Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Stoltz Versus Hungry Kids

On January 20 of this year, I posted a video I made of Kokayi Nosakhere talking about his intent to go to Juneau and fast until SB 3 got out of the House Finance Committee.  SB 3 is a bill that would add $1.9 million to the program for free school meals.

The person holding the bill up is Chugiak/Matsu legislator Bill Stoltz.  Kokayi began his hunger strike Feb. 7 in Juneau.  I've known Kokayi for a while and he's a very passionate guy.  He's been outraged that in the United States there are hungry kids.  Unlike most of us, he's not willing to just let this go on without doing something serious about this problem.

You have to be serious to go on a hunger strike for three weeks (now).

I've been out of the state since before he started the strike.  But I understand there has been a lot of press coverage.  Here's a tv example.  And here's one from the Mudflats blog.

I don't know that Stoltz is reachable by logical argument.  Kokayi told me last night that Stoltz has refused to speak to Kokayi.  If I were Stoltz, I'd invite Kokayi to meet me in my office and serve him the most delicious smelling meal I could find and sit there talking to Kokayi while the fragrance drifted into Kokayi's nostrils.  But that doesn't seem to be Stoltz's way.  I  heard him tell the Legislative Council in 2010, when they were discussing whether they should lift the block on Facebook for legislative computers (Yes, legislators can't be trusted with Facebook from their offices):
I’m confessing a total lack of knowledge on this. I don’t know enough to vote other than negatively. [This was as close to verbatim as I could get at the meeting.]
He then spoke for about ten minutes on why it would be bad to pass the motion.  Even though he admitted he had a total lack of knowledge. 

I'm not sure constituent contacts would make a difference, but it is the one thing that tends to get legislators' attention.  So I'm posting these maps of Stoltz's district 16.  If you live there call or email to ask him to pass SB3 out of committee.  Or if you know people in it, ask them if they know what their rep is doing and urge them to contact him.

Here's the current district:

You can click to enlarge it.  Basically, it's from Chugiak up into the Matsu and much of it is unpopulated mountains.  Here are some enlargements so you can see where it is.

NW District 16 click to enlarge

NE District 16 - click to enlarge

South District 16 - click to enlarge

It's District 11 in the new redistricting plan which you can see here.

Do let Rep. Stoltz know how you feel about this.  (The Senate has passed this bill at least twice already and now it's being held by the House Finance Committee as it was the last time.).

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Just a Cactus? It's More Complicated. And Beautiful

A cactus is just a cactus to most people I suspect. But at Palm Springs' Moorten Botanical Garden
it's clear there's an amazing diversity of cacti and succulents.  Though altogether, there aren't that many different species. 

Green Nature says:
They are the largest family of succulent plants, with most of the 2000 known species native to North, Central and South America. The vast majority of cacti, but not all, are well adapted to desert conditions, using their stems to store water during extended dry seasons.
Cacti are flowering plants that serve an important role in their ecosystem by providing food and shelter to many animals, birds and reptiles. Desert tortoises, for example, often snack on their local cactus stems and fruits.

Computer Break

We took my mom to Palm Springs Sunday to celebrate her 90th on Monday.  And I managed to leave my computer in LA.  The Palm Springs library was closed Sunday and Monday, so that possible access wasn't available and I decided to just enjoy the extra time.  We had a very good time.  Thanks Tim!  Photos at 11.  Or whenever I get around to it. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"linear in a non-linear world" Brian Dettmer Sculpts Books

Brian Dettmer is concerned about the replacement of the book - relatively tangible and lasting records of words - by intangible pixels which can be altered or which may be inaccessible as newer technology replaces the recent.  So he's sculpted books to get people to look at and think about books differently.

This one below is sculpted from "A New Garden Encyclopedia."  Look at it carefully.

From Dettmer's website:

The age of information in physical form is waning. As intangible routes thrive with quicker fluidity, material and history are being lost, slipping and eroding into the ether. Newer media swiftly flips forms, unrestricted by the weight of material and the responsibility of history. In the tangible world we are left with a frozen material but in the intangible world we may be left with nothing. History is lost as formats change from physical stability to digital distress.
The richness and depth of the book is universally respected yet often undiscovered as the monopoly of the form and relevance of the information fades over time. The book’s intended function has decreased and the form remains linear in a non-linear world. By altering physical forms of information and shifting preconceived functions, new and unexpected roles emerge. This is the area I currently operate in. Through meticulous excavation or concise alteration I edit or dissect communicative objects or systems such as books, maps, tapes and other media. The medium’s role transforms. Its content is recontextualized and new meanings or interpretations emerge.

All these sculptures are from books.  Here's Dettmer's explanation of what he does:

"In this work I begin with an existing book and seal its edges, creating an enclosed vessel full of unearthed potential. I cut into the surface of the book and dissect through it from the front. I work with knives, tweezers and surgical tools to carve one page at a time, exposing each layer while cutting around ideas and images of interest. Nothing inside the books is relocated or implanted, only removed. Images and ideas are revealed to expose alternate histories and memories. My work is a collaboration with the existing material and its past creators and the completed pieces expose new relationships of the book’s internal elements exactly where they have been since their original conception. "

I didn't catch the title of this one, but below is a close up of it.  Double click the image to enlarge it. 

We saw the exhibit at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco when we went to the Klezmer Concert.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Co-Work Office Space - The Working Village

My son and DIL both work from their home.  My son does have some local office space available through his employer if he needs it. He told me he's also experimenting with a co-work office space.  It's a chance to get out and be with other people, but more work focused than a coffee shop.

So yesterday when I was running I realized I should stop in the place - Working Village - I've been passing regularly and check it out.

You can get a
  • table spot ($5/hour, $29/day/$339/month), 
  • a small cubicle ($15/hour, $99/day, $995/month),  or 
  • a larger cubicle for $20/hour, $129/day, $1499/month. 

The phone booth is for more privacy.  Brid, who showed me around, but didn't want to be photographed, said
B:  "the $5 an hour was like being in a coffee shop buying coffee"
S:  But you get coffee there. 
B:  We have coffee and treats too.

Here's an office that someone has moved into fairly permanently.

Working Village, Santa Monica
This seems like a good idea if you're traveling and need more than a desk at a library or hotel room or lobby.  There are computers - both mac and pc - available for rent and free wifi.  But if you're a writer struggling to get by, it would seem you could use those hourly $5 on more important things and find free work space in other spots.

The Working Village does have the great advantage of only being about four blocks from the beach. 
(At the Santa Monica/Venice divide.)

I'm not sure that's enough incentive for me.  But I'm something of an introvert and can work fine home alone.

Looking online, I found another Santa Monica co-working space - Coloft.  It's website pushes the networking possibilities.  I liked their guidelines:

"So here are a few things you need to keep in mind:
  1. Be awesome and respect others. ‘Nuff said.
  2. Phone Policy: Phone calls are fine, just talk at a normal volume. If you need privacy, or you have to yell at someone, go use our awesome phone booth. If you are always on the phone, this is not the place for you.
  3. Introduce yourself to fellow Colofters. They are all awesome.
  4. If the coffee is out, either let one of us know, or just make a pot yourself! You’ll probably get lot’s of love for brewing good coffee.
  5. Coloft is an open, collaborative space. We don’t believe in cubicles or private offices. If you want to zone out in your productive world, the universal sign is headphones. We have a bunch. Just ask.
  6. Keep our space clean. When you leave, another Colofter will most likely sit at that spot. So please keep it clean, take your dirty cups to the dishwasher, and trash your trash."

And they have more flexible options:

  • Day Pass

    $35 Day Pass
    Just passing through...
    • Be sure to fill out this Day Pass form!
      *Valid M-F, 8:30am-6pm only
  • Part-Time

    This is my kind of space!
    • 12 days/mo* & 3 hours meeting room time
      *Weekdays only

  • Full-Time

    This is my 2nd home.
    • 24/7 access; 5 hrs meeting room time
    Love it so much, I live here.
    • Permanent desk; 5 hrs meeting room time
      Limited quantity available
  • Afterhours

    I only come out in the night.
    • Access M-F 6pm-8am & weekends
    $99/month Member*
    Love it so much, I live here.
    • Add-on *only part-time members & up

Virtual Presence

I'm all about Virtual Reality.
Mailbox, business address, 2 days of work space & access to all awesome Coloft events
  • Add-Ons

    Locker: $25/month
    Mailbox: $35/month
    *Only available on part-time memberships & up

Anyone using a place like this regularly?  What's your experience?

I also found a place called Desktime where you can search for a temporary office space.  But when I looked up Santa Monica, I got neither of these two places and only four places in the whole LA area.   They do mention a place in downtown Anchorage.

 My EcoDesk is another co-work office search tool.

I know that the United Way in Anchorage has been doing office space sharing for a long time - giving small non-profits a room in a shared space with office amenities - copy machine, etc. - that they can't afford on their own. 

[As regular readers would assume, I didn't get any special benefits for writing this.  They did offer me a 2 hour free trial, but they offer that to everyone.]

    Thursday, February 23, 2012

    I Didn't Get A Maintenance Manual With My Blog

    There's lots of maintenance to do with a blog.  A lot of it is technical as the system adds new gadgets and new looks.   Some of it is related to changing times and circumstances.  For example I need to change my photo policy.  I wrote it at a time when there was some disagreement between local Alaska blogs and the Anchorage Daily News about use of photos.  But basically monitoring photo use by others is pretty impossible.  All I basically want is some courtesy and a link back to my originals for non-commercial use.

    And I tried to be restrained on labeling, but now it turns out I have some labels for things mentioned only once and no labels for things/people mentioned a dozen times.  But given that people find me through Google using terms not on labels, I'm not really sure if that matters.

    And then there is updating old posts.  I've got so many posts up, it's hard to do that.  I've found I sometimes write something new about an old topic.  Then I put a link in the new post to the old and a new link in the old post to the new one.

    But today I've added photos to three old posts and none of them, by themselves, was worth a new post.  So I'm doing it here.  Four years ago, while running to Venice Beach from my mom's, I took a picture of the empty lot where the old Pioneer Bakery used to be and a sign that they were building condos.  That lot on Rose stayed empty for a long time, but now there are almost finished condos there.  So I added a new picture to that old post.

    But I also discovered that some of the photos on that post no longer are connected to their original link.  They now look like this:
    I have to see if I can find the originals or I just have to delete them.

    Three and a half years ago, the city planted a new Italian Stone Pine tree in front of my mother's house.  It's grown a bit since then, so I've added a new picture to that post.

    Talking about new trees, the city of Santa Monica put in about 100 new Canary Island Pines along the Penmar Golf Course on the Dewey side last week.  One day there was nothing there, the next day they'd put in a 1/2 mile of trees.  (How do I know what kind they are?  I asked the men putting them in.)

    And finally, I've added a four months later picture showing the scar now from my Mohs surgery last October.

    While I appreciate all that the new technologies can do, I also would appreciate a cease-fire for all but the most significant developments (life saving improvements) so I wouldn't have to keep adapting to a new update on every different software, phone, camera, etc.  Some things are good enough and I don't need all the improvements.  But, following up on the previous post, those things keep us all distracted from all the ways corrupt businesses and the public officials they install manage to destroy our democracy.

    You Are Not So Smart BUT This Will Make You Smarter - So You Can See Through The Empire of Illusion

    [This post started simply, but got more complicated (and much better) as I found things on the internet.]

    I was struck by these titles in the bookstore in the San Francisco Airport.

    On the blog this book emerged from, Dave McCraney writes:

    The central theme here is that you are unaware of how unaware you are. There is branch of psychology and an old and growing body of research with findings that suggest you have little idea why you act or think the way you do. Despite this, you create narratives to explain your own feelings, thoughts and behaviors, and these narratives become the story of your life.

    This is, of course, not that far from what I try to do here.  Get people (including me) to be a little more humble, a little less sure of what they think they know.  And start to see other ways to create meaning from the data.

    BUT,  I was struck by the fact that the bookstore didn't put this next book alongside the first one.

    It turns out both NPR and the Atlantic have posted on this book in the last 24 hours.  From the Atlantic piece (hype?):

    "In 2011, with the help of psycholinguist Steven Pinker and legendary psychologist Daniel Kahneman, he posed an even grander question: What scientific concept will improve everybody's cognitive toolkit? The answers, featuring a wealth of influential scientists, authors, and thought-architects, were recently released in This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking -- a formidable anthology of short essays by 151 of our time's biggest thinkers on subjects as diverse as the power of networks, cognitive humility, the paradoxes of daydreaming, information flow, collective intelligence, and a dizzying, mind-expanding range in between. Together, they construct a powerful toolkit of meta-cognition -- a new way to think about thinking itself."
    You can read all the answers online here.

    It's important to realize we don't know as much as we think.  It's important to develop better thinking skills.  Because our thinking is being managed by our corporate moves to convert everything - people included - into dollars for their advantage.  The idea of the 1% both shows how successful they have been AND that some of the 99% have not lost the ability to see through the bullshit.

    So, ultimately, this third book seems to me to be the most important of the three.

    Poking around on line convinces me that Chris Hedges knows a lot more than most of us and has the moral courage to say the things that people don't want to hear - like criticizing the Iraq war early on -  and doing what is right despite the costs - like quitting his NY Times position (where he won a Pulitzer Prize) rather than abide by their subsequent gag rule.

    Hedges speaks about Empire of Illusion in this long (1:22) 2009 video tape at the New School (founded in 1919 if that's new enough for you) at NYU. Hedges begins with the commodification of Michael Jackson. 

    The end of his talk comes around 56 minutes.  He concludes this way:
    "If we remain passive
    We will soon be engulfed by a ruthless, totalitarian, capitalism.
    If we remain passive as we undergo the largest transferrance of wealth upwards in American history, we will become serfs.
    If we fight back, we have a chance.
    Saturation coverage of [Michael] Jackson’s death was one of many examples of our collective flight into illusion.
    It deflected the moral questions arising from mounting social injustice, growing inequalities, failing imperial wars, economic collapse, and political corruption.
    As we sink into and economic and political morass, as we barrel towards a crisis that will create more misery than the great depression, we remain controlled, manipulated, and distracted by the celluloid shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave
    The fantasy of celebrity culture is not designed simply to entertain.
    It is designed to drain us emotionally, confuse us about our identity, blame ourselves for our predicament, condition us to chase illusions of impossible fame and happiness, and keep us from fighting back. 
    And in the end, that was all the Jackson coverage was really about.  Another tawdry and tasteless spectacle to divert a dying culture from the baying wolf at the gate."
     Then at 58 minutes or so, the Q&A begins.  He talks about how wrestling in the past and today contains the narratives of the day.  There are different narratives from when his grandfather watched wrestling once a week.  Today's narratives are about:
    ". . . personal disintegration, sibling rivalries, personal abuse, there is no delineation between good or evil now.  Everybody cheats as soon as the ref turns his back.  Wrestlers play out the fantasies of revenge that in real life these people don’t have."
    Some more points he makes during the Q&A:
    • moving from a literacy based society to an image based society and how this fits neatly into totalitarianism.  
    • the twilight of empires,  when people fall into a state of delusion.  The Egyptians built the pyramids at the end of the empire. 
    • If not prepared for the collapse, you act as a child, looking for someone to save you.
    • Sober reading of reality is the best possibility for survival and hope, if we continue in a state of illusion then hope is impossible because every decision we make is not reality based.
    • There is no working class movement, because we have no working class
    • He was asked about his comment about moving from literacy to images.  The questioner pointed out that Socrates was afraid of books and books haven't seemed to have harmed us.  Hedges responded that Socrates' fear of books (in answer to a question) was a concern that when moral philosophy becomes written down it freezes speech.   It becomes a form of orthodoxy. Socrates feared that that dialog, that struggle for the moral life was too ambiguous to ever be codified.  Today, he suggested that if you read something online, it is surrounded by moving images and movement like that interrupts thinking.  We now fear solitude and our technology is so powerful that most of us are hallucinating.  We're completely isolated from the real.  We've created a virtual reality that we mistake for the real. 
      And as someone who's been in war, when we (I include soldiers here too) come back, we can't compete with the very powerful, but false images of war in the media - like Saving Private Ryan.  Because people feel like they've had the experience, but they've been manipulated by very powerful technology.

    He's published two books since this one came out.  Here's Wikipedia's list of his books:

    One more book that I saw in the bookstore.

    From the book's website:

    ". . .  we hope it will encourage voters to consider the source of the information they use to choose who will lead them. We’ve been doing political opposition research for 18 years, on a weird, extended road trip that no one else would take. The book is our way of taking readers along for the ride as we research politicians from presidential appointees to candidates for local school boards, finding what’s right and wrong about politics, political candidates, and the quirky cultural landscape of America."
    It seems to have just come out and I haven't read it.  But I'm guessing it will help demonstrate Hedges' thesis that our reality is created to manipulate us.  

    And it's one of the ironic twists of capitalism that these books too get placed prominently in the airport bookstore.  But then San Francisco is a pretty liberal place and they are more likely to sell there. 

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    SFO Free Wifi, Air Museum, Coffee Cups

    We got to the airport early yesterday and had time to get some walking in and explore.  There's an air museum with bits of air history like these models.

    They caught my attention because friends I met live on Treasure Island - linked by the Bay Bridge - and they said the old PanAm clippers flew from the bay on Treasure Island.

    Elsewhere there were displays of all sorts of things, but these old airline serving sets brought home how bad airline service has gotten. 

    Only the top photo cups were used in coach class, but still, that's better than a paper cup and maybe some crunchy synfood.

    double click to enlarge

    And I was pleasantly surprised that I could get free wifi - well, the cost was 30 seconds filling out a survey (there were other choices like looking at ads) - and they had these nice computer desks right at the gate and lots of easy to find outlets. 

    And while on the subject of airport changes I noticed in Portland and then again at American in LA a new seating configuration which I liked.  Seats were jumbled up a bit instead of straight rows.

    Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    Parrots and Pantries

    Sunday an old friend and her husband picked me up and we got to talk a bit.  But we past a small be screechy park and they pulled over and said, "The Parrots."  These were the parrots of Telegraph Hill.

    I haven't seen the film about them, but here's what "the Parrot Man" says about it on his blog:

    Most people who've seen The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill agree that it's not quite like any other film, and seldom what people expect it to be. Most anticipate a nature documentary about some birds. Then it goes someplace else entirely. One of the most common types of e-mail that I receive is from some guy who was made to watch the film against his will and then ended up transfixed—and moved. Few people can ever say what the film is about exactly. Or even what kind of film it is. Is it a documentary? Judy thinks it is because she thinks of herself as a documentary filmmaker. I think of it as a poem, because, like a poem, it has many different levels.

    How do friends and visitors know what's in your kitchen cabinets when they want to help you set the table or put away the dirty [clean] dishes.  My son and some of his friends have labeled them.  But then there was a request for something more visual.  They've got something, but I thought actual photos would be even better.  Like this one.

    We're at the airport ready to go back to LA.  I'm ready to go back to Anchorage actually.  But the weather has been delightful here in San Francisco - just on that edge between a jacket or not.  Cool in the shade or wind, but warm in the sun.  I'll get this up and try to catch up later.

    Half Moon Bay Dog Sitting

    The invisible web of interpersonal relationships led us to the beach in Half Moon Bay Saturday night to walk the dog of a friend of my son's who was out of town for the holiday weekend.  We spent the night with Juke Box and walked him again the next morning.  My son had lived here for a while and there were lots of favors traded back and forth, such as watching out for each other's dogs and other affairs.

    "Historical records show that the Native American culture of the Ohlone lived in harmony with nature for many thousand years, the human population being limited by the availability of food. The way of life changed during the 18th century when the Spanish arrived on the San Mateo coast, in the search for Monterey Bay, the Spanish started the Portola expedition where they had spent two days resting near what is now the town of Half Moon Bay. They stopped here once again on their return trip and named the area the plain of "Los Ansares" or the plain of wild geese. WIth the founding of Mission Dolores (Mission San Francisco de Asís) in 1776, the San Mateo coast area came into use for grazing of mission livestock. Following secularization of the missions, in 1834 eight ranchos were granted along this section of the coast. Cattle ranching was primary agricultural activity, and San Mateo's hide and tallow trade thrived. The beach at Half Moon Bay was a gathering spot for trading and socializing between rancheros, sea captain and other visitors.
    The first Americans arrived in this area in the 1850s. The Mexican settlement known as Spanishtown, a commercial center for the rancheros, was called "Halfmoon" by these Anglos; the bay itself was named "Halfmoon" due to its shape. In 1867 the local post office was identified as "Halfmoon Bay", and the spelling was changed to Half Moon Bay in 1905. Agriculture was big in Half Moon Bay at the turn of the 20th century and farm produce such as brussels sprouts, artichokes, and mushrooms along with dairy products presented quite a transportation problem. The Ocean Shore railroad was incorporated in 1905 and was serving Half Moon Bay by 1908 the tracks were laid over what is now much of Francis Beach. During the 1920s the gentle beaches of Half Moon Bay were ideally suited for the needs of the bootlegger. Rum Ships cruised off shore, unloading millions of dollars worth of illegal booze across Half Moon Bay where Francis Beach was a perfect spot for unloading the cargo. During World War II an army post was set up at the beach to protect from Japanese invasion and bombing raids, further north bunkers and long range cannons were built to support the coastline." [Wikipedia]

    "Ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis) is a succulent native to South Africa, but common in chaparral habitats around the world. Though it was once grown in California, Australia, the Mediterranean, and similar areas as a decorative plant, it has become an invasive species and a threat to native vegetation. Ice plant is hardy and quick to reproduce, easily growing into a thick ground cover that chokes out other plant life and depletes soil nutrients. The only reliable way to control ice plant is to uproot it physically."[Wisegeek]

    "In Japan, the mustard flower is celebrated as a simple symbol of the beginning of spring. It is also planted in the fields of Yokohama and crafted into large mazes. In the United States, mustard blossoms often grow wild. One piece of historic trivia indicates that this is due to Spanish soldiers marking their trail throughout the country by scattering the seeds of this particular flower. In Napa Valley a similar story is told of missionaries creating a trail of seeds between Missions so that when the winter ended and the mustard flower began to bloom, they could trace their way back to where they came from. Despite their interesting appearance and fascinating history, mustard flowers are, of course, best known for its edible qualities. In Roman times, mustard flowers were considered an aphrodisiac, and were frequently mixed into love potions. Today, however, the seeds of this flower are mostly crushed and mixed with vinegar to create the spicy, fragrant condiment used in a variety of dishes."[from FlowerInfo]

      These two hammerheads were really sand sharks someone created on the beach. 
    "There are eight different species of Hammerhead shark. All the species have the remarkable projections on both sides of the head, which probably is they reason why these sharks can detect electronic signals of no more than half a billionth of a volt. The head is probably used during electrolocation. By separating the receptors, the Hammerhead shark can receive signals in stereo. The oddly shaped head also seem to act as a wing that the Hammerhead shark uses for close-quarters maneuverability. The head looks somewhat like a flattened hammer, which is the reason behind the name of the Hammerhead shark. The nostrils and eyes are located at the tip of the extensions. All Hammerhead shark species have proportionately small mouths. The size of the eight different Hammerhead sharks varies between 2 and 6 metres. The largest Hammerhead species, the Great Hammerhead shark, will typically weigh around 230 kg (500 pounds) but can reach a weight of 450 kg (1,000 pounds). Three Hammerhead species can be dangerous to humans: the Great Hammerhead shark, the Scalloped Hammerhead shark and the Smooth Hammerhead sharks."[from Aquatic Community]
     As we walked the trail and beach, all we heard were birds and surf.  And then we headed into town for a busy afternoon seeing old friends. 

    Monday, February 20, 2012

    Klez-X (cellent)

    Saturday night we went to see Klez-X at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.  This group is special.  Each person on stage surprised me when it was their turn to step out and show what they could do.

    In the first piece, the thought flashed through my mind - the opening of Rhapsody in Blue is klezmer music.  How could I have not figured that out before?  Or am I imagining this? So now I've been able to google this and I'm not the first to think this.  From Music Stack:
    Many klezmer musicians, or Klezmorim, eventually immigrated to the United States, widening klezmer music's appeal in the early part of the 20th century. Early examples of klezmer musicians in the United States include David Tarras, Naftule Brandwein and Mickey Katz. These Jewish American immigrants proved immensely influential in the development of jazz music, even inspiring the introduction to George Gershwin's famous "Rhapsody in Blue." The rock era left klezmer largely forgotten. But the 1970s and onward welcomed a bit of a revival for klezmer and Jewish music. Groups like The Klezmatics, The Klezmorim and The Klezmer Conservatory Band branched out and incorporated other music styles such as cajun, jazz and even ska into traditional klezmer music.

    And in The Book of Klezmer: The History, the Music, the Folklore Yale Strom quotes Mickey Katz:
    Before I even played a note on the clarinet I used to go to the Yiddish theatre with my parents, which later influenced my playing and perception of what Jewish music was and what the audience wanted to hear.  I began playing the clarinet when I was eleven in grade school on an old beat-up instrument that was used during World War I.  In order to have lessons I went to an uncle’s tailor shop on Saturday afternoons and played for all his customers and earned $1.50.  I was aware of Yiddish songs as a youngster because my sister sang professionally at lodges and other Jewish organizations.  And klezmer music I knew because I played it at weddings and other Jewish events. Then in high school I formed a band and that’s when I began my legitimate career as a musician.  I was playing clarinet and sax - a lot of jazz and concert music.  In fact I was the second clarinet player in the world to play Rhapsody in Blue.

    . . . I was hired because I was the only guy who could play it with all the shmears and glissandos and everything. [emphasis added]

    I just have to mention all the people because they were so good.  Danny Hoffman was the violinist and composer of many of the songs played.  He currently lives in Israel and this was the first time in a while the group has played.  Danny made the violin sing.

    Then we got to know Jeanette Lewicki who played accordion and sang.  She'd go through an English translation of the song before singing it and then, wow, her voice and her heart brought the Yiddish back to life.

    I guess I skipped Sheldon Brown - clarinet and sax - because he's the guy who gave me the Rhapsody in Blue connection when he played.  And he also made the links to jazz obvious too.

    Then, probably the biggest surprise, was when the trumpet player put down his instrument and came up to the mike.  Stephen Saxon began very casually to make a few vocal sounds.  And before I knew what was happening, his 'sounds' became an amazing scat piece that would have made Ella jealous as he scampered over the notes from low to way up high all sounding perfect to my lazy ears.  He'd take a note and slide it slightly up and down and around teasing it and the audience.  And later he performed magic on some traditional prayer music. 

    The drummer, the base, and the trombonist were all fantastic.  They're all listed on the website. And all of them seemed to be so comfortable working as a group.  A wonderful concert.

    Note:  the photos above were all taken after the concert - Saxon was still on stage putting things away, and the others were setting up for dancing in the lobby area after the concert. 

    Go hear some samples on their website.   They're all great. 

    Sunday, February 19, 2012

    San Francisco Looking Up

    Walking around downtown San Francisco, looking up is a good thing to do.  Looking street level one's eyes encounters too many people who are doing poorly.  There were many interesting faces and bodies, people I wanted to talk to.  I wanted to find out how things got this way with them.  But I don't feel comfortable taking pictures of people who are down and out unless they give permission.  So, I spent a lot of time looking up.