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Monday, March 25, 2013

Movie Day!

So after a seemingly endless Palm Sunday morning (that Gospel reading is LONG!), I retired to Shirley and Leroy's for a lovely brunch and what turned out to be a movie marathon. Here are some thoughts on what we saw.

Our first outing was to see Django Unchained. There is no question that Quentin Tarantino is a brilliant film maker, and that in spite of his pandering to gratuitous violence, he has a way of making the splattering of blood and guts all over a set seem rather funny. Sadly, the dear boy just doesn't know when enough is enough.

The first hour was admittedly rather entertaining, leaving us rooting for Django and the good Dr. Schultz as they wiped out one bad guy after another. Django's revenge on the evil overseers at Big Daddy's plantation was worth a good round of "getims" but the minute Leonardo DiCaprio opened his mouth, the whole show turned south. From his entrance on, scenes dragged on for far too long and we felt trapped in a bad dream with a bunch of foul mouthed psychopaths. Lose about forty-five minutes of the words "fuck" and "nigger" and this would have been an effective movie. Instead if left me wanting the damned thing to end so I could go shower off.

We next ventured into the world of the collegiate A cappella phenomenon for what turned out to be a delightful ninety or so minutes in musical geekdom. One might call this charming little movie Glee on Steroids. It tells the story of a male and a female singing group and their struggles to win a national championship while overcoming the typical personal demons of young adulthood. It's all there: fat girl who can wail a tune, geeky boy whose big dream is to be a singing star, and a very attractive boy and girl who eventually get over themselves to realize they belong together.

Spectacular singing arrangements and a careful balance between angst and joy make this a charming Sunday afternoon film.

Well, we were on a roll so we decided to check out Spielberg's acclaimed Lincoln.  It was everything that you would expect from so artful a director and so gifted a cast. Daniel Day Lewis was brilliant in his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln, particularly in the way he captured Lincoln's voice, at least what we can conjecture that he would have sounded like. Tommy Lee Jones gives a tour de force performance as Thaddeus Stevens, Joseph Gordon-Levitt should have had a bigger role as the president's eldest son, and Sally Field delivered the same performance she's been delivering since Steel Magnolias. She and Shirley MacLaine should start an academy on how to play oneself in every role you take.

It turned out to be therapeutic to simply not recharge the phone and enjoy seven hours of fantasy land with good friends. I highly recommend it if you have an uncluttered day!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Twenty Questions

Good morning all. I thought it might be fun to give you a little trivia quiz today just for grins and giggles. There is no particular logic to the questions other than the facts are kind of fun. If you can answer all twenty questions WITHOUT using Google, you'll win a lollipop and a gold star. Have fun.

1. What secretive medieval organization effectively founded the first international banking system?

2. Who was the only former U.S. President to swear in a successor?

3. Who invented FM radio?

4. Name two southern female authors who became internationally famous on just one novel each.

5. Who discovered alternating current?

6. Which famous silent film era comedian made a cameo appearance in Sunset Boulevard?
     a. Charlie Chaplin
     b. Buster Keaton
     c. Oliver Hardy

7. What world renowned composer was born on this date (March 21) in 1685?

8. In 1972, members of the Palestinian Group Black September kidnapped and later killed eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team. In what city did this attack occur?

9. Orson Welles' 1941 masterpiece Citizen Kane  is based on the life of what American newspaper baron?

10. In his famous fifth, Beethoven introduced two instruments never before used in a symphony. What were they?

11. Why is November 22 a significant day for musicians?

12. What famous Broadway and Film musical is based on Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Diaries?

13. What are you if you're a sesquipedalienist?

14. Why are nickels larger than dimes?

15. Who was the first African-American to sing at the Metropolitan Opera?

16. Who invented the swivel chair?

17. Who said "Give me liberty, or give me death!"?

18. What makes white asparagus white?

19. Where were Orville and Wilbur Wright born?

20. Name two words in English that have no rhyme.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

ACDA Revisited, Part II

Hello again. Here is the second installment of my review of the 2013 National Convention of the American Choral Directors Association. Let's begin with the concerts that I got to hear.

The University of Delaware Chorale

Interesting programming was the high point of this choir's performance. I appreciated conductor Paul Head's epoch spanning selections, with a nice balance of traditional favorites and new adventures. Giles Swayne's spiffy Magnificat was a nice little surprise, as was Kevin Memley's elegant Ave Maria, deftly paired with Bruckner's gorgeous setting. If there was anything to quibble about it was that the Delawarians bought into the convention's general trend of over singing. But not too much to offend.

The University of North Texas A Cappella Choir

The UNT A Cappella Choir delivered a beautifully executed performance of some very challenging literature. True to form, Jerry McCoy found delicious repertoire that was sadly hampered by the poor acoustics of the Winspear Opera House. I wish I could have heard their Meyerson performance. The two standout works were the Gloria from Frank Martin's near perfect mass setting, and Dan Forrest's lovely Entreat me not to Leave You.  This is a choir with a reputation for seamless blend and balance as well as spot on intonation. In spite of the bad room, we got a suitcase full of pretty much flawless singing.

The Westminster Choir

For a group with such a stellar reputation, this was one of the more disappointing concerts of the convention. Although the repertoire was well chosen it just wasn't all that interestingly executed with Victoria sounding like Bach sounding like everyone else. The biggest flaw was the choir's tendency to shout, particularly in Holst's stunning Nunc Dimittus. Brandon Waddles rollicking Ride the Chariot sounded like a Pentecostal tent revival with the ending being unbearably loud and out of control. And my God, who unleashed those Banshee sopranos in the final bars? It was pretty bloody awful.

Britten's War Requiem

The Dallas Symphony Chorus rounded out the week with a world premiere performance of Steven Stucky's Take Him Earth, and Benjamin Britten's monumental War Requiem. Sadly, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra is away on tour and thus a pick up group of local musicians served as the orchestra. Although they were very fine, the Britten is not a work that is suited to bands that don't regularly play together and there was some sloppy playing including a rather nastily botched trombone solo in the beginning of the Dies Irae. The singing however was superb and Craig Jessop led a well paced and emotionally stirring performance. It was a little odd to see him beat out measures in seven and five meters as opposed to dividing them into groups of twos and threes. But I'm nitpicking. Phillip Cutlip and Stanford Olsen were superb soloists as was soprano Barbara Shirvis, although she was at times overpowered by the orchestra.

Steven Stucky's Take Him Earth, commissioned for the convention and in memory of President Kennedy, was well sung but the score failed to impress. To use a text that was so perfectly set by Herbert Howells is a risk and sadly, Stucky's music was a bit of a sound mush without central themes or interesting melodies.

Please note that if I didn't review your choir here it is because I did not have the opportunity to hear you. No choir that I heard went unreviewed.

Outstanding Composers

Four composers deserve special kudos for their outstanding and at times even amazing music.

Kevin Memley was well represented in ACDA concerts. Of particular merit is his She Walks In Beauty, which received a fine performance by the Indianapolis Youth Chorale. I had heretofore not heard Memley's music but I shall certainly seek it out in the future.

Dan Forrest was also a frequently heard composer and Entreat Me Not to Leave You as splendidly rendered by the University of North Texas A Cappella Choir was a particular standout.

Ola Gjeilo is one of two composers that I would award an ACDA Composer of the Year Award were there such an honor. His gorgeous O Magnum Mysterium was ravishingly performed by the Mt. San Antonio Chamber Singers and Ubi caritas was another fine work as performed by the Kennesaw State University Men's Ensemble.

Eriks Esenvalds stood out as the finest newer composer to be performed. Again the Mt. San Antonio Chamber Singers dazzled us with the hauntingly beautiful Long Road,  and the Pacific Lutheran University Choir of the West gave us a stunning first performance of Northern Light.  Luminescent sonorities and brilliant effects from the use of native instruments and tuned water glasses made this young Latvian's music stand head and shoulders above almost anything that we heard all week.

In summary, the ACDA put on an inspiring and informative conference, and it was a gas to get to see some old friends, particularly Dr. Douglas Amman, who was my choral professor at Ball State University long many moons ago. I also had the pleasure of meeting two fine young composers from Clarke College in Iowa. I am sure that Timothy Gelhaus and Adam O'dell will give us some fine music to listen to in the future if the works that I have already heard are any indication, and I am sure that they are. It was also great to meet a fine young singer from Wyoming in the person of David Ginger. The best part of ACDA is the new friends you make, and the old friends you see.

Congratulations to all who worked so hard to put on a great convention, and here's best wishes to everyone as we look forward to Salt Lake City in two years!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

ACDA Revisited Part I

Last week's biennial national conference of the American Choral Directors Association ended with a bang. A fine performance of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem concluded a week of generally fine performances and interesting workshops. Here is a review of what I heard and saw. I will break it down by category to make it a little easier to digest.

The Event and Venues

Dallas' shiny new arts district is in the main a great place to hold performance related convention. The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center is the gem of our city and it did not disappoint. Sadly, the Winspear Opera House proved again to be less than stellar. The hall is designed to showcase the solo voice, and thus it is pretty much useless for anything else. Ensembles sound dead in the space and there is no bloom to the sound. Several conductors complained that the whole acoustic changed the moment an audience came in and that everything they had done in rehearsal to make a good blended sound flew out the window. The brand new City Performance hall was strangely underused. This would have been a far better venue for choirs than the opera house. The Cathedral Guadalupe was reserved mostly for sessions dealing with church music. Aesthetically astute perhaps but the choirs who had to suffer through the Winspear's deadness would have benefited from singing in the Cathedral.

Exhibits were set up in the lobbies of the Meyerson and the Winspear, which worked well for the most part. The only instance of bad planning was on Saturday when the exhibitors blocked off the front entrance to the Meyerson to tear down, thus forcing hundreds of people to us a narrow side entrance making for several log jams of people. This should have been better planned.


 I had the opportunity to hear about seventeen choirs over the four day span. I observed a number of trends. First, I am thrilled that we are moving away from the preponderance of music that is nothing but a string of cluster chords. As one of my colleagues deftly opined, you can stack overtones to the moon but if they're boring, who cares.

There was no shortage of dull, however. Any convention in which performers are performing for other performers is bound to generate an over abundance of esoterica. But even the most seasoned academics need to enjoy a show every now and then. I was disappointed to find myself falling asleep in concerts because of the endless stream of dull commissioned pieces whose final product did not merit the amount of rehearsal time they took to perfect. On the positive side, the use of instruments and movement in several concerts was not only refreshing, but often inspiring and thrilling.

Following are brief reviews of the choirs that I heard.

The Arlington High School Colt Chorale Varsity Men

This fetching choir, conducted by Dinah Menger and Mason Barlow stood well above the crowd. With brilliant programming, professional level showmanship and stellar sound, this choir's infectious enthusiasm was awe inspiring. It was obvious from the get-go that these young men were in love with performing. Truly fine singing and tasteful choreography made this one of the outstanding performances of the week.

The Arlington Martin High School Chamber Singers

Arlington, Texas seems to have a choir vitamin in its water supply. The Martin High School ensemble presented a solid program that got better as it went along. Sadly, I heard them in the Winspear which was a hindrance to any choir that had to sing there. I was particularly impressed with this choirs elegant performance of Kevin Memley's She Walks in Beauty.  The inspiring It Takes a Village by Joan Szymko received a rousing performance with some fine solos and great enthusiasm.

Camerata Musica Limburg

Although some professional commitments kept me from hearing this outstanding professional mens ensemble in concert, I did get to attend their master class at the crack of dawn on Wednesday morning. If the beautiful sounds that they were able to produce at nine a.m., I am confident that an evening performance would have blown me out of the water.

The Florida State University Singers

Kevin Fenton led this largish mixed choir in a well executed but rather dull performance. This was an example of too much dull repertoire sadly, some rather perfunctory singing. Particularly disappointing was the they way that Dr. Fenton blew through the gorgeous harmonies in Mendelssohn's stunning Denn er hat seinen Engeln befohlen. To these ears, Fenton took Adolfus Hailstork's (whose name was misspelled in the Choral Journal program guide) Crucifixion entirely too fast, thus negating the pain that the composer masterfully built into the score. FSU's red costumes were unique but a bit of a distraction.

Fullerton College Chamber Singers

I hate to say it, but this concert was the most disappointing of all that I heard. John Tebay led his primarily undergraduate choir in an out of tune shout fest that was made all the worse by his clueless interpretations of the repertoire. Hans Leo Hassler's  Exultate Deo  was transformed from an elegant dance in to machine gun fire. There was no sense of rubato or finesse in Brahms' masterful Ich aber bin Elend. Sloppy intonation and a lack of blend destroyed the delicious harmonies. Eriks Esenwalds' stunning Long Road received a phoned in performance. (Compare it to the breath taking rendition from the Mount San Antonio College Chamber Singers and hour or so before). Shawn Kirchner's rousing O What a Beautiful City was hollered at us, not sung.

Highland Park Presbyterian Church Chancel Choir

One of Dallas' outstanding church music programs lives at HPPC under George Gregory Hobbs watchful hands. Dr. Hobbs led this large choir in solid performances of a number of excellent church anthems. I particularly appreciated the choice of repertoire as it showcased what the choir exists to do, that is, lead worship. No academic esoterica here. Solid singing and prayerful restraint were the hallmarks of this performance. Sadly, the monstrous and marvelous organ of the Meyerson Symphony Center showed that it wasn't designed to accompany. A lack of richness in the string sounds and overpowering principles were a bit of a distraction even though HPPC's fine organist kept the big Fisk under control.

Houston Chamber Choir

Robert Simpson led his professional chamber choir from Houston in an exciting performance, one that I sadly had to hear in the acoustically bereft Opera House. Of particular merit were the movements from Dominck DiOrio's A Dome of Many Couloured Glass. Not only is this a very exciting work, I don't think that these ears have ever heard a marimba played so amazingly. Srephen Tobin's virtuosity was quite breathtaking. Bob Chilcott's entertaining Weather Report was the other high point of this first rate performance.

Indianapolis Youth Chorale

Cheryl Eisele West led her gi-normous youth choir in what was one of the more inspired concerts of the week. Well chosen repertoire, fine intonation and elegantly shaped phrases made for a very enjoyable thirty minutes. Kevin Memley's She Walks in Beauty received its second fine performance of the week and Dan Forrest's Dance of Exultation  was quite the rabble rouser. This large choir was able to pull off some exquisite pianissimos, but these ears thought that the fortes were over sung, a trend that seemed to permeate much of the convention. Louder ain't always better. But as an Indiana native myself, I was very proud of the home team, especially for exposing so many fine young singers to much great literature.

Iowa State Cantaums

This outstanding sounding choir definitely gets the nappy time award for most uninteresting music. Dedicated to new works, this ensemble holds its many commissions as a source of pride. And well it should. Now it should just commission some interesting pieces. We were treated to thirty minutes of beautifully executed difficulty that quickly wore on the ear. Enough already of the endless bands of cluster chords. Yawnsville.

Kennesaw State University Men's Ensemble

This fine choir brought about some confusion in the ranks. During their introduction, the host commented that this group had only four music majors amongst its members. The printed program however revealed that well over twenty singers were pursuing music degrees. This little revelation took a bit of the wow factor away. Personnel issues or no, this was an exciting performance and the highlight of its concert session. Using various percussion instruments, creative staging and well, fine singing, this choir presented a vigorous program that was well selected, finely balanced and excellently sung. The highlight was Ola Gjielo's lovely Ubi Caritas, in which the composer made a guest appearance playing an improvised piano accompaniment over his own score. It was pretty thrilling.


Let us stop here to declare that this was the finest choir to perform in the entire convention, bar none.

Bruce Rogers is a programming genius, and his flawless blend of music, motion and performance perfection are almost beyond words. This was a performance that was so beautifully executed, so passionately rendered and so gorgeous in its visual presentation that for this listener, time literally stopped for the duration of the concert.

From the first note of Victoria's exquisitely simple Regina coeli, we knew we were in for a treat. Ola Gjeilo's stunning O magnum mysterium was deeply enhanced by the lovely staging, complete with a Madonna in a simple white shawl.

And the gifts just kept on coming and from all over the world. Every piece on the program pleased more than its predecessor, and Eriks Esenvalds' Long Road, transported listeners to flights of ecstasy. Perhaps I gush, but I have not been treated to a choral experience like that one in many a year and I will be first in line to attend Dr. Rogers' next master class or workshop.

It was most obvious that this was utterly inspired singing. You could read it on the singers' faces. Dr. Rogers must be a most inspirational conductor to get such astoundingly beautifully and emotionally charged musicianship from his young ensemble. By far, this concert was the apex of the week.


The Choir of the West's superb singing and programming rate it the other choir of the week to get a red banner. Richard Nance led a well balanced program that was marked by first rate musicianship, outstanding balance and tone and music selections that flowed together beautifully. The highlight of this nearly flawless concert was again a work by Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds. Northern Light is a hauntingly atmospheric work that combines a splendid text, eerie mystery and the marvelous added effect of tuned glasses. This performance brought chills down the spine. Mr. Esenvalds is certain to continue to rise in fame, but more on that later. It was refreshing to hear music of Francis Poulenc so beautifully rendered. ACDA conventions can tend to ignore the music of past masters, and Poulenc is a sadly neglected master. The rousing So I'll Sing With My Voice of Dominic Argento brought this Mary Poppins (practically perfect in every way) performance to a thrilling close. Along with Mt. San Antonio's Chamber Singers, this performance can be awarded Best in Show.

San Antonio Chamber Choir

Professional ensembles were very well represented this year and the San Antonio Chamber Choir comes to the top of the list both for vocal virtuosity and interesting programming. Timothy Kramer's Lux Caelestis, from which the choir performed two movements, stole the show. The performance provoked loud bravos from Dr. Jerry McCoy, who is arguably the biggest champion of contemporary choral music working today. If he gives you a bravo for a new piece you know it was good. Of additional merit was the lovely setting of the Medieval poem Mille Regretz by Andrew Rindfleisch. Amongst a sea of rather modern music, Scott MacPherson delivered a rather ravishing performance of Johannes Brahms' Dem dunkeln Schloss, der heil'gen Erde. It was a welcome intermission between all the modernity.

The Tallis Scholars

Known for their superb recordings and performances of sacred music from the Renaissance, it was a pleasure to hear the ten finely honed voices of The Tallis Scholars perform some new music. A new and as unyet named work by Eric Whitacre was rather typical of this composer's chord stacking. Arvo Paert's Nunc dimittis was hauntingly beautiful. Better even still was Palestrina's setting of the same text, through which this exemplary choir showed us just how this music is supposed to sound. It seemed to this listener however that the group might have been a little tour weary as little enthusiasm or body language came across in their performance.

There is more to come tomorrow as I will review more choirs, the closing performance of Britten's War Requiem, my choices for composers of the year and some general thoughts about the state of our art, but time and space dictate that I get this off to you, dear readers, and bring more tomorrow. Your comments are welcome. Feel free to send along your thoughts.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Criminal Justice and the Modern World

It costs the state of New Jersey more to incarcerate a low level, non-violent criminal offender than it would cost them to send him to Princeton.

Such a fact can't help but give one pause to reflect upon our justice system and contemplate ways to appropriately punish offenders while not bogging down public budgets by feeding and housing low level offenders.

Such thoughts have occurred to the brain trust at the Deloitte Corporation who this week presented a fascinating alternative to incarceration for low level, non violent offenders. It involves the use of smart phone technology to create a "virtual incarceration" where offenders would be monitored by authorities but allowed to remain in society. Such phones would be equipped with applications that track an offenders job status, his general whereabouts and daily habits. An analytical computer program would allow judges to determine risk factors and sentencing guidelines and help them to determine which activities to monitor.

For example, a drug offender might be required to use an app that determines intoxication or drug use by the movements of the eyes, as read through the phone's camera. The offender could also connect with his or her probation officer via iPhone's Face Time app, thus saving time and expense of travel and allowing the offender to maintain a job without the interruption of regular visits to some far off office.

This seems like a brilliant plan to me on all sorts of levels. First, it would surely lower recidivism rates. Statistics show that a person who is removed from society and placed in prison is considerably more likely to offend again. And why not? The barriers that society places in front of persons who have erred in the past are tremendous. Most people with past convictions find it at best difficult to find employment and even more difficult to find adequate housing. If you've been convicted of a sex offense, regardless of the circumstances, the burden of registration and the easy availability of your address, workplace and car licence makes any kind of successful re-entry into society nearly impossible. Very few people who have sex related offenses on their records have the emotional and psychological stamina to face down the myriad obstacles that are thrown in their paths.

By allowing persons who are convicted of non violent crimes and that are deemed unlikely to offend again to remain in their homes, with their families and in their jobs seems to be a much better recipe for success in reducing crime and the expense of punishment. Of course we should also be discussing the nature of what constitutes a crime in this country, particularly as it relates to drug use, and the disproportionate way in which sentences are handed out according to race and socioeconomic status. But that's a story for another day.

Meanwhile, Deloitte seems to have come up with an innovative and cost effective plan to reduce the number of people currently held in jails and prisons in the US, which, incidentally holds a full 25% of the world's imprisoned population. It is a technology and philosophy that certainly deserves further scrutiny and consideration. To read more about the Deloitte presentation at South By Southwest, click on the link below.

Friday, March 08, 2013

My Love Affair with the Crawleys

 Season three of Downton Abbey is now behind us with all of its shocking turns of event, and I am left to ponder how the first television series I have followed in years will fare in season four. With the departure of Dan Stevens, Jessica Brown Findlay and Siobhan Finneran from the show, there is room for some fantastic new plot lines, or for the show to jump the shark.

Let's start with Dan Stevens' departure. Since Matthew was the heir, and thus far in English Law, women cannot inherit, Lady Mary has no chance at all of being the Countess of Grantham. In fact she won't even be the dowager. Since she gave birth to a male, the child's future wife will be the next Countess and Lady Mary is consigned to spend the rest of her life as well, Lady Mary.

Then there's the scheming Miss O'Brien. Will she simply be gone at the beginning of season four, or will we see her just long enough for her to actually tell Lady Grantham that this time her rumored departure is for real? Remember SHE thought she was being let go in season one, (it was her Ladyship's soap) and then Thomas stirred up a nasty revenge rumor in season three. Let's hope that Miss O'Brien's replacement is at least somewhat nice. I know, the next lady's maid should be a lesbian who falls in love with Mrs. Pattmore.

How about Lady Edith? The poor girl always seems to take on Mission Impossible when it comes to boys. Will her editor be able to get out of his thankless marriage? Will Lord Grantham consent to Edith's on-the- side relationship with a married man? The poor girl's been jilted and jerked around since 1912. I think she deserves a little shot at happiness. And besides, editor boy is anything but ugly.

It seems that Thomas and Jimmy have come to some truce after Mr. Barrow took a beating to rescue his wannabe boy toy. It will be interesting to see if the conniving valet cum under butler actually becomes nice for a change.

Let us now consider Mr. and Mrs. Bates. Mr. Bates has been exonerated, Lord Grantham and Mr. Carson have managed to find a suitable job for everyone, and Anna and Bates have settled in to their little cottage on the estate. Isn't it about time that a little Bates enters the picture.

And what about Mr. Branson? Will Lady Mary fall for the hot little Irishman? Hmmmm? Let's just hope that his Lordship listens to Tom and doesn't blow all of the money for a third time.

Several new characters are joining the cast, including the first person of color. That's sure to stir up the Dowager's ire. So much to wonder and I hate it that season four is still months away.

Finally, here are some wishes for my favorite characters. I hope that Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes fall in love. I hope that Mrs. Crawley falls head over heals for Dr. Clarkson, in spite of the fact that she was the bane of his existence during the war. I bet that Daisy ends up moving from Downton to her father-in-law's farm. And let's hope that poor Alfred finally finds a girlfriend.

Severt Philleo and the author as Martha Levinson and the Dowager Countess, Halloween, 2013

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Alone in the Crowd

There is a lot of blabber about the use of personal devices and their effect on the ways in which we interact or communicate. Have they killed the art of conversation or have they enhanced our ability to stay connected with one another? Have they caused permanent damage to good manners or should we be adaptive and realize that there is a new code of social conduct in place? Big questions.

I think perhaps the answer is that smart phones and lap tops have done some damage to conversation. And I believe that in certain situations we should indeed turn the damned things off and just talk to one another. By the same token, there are some new rules and I think that since the only thing which should remain constant is change, then a little evolution on our part, (our meaning those of us that did not grow up with smart phones and the internet) is not amiss.

On two different occasions I have been accosted at my favorite watering hole by a patron who felt the need to make a rude comment about my using my phone at the bar. Both people made a case that a pub or bar was a place designed for socializing and that if he owned the bar, all phones would be checked at the door. Good luck with that buddy.

I completely disagree that public places such as restaurants and bars are by definition places to socialize. Yes indeed they can be, and if you go to one with the intention of meeting new people, then by all means put your phone away. On the other hand, I am the type who often enjoys being "alone in the crowd." In other words I like the stimulus of being around other people but at the same time I don't necessarily want to be bothered.

I go to my favorite coffee shop to check my email and write my blog entries and read the newspaper or a book. Sometimes after a long day, I want to go out for a drink and play my favorite video games or text with out of town friends and unwind for the day. Does this behavior make me rude or antisocial? Am I required to display my full wit and charm just because I am in a place where people gather with friends? Decidedly not. I have just as much right to privacy in a coffee shop as I do in my home. If I want to invite guests I will, if I don't, I won't.

Times and manners and customs change far more rapidly than they did when I was a twenty something. Technology has greatly enlarged the size of what could be called a community, and thus I believe that we should adapt to the changes and find a happy balance between electronic and face to face communication.

Given that the instant and online world is still relatively new, we might take a little time to find a balance between our virtual and actual realities. But things will be fine in the end, and if things aren't fine, then it's not the end.

I'm having a dinner party this weekend and the phones will be off. Meanwhile, as I sit here in the coffee shop writing this missive, feel free to text me. I am open for business.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Tempus fugit

It is a little overwhelming to think that it was one month ago yesterday that my father died. It has caused me to think a great deal about time, how I use it, how precious a commodity it is and how very scarce! Self evaluation is a good thing I suppose but man is it ever a pain. And it seems that I am forever in a state of change.

Part of me loves the idea of an ever changing world with a daily new adventure. But the other part of me would love to have some stability. A stable home, a stable income, a stable boyfriend. Hell I would be satisfied with a stable cat! (Sorry Ben-Kitty but you are a bit of a wild card at times.)

If I have learned any important lessons from my father's departure, it is that whether I like it or not, I finally have to totally and completely take care of myself. At 49, that isn't the easiest habit in the world to learn. And I am way behind where I should be at this age.

But nothing changes if you just sit on your hands, so there's no time like the present. I have always found that any time I make some public announcement about amending my life, I usually fail. SOOOOO, I am going to ask you for your good vibes, karma, thoughts and prayers as I set out on a journey of finding myself and of making myself stable and independent for the very first time.

Not sure how I am going to accomplish it at the moment, but hey, you gotta start somewhere. Wish me luck and I will keep you posted.

By the way, I am going to attempt to throw a weekly dinner party from now on with a rotating guest list. This week's menu features Asparagus salad with Champagne Saffron Vinaigrette, Cream of Cauliflower soup, Maple Roasted Pork loin with orange glazed carrots and rosemary roasted potatoes.