Thursday, July 28, 2011

Top 11 favorite moments at Grass Roots 2011

1. In the middle of that 105 degree day, this antique fire truck appears and starts spraying water into the crowd.  I run into the middle of it, back to the spray, and the misty air is full of rainbows.

2. Coming back to my camp Saturday night and finding  The Sutras chilling pre-show with my partner.

3. Walking the peace labyrinth in the dark Friday night as John Brown's Body echoed off the hills.

4. Watching the fiddler from Driftwood single-handedly keep the whole crowd dancing while the guitar player replaced his broken strings.

5. Blocking the street with Midnight yoga.

6. 25 Jimkata beach balls at the grandstand.

7. Any time a friend finds us at our camp is a good time for cocktails.

8. The shade of an old tree and fresh squeezed juice with lots of ice

9. Seun Kuti's sexy Tom Jones pants

10. My son and his friends rapt as they effortlessly blow bubbles as big as themselves.

11. Every minute of the Balkan Beat Box.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Thinking about Thinking about it.

I've been thinking about music again. (Notice I say "thinking about" and not "making" music).

For those of you joining this story already in progress, I was a music major in college and dropped out half way through a masters in voice performance. So many years of practicing every day.  Then nothing. The muse took off and did not leave a forwarding address.

When I finally got around to watching Tim Burton's film version of Sweeney Todd I flashed back to myself age 11 sitting on my bedroom floor, album cover in hand singing along to "Green Finch and Linnet Bird."  I had forgotten that I spent most of my middle and high school years listening to LPs of musical comedies and operas in my bedroom in our old Victorian house which provided enough room to sing and dance along. Seriously. Hours and hours each day memorizing every line and choreographing little dances. Of course by the time I was in high school I was also sitting at the piano with actual scores to these things (my dad had a surprising collection of Gilbert and Sullivan vocal scores.) And naturally in college each day there was a couple of hours of voice, an hour of piano, an hour just listening to the repertoire in the listening library (they had this awesome copy of Gounod's Mireille in a fuzzy orange box. I remember checking that out a lot) on top of music theory and all the regular undergrad classwork. Now I would have been embarrassed to enumerate this to any of my instrumentalist friends, because it would show what a lightweight I was. I mean, if your practicing less than 6 hours a day you're obviously not that serious, right?

So yesterday I had a little tune in the back of my head. It's one I've managed to learn the 4 chords for on the mandolin.  I thought maybe I should sit down and work on it. Then I had this thought "music is so much work for so little reward" as I sat clicked on the computer with a fresh cup of coffee ready to work and re-work the sermon I will be preaching this Sunday.  It occurred to me that I spend 10+ hours a week on a 20 minute sermon.  If I spent 10+ hours on 20 minutes of music week after week, it might be worth listening to.

Then I thought about my yoga practice (I practice yoga at least as much now as I practiced my voice lessons in High School). I've spent the past 5 years working on pincha mayurasana  and am thrilled with even the tiniest improvement. (seriously- after all those years of practice I can now occasionally kick up without using the wall and squeal with glee every time.) Again, it's possible that if I put as much time into music as I put into yoga, well, we'll probably never know.

It's like being in the middle of writing a novel or short story. You wouldn't bring music into the plot at the beginning if you weren't going to come back to it some day... would you?

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


This post is dedicated to my friend Q who noticed I hadn't posted since February.  You can't put anything past her.

A few days back I referred to an animal as "someone" in conversation.  The fellow I was talking to called me out for anthropomorphizing. It got me thinking; why is it I refuse to refer to animals as "it?"

My partner recently took issue with my attributing feelings to a dog.  I immediately launched into a lecture about how all mammals have feelings- it's a characteristic of being a mammal because since mammals need to nurture their young after birth, they need to be attached to them. (Wikipedia says: "Emotions arise in the mammalian brain, or the limbic system, which human beings share in common with other mammals as well as many other species".)  Okay, I oversimplified to make a point, but nevertheless...'s my point.  The word anthropomorphizing refers to "attribution of human characteristics (or characteristics assumed to belong only to humans) to non-human animals." I believe it is over used.  Just because we do something (like feel pain) doesn't mean that non-human animals don't.  I mean, don't I have more in common with my dog than I do with a rock?  Why should I assume that every living being who is not a human is some kind of sophisticated robot- responding without thinking or feeling to stimulae?

Okay, when I accuse my dog of holding a grudge when I take her to the vet- that is anthropomorphizing.  I am projecting my own way of thinking and being onto someone whose brain and lived experience are substantially different than my own. (Here's a link to an awesome Radiolab that helps keep us anthropomorphizers honest).

But I believe there is an even bigger and more dangerous error- that of assuming that only humans can think and feel and want and share. There needs to be a word for this as well.  It-morphize? Thing-morphize? which could mean "attribution of non-living characteristics (or characteristics assumed to belong only to objects) to non-human animals."