myBobLog


Is it sexy or music
April 14, 2015, 9:10 am
Filed under: myCulture, myLifestyle, myNews

Is it sexy or music? That is the question. I was sidetracked from working on taxes and ended up looking at some music related images. Some were quite humorous. Suddenly there was a beautiful blond woman in a black dress (I think) with a trumpet. “Oh common!” I thought to myself. Then I read the caption that said she is a superstar. OK, I had better have a listen. Wow! What a discovery! Close your eyes, listen and never mind the beautiful blond part, that is not what it is about. With a tone that matches her looks and a seemingly delightful British personality Alison Balsom is truly one great classical trumpet player.

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I watched several videos and she can certainly squeeze pure expression through the most technical and masterfully executed classical pieces. In a giant, lavish auditorium, possibly the Royal Albert Hall, she enters, not from the side of the stage as most soloists might, but joyfully jaunts down the centre isle of the audience with her trumpet in hand, smiling and greeting the audience in a friendly manner. She takes her place next to the conductor and in front of the massive symphony orchestra. She is wearing an expensive looking dress that one might see an opera singer wear. The orchestra begins, she empties her spit valve and begins to play. I could hardly believe my ears. After a particularly difficult passage, her hand leaps off the valves and into the air as if to indicate the masterfully executed passage as finished with verve.

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I was reminded of local girl jazz trumpeter Bria Skonberg who I first heard about from local bandleader—possibly the oldest living and working bandleader from the 1930s in the world—Dal Richards (97). Originally from Chilliwack, BC, she now lives in New York and travels the world as a trumpet superstar in the classic jazz genre. She began playing traditional jazz in high school and then sang and played trumpet in the Dal Richard orchestra. I know she is well trained, having studied at Capilano University. Initially, she was perhaps taken as a bit of a cute trumpet playing blond girl novelty. I’m not sure about that, but one could see it happening. Today she is accepted as a great player.

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I listened to some videos of her several years ago and found a developing talent that would certainly top the Vancouver scene very soon. Well, she has certainly passed that finish line and is soaring. Revisiting I found a seasoning jazz musician, with emerging soul and deep expression in both her trumpet playing and singing. While a serious musician, she seems to also be a lot of fun. Joy is at the heart of liberating jazz.

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I studied trumpet in my youth and have just returned to playing after decades of absence. I played in a youth band and then in a small group for a few years that played in retirement homes. I spent many years as a vintage jazz and swing record collector and listened purely to this music. Today I am happy squeaking out a few notes playing along with a choir and with a jazz band, once again for the retired folk, whom I shall someday be joining. I may do more one day, I don’t know.

I am having fun, yet have always known I lack what it takes to head to the top. Allison and Bria are the genuine articles; the full package of talent, skill, style and charisma that makes them top calibre musicians, superstars and a joy to listen to—never mind pleasant to look at too. Is it sexy? I say beautiful music.

Alison Balsom
Bria Skongerg



Happy Easter 2015

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Here we go with Easter. On Good Friday, we went to church and I played my cornet again with the choir and Patti sang. Today we were up early and had friends over to share eggs, fruit salad and my Easter buns made with my home ground spelt flour. It was a great breakfast. It is a warm sunny day so Malcolm went for a hike and the rest of us headed off to church where, once again, I played my cornet and Patti sang. That was a great way to do Easter church.

We hung around for a while and now are home and have put a nice turkey on the BBQ rotisserie. I get to write stuff, edit my book and work away on things as I check the turkey.

This is turning out to be a relaxing day.



Leaving Las Vegas (too)
March 28, 2015, 5:39 pm
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In the days following my viewing the movie Leaving Las Vegas and the writing of the article post for this blog, the movie continues to stir my mind. I see Las Vegas as a place that actually condones and even supports those who might wish to throw themselves into the vortex of human self-plunder. I don’t know for sure; I have never been there and have never wished to go. It seems a place I might lose control. Sure I would love to see all the wonderful entertainment, yet I know that Vegas is designed to entice one into what can easily become a black hole for some.

Somethings have peaked my interest in this movie. Almost daily I hear of those tragic human situations where someone is out of control. I hear talk about those dark notions that seem to lurk in us all and surface in some manifesting in disturbing behaviour. Only yesterday was a discussion on the radio about a woman who mutilated and dismembered pets and is now out of jail living somewhere in the community. It is known that her treatment has not worked and that she will likely re-offend. She was banned from using the Internet, yet managed to post some remarks on social media sparking alarming replies from others who have dark fantasies that they would love to experience, but are also afraid of acting on those desires.

I just watched a portion of a news magazine segment about a boy who simply could not control himself or be controlled. There seemed to be no way to keep him from some dangerous behaviour.

What is it about some people that drives them to destruction? Why do some people seem to be incurable and must live with certain conditions somehow contained, but never eliminated?

What seldom seems to be considered as a primary way out is to treat the human spirit—the only place within a human where true hope may be found. In 1934, two desperate alcoholics met, found recovery and discovered: a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our lives; b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism; c) That God could and would if He were sought. —From Alcoholics Anonymous (Third Edition) (The Big Book) page 60.

Alcoholism has devastated lives throughout human history and still does. It is an example of a human condition to which there seems no cure. Even alcoholics in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) refer to themselves as ‘recovering.’ There are other human conditions that seem to evade the human cure.

What the founders of AA discovered is that, where human efforts and science fail, God can prevail. For Ben in Leaving Las Vegas, the desire to live and the willingness to step onto a spiritual road were completely lacking. How could this be? Isn’t it a basic instinct for any life form to survive? It seems that it would be very difficult for any living being to endure a self-inflicted slow death and not have some sort of survival response. How does a human lose all hope and become dedicated to a path of self-destruction?

The seed of human life is corrupted. There is a part of each and every one of us that has the capacity to lead us into self-destruction, whether we realize it or not. Examine your life and you will spot instances of actions that might be less than the best choice. How many people go on a diet and never cheat? Who can claim to have never said anything harsh or in anger? It is impossible. For some people the fight for the soul where one makes the decisions about their actions is a struggle that can sometimes overwhelm. All it take is a certain situation that can trigger an uncontrollable response. For one person, it might bring a harsh word; for another, it might cause them to pick up a drink. If they are an alcoholic, this could kill them.

Obviously, Ben snapped when he lost his family. He snapped and lost control. His mind changed direction 180 degrees. When he was let go from his job, he was told that they sure liked having him around. Instead of involving some sort of reconsideration response and a subsequent change in his behaviour; this only poured gas on the fire. In one of the next scenes, he has cleaned out his house and is pouring gas on garbage bags of personal belongings, reminders of his family. It is then that he heads to Las Vegas—down the road of destruction. Where was the hope he could continue to live without his family?

It is said that love conquers all. 1 Corinthians 13 states, “Love never fails.” So what happened to Ben? Sera loved him and he loved her. He called her his angel. His body, soul and spirit were so damaged that there was little left to save him. Death and a way of drinking, as Ben called his mission, must have been difficult and painful. The body becomes very sick. That he accomplished his mission in weeks probably means, rather than a slow deterioration of his body, mind and soul, that he poisoned himself and his relatively healthy body with the alcohol numbing him.

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Where were those who might intervene? Would it even be possible to intervene? These are tough questions for a situation such as Ben’s. Whether short-termed or long-termed alcoholism is baffling. Still one never knows when a spiritual awakening might occur, so one must always be there for those who struggle and never give up. That the one there for Ben was Sera who was also in a struggle should not have mattered. Often two who are suffering can paradoxically help each other. Bill W. and Dr. Bob are perfect examples and the result not only saved themselves, but countless others through AA.—a true spiritual awakening.



Leaving Las Vegas
March 23, 2015, 11:17 am
Filed under: myCulture, myLifestyle | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Leaving Las Vegas is a powerful, yet tasteful portrayal of alcoholism and love. Nicholas Cage plays a businessman who, through the overuse of alcohol, loses his family and his job. As a self-confessing drunk, he becomes brash and obnoxious. With no friends he heads off to hurl himself into the grandest human-made pit in the world—Las Vegas.

Amide the splendour of bright lights and a soundtrack of music including Sting and including My One and Only Love, we travel with Ben as he discovers a world where he can let go and fall into the pit of gambling, prostitution, drugs and, of course, alcohol. He takes a room in a seedy hotel and wanders his way into a stupor.

Elizabeth Shue plays a prostitute who befriends Ben and she eventually takes him in. Sera and Ben have an unexplainable bond and an unlikely non-sexual relationship. She is beautiful, yet showing wear from her life in prostitution; he is middle-aged with thinning wiry hair and gaining a growing gaunt look from not caring for himself and too much alcohol. Drawn closer by love, Sera spends her nights working the streets while Ben travels down his road of destruction. During the day they enjoy short bursts of being together.

While Ben is entirely out of control throughout the movie, Sera is also trapped by her life of prostitution. They accept each other, yet seem to long for each to find their own way out. Ben had instructed Sera, “You can never, ever, ask me to stop drinking.” She replies in agreement “I know.” Yet later she says, “I want you to see a doctor.” “No, no doctor,” replies Ben.

It is difficult to identify what takes a person down particular destructive roads. Ben can’t understand why Sera can care for him and calls her his angel. Someone tells him that drinking is a way of killing himself, to which he with a smile replies to the man, “Killing myself is a way of drinking.”

I found the movie to be tasteful in showing the deep extensive darkness of a world where most of our society thankfully never venture. In a scene, where Sera is tragically beaten and raped by some young college men out for a thrill in Vegas, we see only enough to understand the painfulness of such an experience. Yet it is not enough pain for Sera to get away from her slavery to that world.

In depicting alcoholism, there are no stops. Cage plays the battle with stark and shocking realism. I awoke in the morning realizing that, as we came to believe and understand, ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’

We all live trapped lives to some extent and the deeper pits are always waiting just around the corner for us to fall into. It happens to so many in our society and world. On the merry-go-round and downward spiral, it is difficult to get off. We may reach the point where we think, ‘Stop the world, I want to get off.’

Speaking of pits, my favourite jazz musician is cornet player Bix Beiderbecke who lived in the 1920s amide the early days of jazz and bathtub gin. His life was one of spiralling into the pit of alcoholism from which he never returned. His music is always clear, inspired, full of energy and life. It stands in striking contrast to his life, never hinting to the true pain he lived with.

Yesterday, I played my cornet in church with the choir. I had never done this before and never played that type of music. It was a challenge and exhausting both physically, mentally and musically. It was exhausting musically because of the key signatures and the variety of sheet music, or lack of for some songs, ranging from choral arrangements to lyrics and chords, from the seventeenth century to the present.

I think it was physically and mentally challenging because I have not really played much since I was young as a kid. I was a record collector of vintage jazz and swing from the 20s, 30s and 40s. I spent a lot of my time buying records and hanging around jazz.

While living in the US going to college, I met many musicians; some in the pits of human existence. I once took in a fellow who I found in a jazz joint; he had been kicked out of his house and with no place to go. As a child prodigy trumpet player, he had ended up playing in Las Vegas. Because of dentures, he had switched to flugelhorn. As a regular sitting-in with the band he then became a bartender there. When I would walk in, a drink would immediately land in my hand. Sadly he died before his time.

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I bought my cornet from a fellow whom I was listening to regularly. He was leaving town for a new opportunity and sold it to me for $100, including a new hard case. It was the top professional cornet from the manufacturer. Thankfully he is still alive and playing today. He informed me that the other owners I also knew well. Two of them have passed before their time.

The history of human existence is littered with the stories of those who fell into a pit and were unable to crawl out. They struggle, become numb, lose traction in life and succumb. They become lost; there is only one way out for them. I fell into that pit. Over thirty years ago, I was lifted out. I know with all surety that the pit is just one step away. The movie Leaving Las Vegas is a realistic and shocking reminder.

 

Special Note:

After writing this, I did some reading about the movie. Some remarks from reviewers indicated the movie had far more explicit content than what I had seen on TV. Perhaps I was so taken by Cage’s incredible performance that I simply missed it. However, my wife would have insisted it be turned off. One remark stated that the DVD version had scenes not in the theatre cut of the film. Someone confirmed this by obtaining a copy from the library.

The movie was very compelling to me and when I discovered that there is some very explicit content absent from the version I saw, I was somewhat creeped-out and felt cheated and betrayed. I had said here that the movie was tasteful, yet it seems to have an explicit twin that is so much more like the trashy sex obsessed material that Hollywood puts out minus the happy ending. I had thought that Hollywood had finally been able to deal with some very disturbing subject matter, take it to the edge and yet not cross the line into having to show the filth.

The movie was disturbing enough in the way it portrayed alcoholism and the death wish driven addiction that goes to the heart of humanity. I want to point out and state to Hollywood that a movie can be amazingly compelling without going over the edge. I feel it is a far greater accomplishment to get the message across, be entirely artful, without crossing the line. Please Hollywood, think about this. The human mind is powerful and can get the message without being bombed.

 

See Leaving Las Vegas (too)



Yet another long break, but I’m back again

It has been yet another long while since I added anything here. Now that I am back, I’ll tell you a bit about where I have been.

You may be aware from looking around here or on my other blogs, that I have been working on a book about ‘being human and living in a world of technology—the Technojungle’ called The Future Never Arrives… at least not as expected and it always brings baggage. I have been working on the book for over a year now.

It began as a pretty simple project. I had articles I had written here that seem as if they could be part of a book. So I embarked on the mission of writing a book taking material I had written and building on it. As I got into it, I found that it is a deep sea of technological change out there. It was not long until my book about the Technojungle was looking like a jungle itself.

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I refocused a couple of months ago and decided that some material could be left for a second book, should the first one ever get finished, published and become somewhat successful. I also began a program I now call, ‘write a book in an hour a day.’ It is true. I never moved my book along more efficiently than after I just worked at it for an hour a day.

What does that mean? It is exactly what I am doing now to write this post. I sit down at my computer and type for no less and usually not much more than one hour. No, that does not include research or editing. It means writing. I found I could bang out, when slow, 750 words, and at the most, about 1,400 words. Usually, I can do 1,000 words in one hour.

I do this four times a week and can usually count on a minimum of about 3,500 words. That is around 10 pages. I can get 10 pages of rough text per week. When I discovered this little secret, I realized that a book could be written in less than half a year.

There is more to writing a book though. I have some other activities that I do. As I go about my days, I dictate notes into my iPhone. I also meet once a week with a coach and we discuss ideas, which I record. Then I sit down and transcribe all the recorded notes. This is actually the most time consuming activity. I would like to shorten this process, however, I realize that I have a lot of notes I can draw from in the future. Doing this also probably means that, when I do sit down to write, I not only have somethings to write about, but I am writing about some things I know about. I have thought things through and chewed on them for a while.

So, it does take more than an hour a day. But, it is easy to accumulate information. This is part of what my book is about. We have become very good at creating and accumulating information. This is not what make a book. A book is about taking the accumulation of information and telling a story that other people will find interesting. Hopefully, it will affect, even change their life in some way.

So, when I say that you can write a book in an hour a day, that is the actual writing. Writing is a craft using skills that need to be developed through exercise. The hour a day is the exercise and needs to continue every day. I have talked about the preparation of material through notetaking and discussions with others. Once you have a rough manuscript, the editing process begins. This is a long arduous process that involves other people.

So now the good news and the reason I am now able to write this piece. I have completed my first rough draft of 54,000 words. It is in the editing stage. I am entering some unknown territory now; not that I don’t know about editing, I am just not sure how this is going to pan out for my book. I am expecting that it will take a long time. I will need a thick skin, since it well involve the critiquing of my baby.

Once I have the book edited and ready to be published, I will be ready to enter more new territory; not that I don’t know about publishing, I don’t know what happens once it is laid out for printing. It is not that I don’t know about printing, I am not sure where and how my book will be printed. You see, I have worked in the printing industry and can do the prepress myself. I might even be able to produce an eBook. I can find a printer, I’m sure.

What is really unknown for me is the way the publishing world works today. The preparation work, printing, distribution and sales can be all tied together. I have decided to leave those concerns for when I have a finished, fully edited manuscript ready to go. I guess I am sort of thinking that by the time I get there, some doors will be available and I may have some choices for my next steps.



Help me win a camera—you too could win!
February 17, 2015, 12:32 am
Filed under: B.O.B.s | Tags:

My camera desperately needs upgrading please help by entering yourself to win:

http://froknowsphoto.com/giveaways/froknowsphoto-super-mega-giveaway-extravaganza/?lucky=81008



Jazz videos
November 3, 2014, 10:27 pm
Filed under: myCulture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The other day, I ran across a video I had not seen for years of Billie Holiday on a TV show with a band of the greatest. It is a real classic, but is only part of a full hour-long TV show from 1957. It never occurred to me to go look for the entire show. So, tonight I did and what a treasure. The Holiday part is somewhere in the middle.

It is a great intersection of jazz and blues and the vehicles bring elements of many types of jazz and blues from so many eras going back to the beginnings. There is a heavy leaning on the Kansas City and Chicago styles. I particularly like the way the cameras caught the musicians at their best, both playing and enjoying each other playing and from very artistic angles. Keep in mind, the cameras in those early days were huge bulky things on wheels and shots from above were done with cameras on special cranes. The equipment was not easily moved around for various shots and the cables must have been huge too. It doesn’t get much better than this from 1957.

Note: There are a couple of versions on YouTube. I chose one that has an extra segment on the end.




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