Friday, December 04, 2015

The Gentle Art of Persuasion


BUT SOFT, WHAT EMAIL THROUGH YONDER WINDOWS (7) BREAKS?  
IT IS DECEMBER AND THE SALES BEGIN AT DAWN.

Here are actual opening phrases found in the subject headings of emails still (and probably forever) unopened, in my Inbox.  It's easy to be annoyed, but it's much more fun to laugh.

From my friends at Sears, who specialize in passive-aggression

  • PLEASE OPEN ASAP! 
  • A special surprise!
  • NO JOKE
  • Psst... Friendly reminder
  • OMG (What?!)
  • Did you forget?  
  • (We're serious!)

From my friends at eBay, who just want to be my buddy, guy.
  • Here's an invite!
  • To: You, From: Us!
  • You're in!

From Gardeners Supply, who attempted a pun, then went for full-on guilt
  • Have a Crate Christmas
  • Come back!

From Best Buy, who wins the Grim Reaper award
  • It's Your Last Day!

From Expedia, who employs a Jekyll & Hyde-type strategy
  • Yay!
  • Oh no!
  • Woo-Hoo!
  • Uh-oh!
  • Calling all travelers!
  • Beware, all travelers!
  • Lucky you!
  • OMG Alert!

From Petco, who is convinced I'm too slow for their liking.
  • Run, Don't Walk!
  • Hurry!
  • You Have Until the Stroke of Midnight!
  • The Clock is Ticking
  • THIS. IS. IT.


But despite all the holiday hustle and bustle, it's clear that E! Online remembers the one true reason for the season.
  • Kylie Jenner shows her butt!


Happy December, y'all!

Thursday, December 03, 2015

The Thinnest Line







One word
Three lives
separated by the thinnest of margins

One Wants
It is consumed with resentment, jealousy, and rage.
It lashes out,
blind to the damage and loss left in the wake
of the fight for what it doesn't have.
There is no consideration of the terrible cost.
Justifications rain down through the destruction it created.
There is never enough.

One Surrenders
It is overwhelmed by sorrow, disbelief, and anger.
It weeps again and again
tears of betrayal, thought to have been fully spent the last time.
Hearts ache
Words of explanation echo dully while 
Words of consolation are impossible to form.
Was it only yesterday?
This enough is too much.

One Lives
It is satisfied with life on this thin line
that separates the too much with the not enough
It dances lightly and breathes contentedly.
It lives a life marked by love and grace.
It is full and rich.
It is enough.

Tell Pharaoh to stop the wars and set the captives free
There is enough.
Call Elijah from the mountain and comfort him
There is enough.
Stop and look around you.
From the starry heavens to the immense earth, beauty surrounds you.
Look in the eyes of neighbor, friend and stranger and see
that life on the thinnest of lines
is enough.



Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Love the One You're With



Over the many years I've taught singers, I've been a big advocate for songs.  Not any particular song
(though I have my favorites, to be sure) but just, songs.  All of them.  One my my familiar studio speeches is to have my students love the song for what it is.  That is to say, figure out what the composer wanted to express, and then appreciate the message for what it is, and convey it the best way possible.  But make no mistake -- even if you love the song for what it is, you don't have to love the song at all.  You don't even have to like it.  But what you do have to do is understand it and then convey the thoughts and feelings behind it.  To do this convincingly, one must have a wide set of musical skills.  But beyond that lies a greater challenge: the ability to study, learn, and perform any song with a great sense of empathy.

Empathy.  The understanding and sharing of the emotions and experiences of another person.

This is a concept that has been on the decline for quite some time.  The ability to set your feelings aside and consider those of others.  The ability to articulate and share the emotions of someone else.  The ability to share the experiences of someone else.  It's the polar opposite of selfie and in this increasingly self-promotional, hyper-politicized world, I have to admit that I really miss it.

To have empathy for something or someone doesn't mean putting yourself aside.  It doesn't mean you are less important or weak.  Quite the opposite, I think.  It means you are strong enough to look outside your own orbit and recognize there are other thoughts, other people, and other paths.  It might not be your path, or your thought, and that's OK.  In my studio a song might not be your favorite.  Maybe the problem is the poem.  Or the composer.  Or the music.  Maybe the song is too happy. Or sad. Or silly. Or somber. Or long. Or short.  Or boring.  Or weird.  Or atonal. Or monotonous.  It doesn't really matter what too it is.  There are a million reasons not to like something, and generally one  is more than enough for most people.  But when you approach anything with a sense of empathy, you allow yourself the opportunity to step beyond your orbit of existence.  You allow yourself to experience the the feelings and stories of others.  You allow yourself to hear their songs.  You give yourself the chance to understand.

You don't have to love it.  You don't even have to like it.  But to perform with a sense of empathy makes anyone a better artist.  And to live with a sense of empathy makes the world a much kinder place.


One of my least favorite songs.
But I love Purcell, and I have to imagine that
his composition made someone happy for whatever reason that may be.
And so, if asked, I would sing this song with great joy and imagine
my two most favorite words in the whole wide world are "Nymphs and Shepherds"
because they are repeated 95 bazillion times in 2 minutes.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Unconscious Mutterings

I say :: and you think ...

1.  Your point :: is?
2.  Scarf :: winter
3.  Termite :: wood
4.  Willing :: the spirit is
5.  Silk :: scarf
6.  Center :: of attention
7.  Flash :: never works
8.  Warehouse :: crime scene
9.  Costume :: NO
10. Candy corn :: gross


Been awhile, eh?  And guess what?  This was last week's list.  Maybe, just maybe I'll do two today.

#nanoblogmo
#needsanicon
#supershortstillcounts
#imstillhere

Unconscious Mutterings

I say :: and you think ...

1.  Your point :: is?
2.  Scarf :: winter
3.  Termite :: wood
4.  Willing :: the spirit is
5.  Silk :: scarf
6.  Center :: of attention
7.  Flash :: never works
8.  Warehouse :: crime scene
9.  Costume :: NO
10. Candy corn :: gross


Been awhile, eh?  And guess what?  This was last week's list.  Maybe, just maybe I'll do two today.

#nanoblogmo
#needsanicon
#supershortstillcounts
#imstillhere

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ice, Ice Baby. Part 3

Day 8.  I won the Pioneer Spirit certificate. Everybody gets a prize!
"Lucky octopus turned out to be as effective as local utility company. Just Googled "things that come in 9s". Welcome to Dante's nine levels of hell."  #endofdayeight #reallynotfunny
Meanwhile, things were an even bigger mess (if that was possible) with the BWL. The number of outages started increasing rather than decreasing, and that wasn't due to worsening weather.  It was due to the fact that NOBODY HAD POWER.


As power was slowly being restored (somewhere) customers were actually instructed to leave their lights on to show that they had power.  Why they thought driving down every road in a 50 mile radius was an effective way of determining outages, I'll never know.


But at least we got a new OUTRAGE map.


Day 9. On the 9th calendar day, and into the 10th 24-hour period, we finally saw the light.
"And lo, on the 9th day, The Lord got sick and tired of the whining, and he bestowed upon the land the Holy Transformer of Antioch, and said it was good. And at the end of the 9th day, there were lights and heat and all manners of comfort. And he said it was good.
There are so many people to thank who helped us, encouraged us, calmed us, sympathized with us, REPAIRED THE TRANSFORMER, hunted down utility trucks, bribed exhausted crews, tended to pets and to the home, dealt with the garage and everything else in between. You were our lifeline and our lifesavers time and time and time again.
The nightmare is over for us, but we're standing in solidarity with those still without power. "Endoftheninthdayforsome  #Timeforthistoend

Amazingly, and sadly, others were without power longer than we were.  And once power was restored across the grid, as it were, the story got interesting, and the people got very, VERY angry.



 
 






Ice, Ice Baby. Part 3

Day 8.  I won the Pioneer Spirit certificate. Everybody gets a prize!
"Lucky octopus turned out to be as effective as local utility company. Just Googled "things that come in 9s". Welcome to Dante's nine levels of hell."  #endofdayeight #reallynotfunny
Meanwhile, things were an even bigger mess (if that was possible) with the BWL. The number of outages started increasing rather than decreasing, and that wasn't due to worsening weather.  It was due to the fact that NOBODY HAD POWER.


As power was slowly being restored (somewhere) customers were actually instructed to leave their lights on to show that they had power.  Why they thought driving down every road in a 50 mile radius was an effective way of determining outages, I'll never know.


But at least we got a new OUTRAGE map.


Day 9. On the 9th calendar day, and into the 10th 24-hour period, we finally saw the light.
"And lo, on the 9th day, The Lord got sick and tired of the whining, and he bestowed upon the land the Holy Transformer of Antioch, and said it was good. And at the end of the 9th day, there were lights and heat and all manners of comfort. And he said it was good.
There are so many people to thank who helped us, encouraged us, calmed us, sympathized with us, REPAIRED THE TRANSFORMER, hunted down utility trucks, bribed exhausted crews, tended to pets and to the home, dealt with the garage and everything else in between. You were our lifeline and our lifesavers time and time and time again.
The nightmare is over for us, but we're standing in solidarity with those still without power. "Endoftheninthdayforsome  #Timeforthistoend

Amazingly, and sadly, others were without power longer than we were.  And once power was restored across the grid, as it were, the story got interesting, and the people got very, VERY angry.



 
 






Ice, Ice Baby. Part 2


Day 4. No power. No miracle. But incredibly grateful.
"Still very cold and very dark at home. Grateful tonight for family, warmth and light. Merry Christmas to all."
After Day 4, it was impossible to know what to do or how to feel, so life was a mixture of humor, despair, anger and worry.  The interesting thing was, between the three of us, we somehow managed to never all be angry or depressed at the same time.  It was as if we had silently agreed that one of us would be the voice of optimism to help the others 
"For those of you playing along at home, cue the sad trombone music. Despite it all, we were grateful for a warm sleep last night with family, and are mindful of what we DO have, even while we wish, pray, and yes, grumble loudly for what we don't. Merry Christmas, everyone."  #whereslinus #lightsplease
Day 5.  The situation was incredibly difficult, and no matter how we felt, none of it helped.  We had no power, and we were powerless.
"Knock, knock. Who's there? Not electricity."  #notfunny
Day 6.  No end in sight.  Nothing in sight.  It's dark.
"Answer: no.  Question: do I have power, patience, heat, any viable groceries, or hope?" #endofdaysix #bythistimegodwasgettingreadytorest
Humor, when we could manage it or stumble across it, was a savior.  Twitter came to the rescue as some genius made a fake BWL account (Board of Water and Light) to keep us updated in the manner that we were, thus far, accustomed, which meant, not at all.  Thank God for sarcasm.





Day 7. Now what?  It was hard to keep saying the same thing over and over again, but all that was happening was the same thing over and over again.
"My house has been declared an Amish-only zone.  Cats are currently growing long bears and learning to craft quality furniture."  #endofdayseven #buyingluckyoctapustomorrow
The biggest problem (aside from the whole ice and electricity thing) was the abysmal lack of communication.  For example, we were told not to call BWL to let them know that the power was out because they already knew exactly where all the outages were.  That would later be classified as a pants-on-fire lie.


The next thing missing was the lack of any sort of outage map which would show people where the outages were, or in other words, provide visual proof that BWL knew where the outages were.  But, since they really didn't know, nor had any mechanism for constructing such a thing, an outage map never happened.


However, we DID get an OUTRAGE map, which was amazing.


One week gone. What next?








Ice, Ice Baby. Part 2


Day 4. No power. No miracle. But incredibly grateful.
"Still very cold and very dark at home. Grateful tonight for family, warmth and light. Merry Christmas to all."
After Day 4, it was impossible to know what to do or how to feel, so life was a mixture of humor, despair, anger and worry.  The interesting thing was, between the three of us, we somehow managed to never all be angry or depressed at the same time.  It was as if we had silently agreed that one of us would be the voice of optimism to help the others 
"For those of you playing along at home, cue the sad trombone music. Despite it all, we were grateful for a warm sleep last night with family, and are mindful of what we DO have, even while we wish, pray, and yes, grumble loudly for what we don't. Merry Christmas, everyone."  #whereslinus #lightsplease
Day 5.  The situation was incredibly difficult, and no matter how we felt, none of it helped.  We had no power, and we were powerless.
"Knock, knock. Who's there? Not electricity."  #notfunny
Day 6.  No end in sight.  Nothing in sight.  It's dark.
"Answer: no.  Question: do I have power, patience, heat, any viable groceries, or hope?" #endofdaysix #bythistimegodwasgettingreadytorest
Humor, when we could manage it or stumble across it, was a savior.  Twitter came to the rescue as some genius made a fake BWL account (Board of Water and Light) to keep us updated in the manner that we were, thus far, accustomed, which meant, not at all.  Thank God for sarcasm.





Day 7. Now what?  It was hard to keep saying the same thing over and over again, but all that was happening was the same thing over and over again.
"My house has been declared an Amish-only zone.  Cats are currently growing long bears and learning to craft quality furniture."  #endofdayseven #buyingluckyoctapustomorrow
The biggest problem (aside from the whole ice and electricity thing) was the abysmal lack of communication.  For example, we were told not to call BWL to let them know that the power was out because they already knew exactly where all the outages were.  That would later be classified as a pants-on-fire lie.


The next thing missing was the lack of any sort of outage map which would show people where the outages were, or in other words, provide visual proof that BWL knew where the outages were.  But, since they really didn't know, nor had any mechanism for constructing such a thing, an outage map never happened.


However, we DID get an OUTRAGE map, which was amazing.


One week gone. What next?








Ice, Ice Baby. Part 1


The one-year anniversary of day 1 was December 22nd.  It was a Sunday morning, a huge church music morning (Lessons and Carols) and we got an ENORMOUS (caps-lock, bold, leaned over) ice storm.  I woke up several times during the night thinking I was hearing things, and at about 4 am I was playing window monitor, trying to figure out where all the noise was coming from.

The answer was, it was coming from the ice.  Breaking things.  Mostly trees.  Which then broke other things. 

I could see periodic flashes of blue in the sky just barely over the tops of trees.  If that would have been Northern Lights, I would have oohed and ahhhed for quite awhile, because it was strangely beautiful.  But I knew it wasn't The Northern Lights. It was transformers that were exploding.

The ice was causing branches to break and trees to fall which took out power lines and transformers, and consequently, the electricity.  At about 5 am we thought maybe we should open the garage and free the cars just in case.  It turned out to be one of the best decisions we made.  At 5:15 am we lost power.  And thus it began.  Day 1.

At first we were good humored about the entire situation.  From Facebook:

"Obligatory post about losing power.  Slight annoyance that across the street seems fine. Major win that we opened the garage 20 minutes earlier.  Wondering about church, knowing cleanliness will NOT be next to godliness. 

All weather considered, church turned out to be a rather heart-warming event.  Despite the fact that an overwhelming percentage had lost power, the choir turned up en masse, and sang our traditional service of Advent and Christmas music.  It was as if nobody was going to miss this Sunday, no matter the weather.  We returned home hoping for the best but expecting the worst.  We got the worst.  But still, we kept a good attitude.  We'd rough it out for the night, wear lots of extra clothes to bed and be surprised in the morning with the roaring heat and blinding lights.  From Facebook that night:
"Power update.  Still none.  Looks like I'm going to make good use of my hoarders stash of candles."
That was another fortuitous event.  I had been forever working on cleaning the basement, and had run across of an obscene number of candles.  I had previously gathered them all together and stashed them in a plastic bin.  Thank Goodness.

Day 2 brought nothing.  No power.  No heat, and now the temperature had plummeted and it was COLD. Luckily (which one never says on a Monday), it was Monday so I headed to work (no use staying home and freezing) with every electronic device possible.  With two days until Christmas, all things considered, the mood was still optimistic and upbeat.
"Why yes, I do look like I got dressed in the dark, but the upside is it's warm and not dark at work and I'm busy charging a pile of electronics.  #LemonadeOutofLemons"
 and later....
"I have achieved master ninja level in finding the only available electrical outlet in any given public establishment.  #ChargeItUp
This was starting to become a challenge. Working at the University meant work closed down at 5pm due to the holidays, so I couldn't stay late, and warm and lit.  We began to travel to different locations with a bag that was stocked with the essentials: a multi-plug power strip, a massive tangle of cords, and every electronic device necessary.  We'd find a restaurant, find an outlet and charge up phones and tablets so we could communicate with the world.  It was annoying, but at least we had contact.  And believe me, we weren't the only ones.  The power outage had crippled the city, not to mention much of the state.

The only thing missing from this picture are all the phones,
which were in our cold, communication-starved hands.

Meanwhile at home, the cats were NOT amused.  They seemed resigned to the situation, assumed a cranky attitude and just hunkered down on the bed, glaring but not moving.  For once I was grateful that they were the hairiest beasts known to man, figuring that had to help because the house was really, really cold.  And dark.

As bad as the cold was, the darkness made it worse because by 5pm it was DARK. There was only so much my candlepalooza was able to do, and even with candlelight, what was there to do but look at each other being miserable?  So, we went to bed really early and just hoped for the best.

Day 3.  Christmas Eve.  No power.  This was no longer an adventure.
"That was the most realistic dream I've ever had. Dammit." #StillNoPower
"You may now call me 'travels with power strip.'"
"They always warn you about carbon monoxide poisoning, but never about the toxic fumes from competing scented candles."  #woozy  #whiffy
We gave up being hearty adventurer's on Christmas Eve night, and after late church, we headed to stay with family, and fell asleep, hoping for a Christmas miracle.


Ice, Ice Baby. Part 1


The one-year anniversary of day 1 was December 22nd.  It was a Sunday morning, a huge church music morning (Lessons and Carols) and we got an ENORMOUS (caps-lock, bold, leaned over) ice storm.  I woke up several times during the night thinking I was hearing things, and at about 4 am I was playing window monitor, trying to figure out where all the noise was coming from.

The answer was, it was coming from the ice.  Breaking things.  Mostly trees.  Which then broke other things. 

I could see periodic flashes of blue in the sky just barely over the tops of trees.  If that would have been Northern Lights, I would have oohed and ahhhed for quite awhile, because it was strangely beautiful.  But I knew it wasn't The Northern Lights. It was transformers that were exploding.

The ice was causing branches to break and trees to fall which took out power lines and transformers, and consequently, the electricity.  At about 5 am we thought maybe we should open the garage and free the cars just in case.  It turned out to be one of the best decisions we made.  At 5:15 am we lost power.  And thus it began.  Day 1.

At first we were good humored about the entire situation.  From Facebook:

"Obligatory post about losing power.  Slight annoyance that across the street seems fine. Major win that we opened the garage 20 minutes earlier.  Wondering about church, knowing cleanliness will NOT be next to godliness. 

All weather considered, church turned out to be a rather heart-warming event.  Despite the fact that an overwhelming percentage had lost power, the choir turned up en masse, and sang our traditional service of Advent and Christmas music.  It was as if nobody was going to miss this Sunday, no matter the weather.  We returned home hoping for the best but expecting the worst.  We got the worst.  But still, we kept a good attitude.  We'd rough it out for the night, wear lots of extra clothes to bed and be surprised in the morning with the roaring heat and blinding lights.  From Facebook that night:
"Power update.  Still none.  Looks like I'm going to make good use of my hoarders stash of candles."
That was another fortuitous event.  I had been forever working on cleaning the basement, and had run across of an obscene number of candles.  I had previously gathered them all together and stashed them in a plastic bin.  Thank Goodness.

Day 2 brought nothing.  No power.  No heat, and now the temperature had plummeted and it was COLD. Luckily (which one never says on a Monday), it was Monday so I headed to work (no use staying home and freezing) with every electronic device possible.  With two days until Christmas, all things considered, the mood was still optimistic and upbeat.
"Why yes, I do look like I got dressed in the dark, but the upside is it's warm and not dark at work and I'm busy charging a pile of electronics.  #LemonadeOutofLemons"
 and later....
"I have achieved master ninja level in finding the only available electrical outlet in any given public establishment.  #ChargeItUp
This was starting to become a challenge. Working at the University meant work closed down at 5pm due to the holidays, so I couldn't stay late, and warm and lit.  We began to travel to different locations with a bag that was stocked with the essentials: a multi-plug power strip, a massive tangle of cords, and every electronic device necessary.  We'd find a restaurant, find an outlet and charge up phones and tablets so we could communicate with the world.  It was annoying, but at least we had contact.  And believe me, we weren't the only ones.  The power outage had crippled the city, not to mention much of the state.

The only thing missing from this picture are all the phones,
which were in our cold, communication-starved hands.

Meanwhile at home, the cats were NOT amused.  They seemed resigned to the situation, assumed a cranky attitude and just hunkered down on the bed, glaring but not moving.  For once I was grateful that they were the hairiest beasts known to man, figuring that had to help because the house was really, really cold.  And dark.

As bad as the cold was, the darkness made it worse because by 5pm it was DARK. There was only so much my candlepalooza was able to do, and even with candlelight, what was there to do but look at each other being miserable?  So, we went to bed really early and just hoped for the best.

Day 3.  Christmas Eve.  No power.  This was no longer an adventure.
"That was the most realistic dream I've ever had. Dammit." #StillNoPower
"You may now call me 'travels with power strip.'"
"They always warn you about carbon monoxide poisoning, but never about the toxic fumes from competing scented candles."  #woozy  #whiffy
We gave up being hearty adventurer's on Christmas Eve night, and after late church, we headed to stay with family, and fell asleep, hoping for a Christmas miracle.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Best Is Yet to Come


There are days when I can and will gut it out late at night to get my post completed.  And then there are days like today where, after 40 minutes of nodding off at my desk and not being able to form complete sentences, it's just better to make the post short and sweet and come back fighting tomorrow.  So, a thousand pardons.  I have a topic, and I have two paragraphs or so, so that's better than nothing.

In the meantime, enjoy some holiday images and pay no attention to me while I collapse.


One of the reasons I'm so tired?
Today was taco Tuesday.
On a Wednesday.
Taco Twednesday?



This is me right now.
And two hours ago.
And six hours ago.
As long as it isn't two hours from now,
it's all good.



This is also me right now
in the form of an exhausted yet lovable cuddly polar bear.
Or, maybe this is my Petronus.
Expecto Patronum?


More tomorrow.  And dang it, it's already tomorrow.







The Best Is Yet to Come


There are days when I can and will gut it out late at night to get my post completed.  And then there are days like today where, after 40 minutes of nodding off at my desk and not being able to form complete sentences, it's just better to make the post short and sweet and come back fighting tomorrow.  So, a thousand pardons.  I have a topic, and I have two paragraphs or so, so that's better than nothing.

In the meantime, enjoy some holiday images and pay no attention to me while I collapse.


One of the reasons I'm so tired?
Today was taco Tuesday.
On a Wednesday.
Taco Twednesday?



This is me right now.
And two hours ago.
And six hours ago.
As long as it isn't two hours from now,
it's all good.



This is also me right now
in the form of an exhausted yet lovable cuddly polar bear.
Or, maybe this is my Petronus.
Expecto Patronum?


More tomorrow.  And dang it, it's already tomorrow.







Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Internet Roundup

Today isn't a day for deep thoughts, so instead I'll give you a few gems from the Internet.

Google Doodle
In honor and celebration of
Wassily Kandinsky's 148th birthday.

and clicking through I also discovered there is a
This Day in History
on the Google Doodle Page.
So I also give you
the 132 birthday of Zoltan Kodaly.
Way cool.



Yet another movie I want to see.
From the same people who did The Secret of Kells
and the soundtrack is once again by Coulais.
Way Way Way Cool.




Tonight is the First Night of Hannukah,
and these guys are great!




Finally,
and neither last nor least is
THE BEST THING EVER ON THE INTERNET
I know it seems like a Saturday Night Live sketch, 
but how incredibly awesome is it that it isn't??
There may be no better Internet viewing than this clip.
"Oh, God... It's Mom"
Instant Classic.


with perhaps the best synopsis
of this gem.

I can hardly wait to see what tomorrow brings.