me out to the parking lot to ask why I hadn't tipped her well. So I told her. Just trying to help.
People I've met since that time are always surprised to learn these two facts. In fact, some people see the little hole mark in my left ear, and ask me, incredulously, if I did in fact wear an earring, or is that some sort of genetic freak of nature, that HOLE right there....
Since that time, the crop of hair has grown thinner, and I keep it pretty neat. I was mentioning the other day to ThatOneWife, that you know your hair is short when you can forget to brush it when you get out of the shower, and it DOESN'T MATTER. Most of my hair now resides on my back.
The available styles for people with very short hair are few, and so we must live our hair fantasies vicariously through others. The obvious objects of this hair envy are media types who we see often on the idiot boxes in our homes. Here is a list of those whose hair I would cut off and make my own, if that thought weren't icky:
In no particular order:
I've had a conception of perfect pitch for a very long time. I know two people who have it. One of them is a former relative, and for this reason, and a continually mounting list of anecdotal evidence, I believe that one of my kids either has perfect pitch or a very highly developed sense of relative pitch. And I know a multitude of people who have relative pitch. I even had very accurate relative pitch for about 6 years.
Let's look at the difference real quick. Many say (and studies attempt to prove, as early as 1916), that perfect pitch is a genetic trait. It involves some or all of the following abilities:
* Identify and name individual pitches (e.g. A, B, C#) played on various instruments
* Name the key of a given piece of tonal music
* Identify and name all the tones of a given chord or other tonal mass
* Sing a given pitch without an external reference
* Name the pitches of common everyday occurrences such as car horns
Generally, it's the ability to identify, play, or sing a named pitch without the benefit of a reference tone or pitch.
Relative pitch is more common among musicians, and, by contrast, connotes the ability to identify:
* the distance of a musical note from a set point of reference, e.g. "a perfect fifth above middle C"
* the intervals between given tones, regardless of their relation to concert pitch (A = 440 Hz)
It is the skill used by singers to correctly sing a melody, following musical notation, by pitching each note in the melody according to its distance from the previous note. Alternatively, it is the same skill which allows someone to hear a melody for the first time and name the notes relative to some known starting pitch.
Using these differentiators then, we infer that perfect pitch is an already-residing internal ability, or at least that there is an already-residing reference pitch, readily accessible by the brain, and relative pitch is a learned and trained trait or talent.
It is said that perfect pitch is not a learned trait, and that relative pitch is in fact a learned trait. I believe there is some sort of ego in play there, in that those who have perfect pitch say that if you learn perfect pitch (to which one can indeed come very close), you have effectively learned relative pitch to a near perfected level. Those with perfect pitch like to think of themselves as some sort of lucky (or unlucky, as the case may be - more on that in a minute) genetic specimen. And I tend to agree to some degree. I once payed a game of trivial pursuit with a person who has perfect pitch, and who ALSO has a very very highly tuned sense of relative pitch (the two aren't mutually exclusive). One of the questions that came up in the game was something to the effect of, "What musical key does a 1970's model Cadillac horn honk in?" She thought (silently) for about 3 seconds, and said, "F Major 7". And she was right. She didn't need to have a reference tone, other than that one which she had constantly available for her immediate use.
Some owners of perfect pitch report that they have different tones in their heads - perfect pitch doesn't mean that you have a constant A440 ringing in your head. It can be any pitch, but it is consistently the same pitch for each individual.
So that's my reference point and exposure to perfect pitch. Here's my experience with relative pitch. During the years of junior high, high school, and a couple of years beyond that, I was literally immersed in music. Besides the casual listening, which I still do heavily to this day, I was almost always in two or three different school bands and two or three school vocal ensembles. I was also taking private lessons for both instrumental and voice, along with performing in an all-city choir, learning the guitar, singing in the city opera chorus, was the conductor at least one other chorus, recording music as an engineer/producer, and I was constantly auditioning for a litany of musical theater stuff, going to concerts, doing sound reinforcement for other productions and concerts, and supporting friends who were doing the same as me. At one point, I was able to sing, with very close proximity, about any pitch one would name. Later, when I was in college, part of the program I was in was an ear training class, where the teacher subscribed to the theory that tones, or pitches, each had their own color, and if you listened to them enough in controlled environments, you could identify the pitch by its color. I still do that to some extent today, although the skill has greatly diminished in me now, but I did do very well in that class.
So those are my personal relationships with both Perfect and Relative pitch. It was with this experience that I looked up both items on Wikipedia today, and learned a few other things. It seems that there is some evidence through studies in the 1990's and early in this decade that call into question the idea that perfect pitch is strictly a genetic, or inherited, trait. There is a study referenced there that shows a more-than-regular occurrence of perfect pitch in countries where the language is based on a tonal pattern as well as a series of simple vowel sounds interrupted by glottal stops, as most western languages are. Those languages are found in the eastern Asia area, as well as some parts of Africa. With more "official" perfect pitch instances in those areas, we can draw the inference that perfect pitch may be influenced by Nurture, rather than strictly Nature, as has been asserted. There is also a study that shows a window of time in very early development where the brain is susceptible to learning perfect pitch, but also shows that window as very definitely closed by age five. This shows why the Suzuki Method is so successful and produces some amazing string players.
If you're interested, you should check out the two Wiki pages for perfect pitch and relative pitch.
You see that picture up there? Yes, that one. It's a ferret, but more importantly, it's a STOCK photo of a ferret, not a photo of the one who pressed his little pink nose up against our patio doors the other cold, snowy night.
Yes, we had a little visitor.
Here's the story: After I got home from work, I was unwinding a bit playing with the Wii (no, not MY Wii, THE Wii), and I'm literally in mid-swing, and our Big Black Dog, Cinder, goes absolutely BONKERS in the kitchen. And by bonkers I mean totally bananas. Barking that guttural, "there's something going on here to which I most strenuously object" bark that demands that someone pay attention. So we check it out, and she's standing at the glass doors, looking outside at full pointed attention, hair standing on end. That posture is usually reserved for when she objects to the presence of a bird in the yard. So she's pressing her nose up against the glass, ready to bound through the doorway. We let her out, and took a quick look around, knowing that there had to be SOMETHING bothering her. Upon a cursory examination of the area we saw little footie-prints in the fresh snow. It looked like a cat had made the mistake of wandering through the yard.
So Cinder pads around for a few minutes without incident, and we let her back in - she doesn't stay outside much during the dinner hour, because there are little hands all over the place who don't mind dropping a crumb her way. Or broccoli.
So we're in the kitchen and we look up and there's a little pink nose pressed up against the window, and the little dog, Charlie, the more vicious of the two, is pressed right up there on the other side of the glass, thinking, "geez, if there wasn't glass here, I wouldn't have to beg for broccoli, I could have some of my very own fresh ferret meat."
After restraining the animals, the kids opened the door, picked the rodent up, and let the dogs do the introductory sniffing of the arse. Once everybody was acquainted it was time to find the ferret's home. There was no collar, or any other identifying tags or what have you.
So we loaded it up in the car and went driving around to the neighbors' houses. Is this your ferret? Nope. Next. We found the right home on the fifth try, and it turns out the critter belongs to the neighbors we affectionately call "the trailer trash people." At least that's what we call them when we're in a good mood, and they aren't yelling at their kids at the top of their lungs.
They really are pretty trashy though - they have 3 Boxers who do nothing all summer but bark their nads off, and the parents are no different. Then there's the Christina Aguilera with which we are assaulted on a regular basis.
The group is Naturally 7, and when I first watched the video, I was Tres Impressed. They are a group of 7 guys doing a cappella covers of mostly 80's pop songs. Then I did some other looking around and found out that they do lots of concerts and have a few albums out, etc. Frankly, they are very talented, but if you're going to amount to more than a novelty, you're going to need to have some original material, and a recording/distrubution deal. Just my $0.02. But they ARE very talented, and if you LOVE that Phil Collins tune like i do, it's a fun watch.
Okay, on to the next item. Herbie Hancock has been on my hard drive for a very long time. He's had a career spanning five decades, and has done just about everything. He first got attention by winning a local competition at 11 years old and performed in front of (I believe it was) the Philadelphia Symphony, but I could be mistaken about the specific Symphony - and I just don't have the time or energy to look it all up, because it really doesn't matter to this whole thing.
From there, he continued to pursue music but was convinced that he needed to have a "real" career to pay the bills, and let music be the hobby. He went to school in Engineering, and from what I remember, gained an engineering degree. he said recently in an interview with Studio 360, that music really just chased him down, and made him do it. All of a sudden he was a musician. This gave me pause to think for a bit - I think many of the most successful musicians of our time have found themselves bound, compelled to make music, like a Holy Calling, rather than practicing with an eye toward that career path. At least that's what I think - those who have that special something inside them, that can't be contained, which simply MUST be let out, find themselves drawn toward performing. They are so prodigious, because their talent runs so deep, so natural, that they somehow just become the vessel of their own music. Like I said, that's what I think, and perhaps I cast this sort of prodigious talent in a spiritual or soulful light because that's what it takes to make it really come out - a connection with an inner gyroscope that simply must spin its circle, with or without your permission. In a nutshell, it chooses you, compels you, you don't choose it. If you would like to question that philosophy, you should spend about 4.5 seconds watching American Idol, and then you'll believe me.
In the late 50's and early 60's Hancock was a late-coming member of the famed Miles Davis Quintet, along with Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter, and Tenor Saxophonist George Carter. This incarnation of the Quintet tackled the repertoire of the earlier Miles Davis Quintet, but with a more highly developed sense of rhythm and harmony. Many of the songs from this prolific recording era are now standards played by almost every single jazz combo today who is even a little bit serious.
From there, Hancock composed a slew of other now-standards that are also as oft-played as those Davis tunes. After redefining the way a jazz rhythm section interacts with each other, with the music itself, and with the soloists, he was one of the first jazz pianists to adopt technology, and synthesizers was a natural flow from that, with his engineering degree. he says most musicians were scared of that stuff - too many buttons, not enough vacuum tubes, he said. But this was indeed a world with which he was very familiar. At the same time, he developed a love for funk. Unlike many of his contemporaries, his melodies are accessible and easy to recognize. You certainly know a few of them, even if you don't know they're written by him.
And to that note (if you'll pardon the pun) - he introduced a generation of young kids, like me, to funk, while he was writing music for the Saturday morning cartoon, Fat Albert, starring Bill Cosby. Much of that original music is captured on an album named Fat Albert Rotunda, and it's a fun ride in the way-back machine. Many of us know his music, even if we don't realize it.
Like many musicians who have had a 45 year career, he's done just about everything, including now the seemingly mandatory album of duets with other musicians from other genres - that album is Possibilities, and it's better than you will expect. It has duets with such artists as Annie Lennox, Christina Aguilera, John Mayer, Sting, Paul Simon and Santana. It's a pretty good listen.
More recently he did an album of songs by Joni Mitchell, called River. In interesting side note: Hancock reports that when he first played with Mitchell, several years ago, he was surprised by how easily the jazz genre came to her. She told him that she originally wanted to be a jazz musician, but decided to pursue the folkish route we are familiar with today. She said she felt like it would be a better outlet for her lyrical writing. Seems like a pretty good choice. Although I have not listened to the album, critics like it.
I wanted to highlight a specific album though: Head Hunters. It was released in 1973, and was labeled as "fusion" by the critics and reviewers, at term hated by die-hard jazz musicians, even today. One critic was particularly harsh, and wrote a bad review of the album shortly after it was released. 25 years later Hancock ran into that critic backstage at another event, and the critic apologized, saying, "I was wrong about that album." Hancock's response was simply, "I know."
One track I wanted to draw some attention to is Watermelon Man. This tune, in its original form was first released on Maiden Voyage, in 1965. It became a classic for its simplicity and memorable melody (something for which Hancock has become famous over the years). It's a standard learned by all young jazz players who begin to learn about latin rhythms. I've played it myself many times. One of the four tracks on Head Hunters is a new version of Watermelon Man. It's rhythms are bent and twisted into a new form, and the song still retains its original integrity as a standalone song. it is said that if a song can be interpreted in many different styles, it is a fundamentally good bit of writing. (This is something for which Sting has also become known for.) Anyway, that song is worth the price of the album and is a fun listen, even if you aren't familiar with its original incarnation.