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My most recent single release - "My True North" - is now available on Bandcamp. Open my profile and click on "audio clip".

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Words For The Ages, Line Twenty-Two

"You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need."

At twenty words, that phrase represents the longest entry in this series dating back to its inception in 2017. In addition, all twenty-one earlier entries have used a lyric containing no part of the title of the song chosen.  

But despite its slightly longer length and the fact that the lyric above includes the "hook" of this Rolling Stones tune, I stand by my choice. This particular Jagger/Richards lyric will stand as words for the ages. It is terse, able to be easily recalled, and embodies a universal truth. Which Jagger/Richards lyric fitting those simple criteria would you nominate in its place

Although admitting it may tempt some of you to recommend medication, I freely own up to spending way too many hours examining other Rolling Stones lyrics before settling on this gem. But this is my blog, that lyric snugly fits the criteria, and nowadays I actually get paid to talk about stuff like this. Such a deal. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Key Learnings: Year 72

Of the series I've created over my eleven years in the blogosphere, this particular one has been among the most gratifying.  Although it's been instructive to take note of my own takeaways from the year between each birthday, even better have been those times when some of you have shared here what you've learned since last November 23, birthday aside. I hope to see something this year from you as I have in many of the previous ten iterations of this series. My key learnings from year seventy-two:

* I've learned how reflexively repeating any story can limit my ability to see new situations clearly. The trauma my family of origin endured over this past year was the catalyst for me as I begin trying to avoid repeating a story I've re-told many times - to many people - over my entire adult life.

* I've learned that unleashing positive energy - via a blog post, a class on music, reading evangelism - is a gateway to deepening the pleasure of any day, regardless of what my life has hurled at me that day. 

It's invariably more fun when some of you join me in this exercise. In any case, I'll see you here same time, next year.


Monday, November 22, 2021

Goal For Year 73

I started out big. A recent novel I finished inspired me to complete Marcel Proust's seven volume, 3200 page long magnum opus In Search of Lost Time over my 73rd year. Then I got more grandiose, telling myself I would also read the even more gargantuan Dance to the Music of Time - twelve volumes that took Anthony Powell twenty-four years to write - alongside the Proust. I actually started looking for Goodreads groups tackling both these leviathans over the next year. Honest. 

Reflections From The Bell Curve: Re-Calibrating, Eventually

Then I recalled publishing the post above mere days ago. Backtracking now seemed prudent, if I cared at all about preserving any semblance of credibility, at least for anyone who might have recalled my earlier pledge. However - impending birthday or otherwise - I've no wish to stifle anyone who cares to join me, as many of you have in past years on the day before my birthday, by declaring a goal of yours for the next year. Please: Be as bold as you wish, despite my modesty.

Now that we appear to finally be crawling out of the Covid cocoon, over my 73rd year, I'm re-visiting the goal I declared here a year ago today:   This next year, I will have at least twelve jam sessions with other musicians to help me more fully integrate the 313 jazz standards I've memorized since beginning my memorization project on November 22, 2011. 

Unless another variant creeps up on us, this goal is clearly more attainable than the Proust/Powell bit. Which doesn't mean I'm abandoning that reading goal; just re-calibrating the time frame. 

Sunday, November 21, 2021

What A Ride

Around a campfire months ago, I overheard a woman speaking rapturously of Cloud Atlas. Given how transformative that 2004 novel was for me as a reader, I was anxious to hear what else she'd read that approximated the reading experience of David Mitchell's masterpiece. Before she finished describing A Tale for the Time Being, it was added to my over-stuffed list. Like many bookworms, I cherish these moments when another passionate reader directs me to a hidden treasure like this 2013 novel by Ruth Ozeki.

" .. the world was cracking open to show me something really important underneath." 

That phrase - near the end of A Tale for the Time Being - aptly describes the effect this book had on me from the start. Page after page, this gifted author cracked open the world, exposing me to Zen Buddhism, quantum mechanics, Marcel Proust. Ozeki showed me something important underneath each of her two parallel stories. Though Nao and Ruth meet only via Nao's diary, they are deeply connected in their search for lost time. And their search continued to crack open my world, taking me back to the words of Dogen Zenji in the 13th century: "To study the Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by a myriad of things." 

What a ride.

Reflections From The Bell Curve: My Cloud Atlas Walkabout

Wednesday, November 17, 2021


Having gone for almost eleven years without ever dedicating a single post to TV, I hope most of you will indulge me as I recommend Maid to you. If not for my actress/writer daughter, this realistically acted, well-written mini-series would definitely have passed me by. I sincerely hope those of you who learn of it here and then watch it will share some of your impressions with me and others. Please. 

Even more, I hope those who moan about "government giveaways" will stumble across some portion of this ten hours of worthwhile TV long enough to gain a little empathy for victims of domestic abuse. If there are heroes in this difficult, need-to-be told story, they are folks who work in domestic violence shelters. Where would women escaping abusive men go to begin anew if these places did not exist? Did you know the FCC provides free untraceable cell phones to women caught in the cycle of abuse who are housed in domestic violence (DV) shelters? Even though I taught DV classes during my years as an adult educator, I didn't know this. My reaction when I learned the government supports these women in this way? Profuse tears and immense gratitude for living in a country as humane as the U.S.

If I promise not to recommend another TV show until I publish another 2000 posts, will you promise to watch this one and tell me what you learned? I'd really like that.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Re-Calibrating, Eventually

Do you recall the first adult goal you ever set for yourself that you subsequently achieved? How old were you when you set it? How long did it take you to achieve it? 

I'm reasonably sure one of my first goals in adult life - set in my early twenties - was to visit every state in the U.S. Regular readers of my blog may recall I reached that milestone this past May, about a half-century later. Truth be told, I can't recall any extended period in my life when I haven't had at least a few, sometimes several, long-range goals stretching out before me. Unfortunately, I'm all out of half-centuries. And equally unfortunate is the fact that setting goals, including wildly ambitious ones, has always been integral to how I see myself, i.e. a man on a mission. I'm not yet ready to scuttle that persona, but, is it perhaps time for some re-calibrating? After all, Act Three continues to inexorably unfold.

Cull my reading list? Trim the number of places I want to visit? Revise my goals for my guitar playing or my writing? Since even considering any of these things feels to me this moment like surrender, I better give myself more time to re-calibrate.      


Thursday, November 11, 2021

The Value Of Collaboration

It doesn't take much for me to get briefly lost musing about the road not taken. This is especially true when I'm around young people involved in creative pursuits. For instance, my daughter.

When I see how effectively my daughter collaborates with her writing partner, it's easy to get wistful about early missteps in my creative life. I wonder: What if I'd been a little less invested in doing it on my own? How might my songwriting or other creative pursuits have evolved had I collaborated - even occasionally - with someone else? Although I don't get mired in these hypothetical scenarios, watching how effortlessly my daughter manages her creative life does give me pause. 

Extracting value from creative collaboration goes hand-in-hand with high emotional intelligence, another of my daughter's innate strengths. Knowing that about her provides ballast for my brief wistful journey down the road not taken.   

Monday, November 8, 2021

Anticipating The Divine

A novel as uniformly excellent as A Children's Bible (2020) could spoil me, if I let it. Lydia Millet's dystopian tale is so transfixing I was initially worried after finishing it that my tolerance for tedium might be permanently altered. What was the last novel you read that grabbed you by the throat with its first sentence and then never let you go? 

Having several discerning readers in my life is a gift. If not for a recommendation from one of those readers, Millet's ripe and compelling book could have gotten by me. And the discussion I had with this same reader deepened my appreciation for the author's mastery and command of her material and chastened me as we spoke about being spoiled by a great book like this. I decided being spoiled could easily curdle into cynicism if I'm not careful. 

For every poorly crafted, tedious book - and there are plenty of those - my friend gently reminded me there are many divine ones - like A Children's Bible - waiting to be discovered and discussed. I was elevated by her words. I look forward to a reading future full of divine treasures awaiting discovery. 

Friday, November 5, 2021

2021 Head Scratchers

Recently, not long after burning myself grabbing a still-hot pot and then applying burn ointment onto my fingers, I had occasion to use my wife's laptop. When she saw I had a paper towel nearby and asked me why, I responded - "Because after I finish typing, I'm going to wipe down your mouse."  As soon as that sentence left my mouth, I felt myself step into a virtual time machine.  

Because, although most everyone in 2021 would understand my response, how far back in time would we have to travel for someone to instead say "huh?" "Wipe down your mouse?" How many other statements that we routinely utter these days would befuddle a listener just a few decades back? How about ..

"Has anyone seen my cell? Or ..

"What was the name of that app you told me about yesterday?"  Or ..

"Google it, will you pleaseWhy are you wasting time trying to remember?" Or..

"Text the directions to me. My GPS is offline."

Chime in here with a phrase or two that you guess might make a listener circa 1990 scratch their head.     

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The Cost Of Indifference

Though it would be hard to pinpoint the biggest benefit I've derived from teaching music courses at local colleges since 2014, my interaction with enthusiastic music-loving participants is near the top. 

Recently, that interaction rose to a new level when a participant invited me into her world via sharing a powerful personal story connected to a song I'd used in class. The trust this person invested in me via telling her story moved me enough that I felt completely safe reciprocating in kind. I shared with her some of the ways music has assisted over the past year with challenges my life has hurled at me. And doing so reminded me - for perhaps the thousandth time - the way music can help heal even gaping psychic wounds. My brief interaction with this participant re-focused me on the mystery and joy of music. What would my life have been like had I never been delivered to it?  

Ever met someone who described themselves as indifferent to music? The first time I heard that self-description is possibly one of my life's most vivid memories. After moving beyond dumbfounded, I don't recall what I felt next; I hope I felt sad. But ever since, I have lingered on wondering what someone misses in life being indifferent to music. If I were to ask you what you would have missed, could you formulate an answer? What would you say is the cost of being indifferent to music?