All posts by Chris

Zach’s Dad

sea change?

I was up in the Loge talking to Hal last night, about 5 minutes into intermission for the Symphony’s Holiday Soul show, when a huge cheer went up on the main floor. The people I could see on the main floor were looking to the rear of the hall so I thought perhaps one of the stars of the show had come into the auditorium for some reason.

Holiday Soul is this years’ version of a show the Symphony has put on for many years to reach out to the black community. It used to be called Colors of Christmas, featuring Peabo Bryson. This year we have CeCe Winans and Edwin Hawkins. It’s more overtly religious than Colors used to be.

The point is that the audience was predominantly black. What they were cheering, it turned out, was the news that the Democrat, Doug Jones, had been declared the winner in the special election for the Alabama Senate seat.

Jones’ Republican opponent, Roy Moore, was a problematic candidate already. Among other things, he essentially advocated that Christianity should be the state religion. Then, a few weeks ago, he was accused by multiple women of inappropriate sexual behavior when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Many Republican leaders said that Moore should quit the race, but some, including President Trump, continued to support him.

Polls up to last weekend showed Moore with a slim lead but the voters of Alabama evidently decided enough is enough.

Jones is the first Alabama Democrat to be elected to national office in a long time. I am hopeful that his election signals the awakening by the American people to the hijacking of their government by ultra-conservatives. The resignation after similar revelations of Minnesota Democrat Al Franken last week was disappointing to me but I thought last night that perhaps his taking the high road can spur Trump to come clean on his inappropriate sexual past.

A couple of weeks ago, when the Republicans in the Senate passed their tax ‘reform’ bill, I was struck by the difference between these Senators and the ones in John Kennedy’s book Profiles in Courage. Profiles in cowardice is more apt today.

OK, enough. Make sure you vote, people. It’s not much, but it’s all we’ve got. And it does make a difference.

Robin’s celebration

I attended the celebration of the ‘life and work’ of Robin Gray last night. The only people I really wanted to see were Kris and Susie but Susie was busy as a kind of a host – it was in her theater – and by the time I got to Kris, it was near the end and she was tired. I was tired. The trip from Pacifica in the afternoon had taken me almost exactly three hours door to door. By contrast, that evening I got home in an hour and 50 minutes including a stop at the grocery store and a stop for gas.

Of the several former colleagues I spoke to, only a couple were people I would like to see again. The conversations were almost exclusively about work. When I mentioned to Kris that I would try to get up to see her at home, she instantly said, ‘No Local 50 talk. We’ve had enough of that for a lifetime.’ I readily agreed.

That was all later. At the service proper, I heard some good stories about Robin but my favorite part was a video that someone had gotten from an appearance she made in front of some theater students. Her inimitable style was in full flower: profane and funny, underpinned with a complete professionalism. I will say that she embodied what I love best about being in the theatre: ready and able to deal with almost any situation, yet never losing sight of the basic goal of touching people emotionally.

‘Band of brothers’ is the phrase that comes to mind but that’s not right since there are many women in theatre. The phrase is also associated with men killing other men, but the idea of a small group of people doing a task that no one outside the group can really understand appeals to me. Robin was a leader in a band of theatre people. It’s a group I am proud to be part of.

I’ve encouraged people many times since the death of Zach to treasure the good things they have while they can. While I regret not understanding better at the time what a treasure Robin was, I treasure the memories I have.

SoundBox

Another SoundBox is in the history books. (Or what ever history is kept in nowadays.) We did our two shows Friday night and last night. The theme was family connections and we heard sons and daughters of Symphony musicians playing with each other in various short pieces. Despite – or perhaps because of – that theme, the selections were generally excerpts so musically it wasn’t as interesting as other shows have been.

The one exception was the only piece in the 2nd Act. It was called Sketches of Kazakhstan by Samuel Post. One of the members of the second violin section, Raushan Akhmedyarova, was born in Kazakhstan and her father was a famous musician and composer there. Mr Post took some of Raushan’s father’s themes and expanded them into a very nice piece about 20 minutes long for chamber orchestra.

In SoundBox, I have several responsibilities. One is to set the room acoustic for each piece with the Constellation system. I always try to involve the musicians and artistic staff in this but I also have my own ideas. I have found that it is tempting to put more ‘reverb’ into everything just because we can. In the case of Sketches, the original setting we tried was a preset designed for small string orchestra. As the piece was being rehearsed, though, I felt that a dryer sound would allow the individual instruments, and particularly Raushan’s solo violin, to be heard better. I was very pleased to carry the day on this. I thought it was the highlight of the program.

Simply put, each preset is made up of 5 acoustic parameters. Constellation users can choose among a wide range of settings for each parameter. A relatively small number of presets were created when we first received the system for general, non-SoundBox, use. I am not against using a generic preset if it sounds good, but probably 90% of the pieces presented at SoundBox over the 3+ years we’ve been doing it have been customized for the exact music being played.

The last piece on this month’s program was a father and son affair. Steve Paulson is the Symphony’s principal bassoon. His son, Greg, is a guitarist in a ‘progressive death metal’ band called Arkaik. Greg’s piece was a six minute track of slammed guitars and drums which he and Steve played off of. It was all written out. there was no improvisation. Greg had a seven string guitar through a Marshall cabinet that, oddly, was hard to hear. Steve had a contact mic on his bassoon that I ran through the overhead speakers. Playing back the track was my responsibility, as was setting up the links between my system and the lighting and video systems so everything played in sync. Greg certainly has fast fingers!

After the last three years in which we had a SoundBox set every month from December to April, we are down to only three this season. Our next one is in February and the last will be in April. the room is in use by the Opera from May to November so putting on SoundBox during that time is not possible. Those of us on the Local 16 operating crew understand how expensive it is to put on but we enjoy doing it and look forward to participating in future sets.

In-N-Out Burger

I can’t believe that In-N-Out isn’t a subject I’ve written about before. I don’t see it on my tag list, so I guess I haven’t.

In-N-Out Burger was one of Zach’s favorite places to eat in California. Every time he came to town it was the first place we went to, often even before going home. There is an In-N-Out in Millbrae not five minutes from the airport that became our regular first stop after I moved to Pacifica.

Rose likes In-N-Out too so we go there two or three times a year. Zach is always near to our minds at In-N-Out.

I got off work at five today and was headed home on BART when I started thinking about dinner. I wasn’t thinking specifically of Zach, but the idea of going to In-N-Out came to me and doing it on Zach’s birthday seemed appropriate. I texted Rose and she agreed.

Rose has a story about Zach at In-N-Out that I love but I never seem to get the details right. I don’t want to ruin it by telling it wrong here. I’ll get it from her again one of these days and write it down and tell it properly. Happy Birthday Zach!

Zach’s birthday

Zach would have been 29 today. We probably would have talked on the phone. His doctorate would have been finished. He would either have a job somewhere or he’d be working on a post-doc somewhere else. He would have most likely not been in California or anywhere on the West Coast. I think I say that because the programs he looked at for the doctorate were in the east or mid-west. Also, Emily was in Illinois so that would have been a pull.

I stalled out on my project of posting excerpts from his journals on a given day. I was getting close to the end of them and I lost heart. There is one I found from 2014 on his birthday, though. It shows Zach at his unsentimental best starting out an entry. (It goes on, BTW, but this is all I’m posting today.)

I was in a good mood and then decided to drink coffee, which was probably unnecessary but since it’s my bday, I get to do things like that.  LOL, I hate that attitude.

But with there not a ton of actually pressing things on my plate (minus a stats final on Tuesday that I should really study for but can’t take seriously anymore), I felt like spending time in here.  I always feel like I’m going to sit down and bust out some incredible stuff in here but then it turns into something more rigid and much less poetic than I imagine in my head.  So it goes.

Happy Birthday, Zach. I love you, son.

low

Thursday morning, I had an idea for a nice post. I took my laundry down to the laundry room and the sun was coming in low through the foliage in our little central patio/garden. It was very pretty. When I got back upstairs, I sat at the computer to write, but I saw I had a bunch of emails. I looked through those and answered a couple and the moment was gone. I slid into FaceBook and the news of the thievery in the Senate and the sunshine meant nothing any more.

I had been thinking I would go down to Mom and Dad’s later and stay overnight but I found myself sinking further and further into torpor. I tried to come back to write, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t pick up the phone to call anyone. Eventually, I got out to the mall where I wandered around – hardly anyone was there – looking at stuff I wasn’t interested in. I had some vague idea I could do some Christmas shopping. I did get a couple of things at the drugstore and got to the grocery store.

At home about 6 pm, I ate several bowls of sugar cereal for dinner and went to bed.

Friday was much the same, only I never went out. I checked FaceBook, played solitaire, worked on the jigsaw puzzle, actually read some real books (oh, I got to the library Thursday). In the evening, I saw Rose was home so I went over to talk to her. She was working on some Christmas decorations and had a kind of technical problem so I gave her some ideas and then some tools (skinny pliers). Somehow that made me feel better. I ate a decent dinner and again went to bed early, about 8.

Today brought the news that the Senate actually passed that abomination of ‘tax reform’ but I feel a little better. Better enough to write.

It’s interesting. I want to write deep, important thoughts, but often when I’m thinking those thoughts, I don’t want to sit at the computer. Certainly the last two days were like that.

I’ve got the day off so I will try to get back to my sunny thoughts of Thursday morning and share them with you.

another blog

Ashley posted a link on FaceBook for a college friend of hers. She had a blog starting in 2010. It has the listing of post dates right at the top of the front page so I could see that. I could also see that there were no entries from April 2014 to July of 2017. Part of the reason is that Ashley’s friend developed a tumor on her brain stem. I’ve spent much of this morning looking through her blog and I see that her condition has gone from bad to worse. Her husband has been writing the posts for the last few months because chemo has completely sapped her strength.

It’s all an object lesson for us to treasure the good things we have when we have them.

Best of luck, Jordan and Brack. I’m not a praying person but I am putting positive energy into the cosmos for you.

Here’s the link.

Giving Tuesday

So after two weeks – or more – of ‘Black Friday’ sales, ‘Small Business Saturday’, and ‘Cyber Monday’, now we have ‘Giving Tuesday’. What was Sunday? I suppose ‘NFL Sunday’ is unnecessarily redundant in the fall. Maybe there was something else I forgot. ‘Support the Troops Sunday’? As if an enormous percentage of my taxes doesn’t already go to ‘Troops’. The football coaches are all wearing camo and other military-themed stuff. Sheesh!

Where does this stuff get started? ‘Throwback Thursday’ is a thing on FaceBook. Now there is a thing where you’re supposed to post seven days of black and white pictures. Who makes black and white pictures any more? I don’t look at them on principle.

Today FaceBook is choked with appeals from – mostly worthy, IMO – organizations for donations because it’s ‘Giving Tuesday’. Is it a guilt trip for people who spent a lot of money on stupid consumer goods all weekend? I just don’t know.

I know I didn’t spend any money on consumer goods this weekend (unless you count groceries) so I kind of resent the guilt trip. I give when I can to organizations that, in general, don’t send me appeals all the time. I’ve been writing checks and sending them in the mail more because I noticed that there are now intermediary organizations on the Internet that facilitate donations in return for a fee. Then they hold your money for ’60 to 75 days’ (Network for Good). No thanks. I’ll write a check.

where is god?

I was half – ok, about 10% – watching football today while at work. Running a straight symphony show is pretty straightforward. Pay attention to a few critical things and everything is usually ok. That said, even if I had the time I can’t watch football seriously anymore. Hell, I can’t even watch baseball seriously anymore and I like baseball.

Anyway, I happened to see the kicker right after he kicked a field goal (or something). The looked up and pointed his finger to the sky. Now I am reading into this but I think I’m on solid ground. I’ve seen this type of thing many times in the last few years, in all sports, and even seen it explained. He’s thanking god for his successful performance.

So I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if the successful sports person recognized that god is everywhere and pointed to the ground to thank god. Or even something like, ‘Mother Earth, you rock!”

Yeah, I know, It’ll never happen.

(Why do I capitalize Mother Earth but not god? I don’t know. Just perverse I guess. Don’t tell me god will be pissed that s/he isn’t respected. Puhleeze.)

thanks

Giving thanks is all the rage this week. This post is not about that. There is a lot that I’m grateful for but what I want to say today is simply ‘Thanks!’ to you, my readers.

I used to stress over no one commenting on my posts but recently several people have commented to me in person about something or other that I wrote about. That means more than I can say.

I read what was characterized as a blog post today. I say characterized because it was the blog of the Paris Review. Pretty big time, IMO. And I don’t know why I started reading it because it was mostly about the films of Woody Allen, who I don’t really care about. But about halfway through, it morphed into a polemic about how people who create great art are ‘monstrous’. And the author, a woman, was unsparing of herself in the description. I thought it was very interesting. She said, basically, that in order to create art, the artist has to leave behind norms and be selfish. It struck a chord with me because I wonder a lot about how to partition the various parts of my life, and whether the effort of writing is worth anything.

So, for me, any indication that anyone is reading these words is valuable. Thank you, dear reader. I will go one writing. I hope you continue reading.

Here’s the link to the Paris Review blog entry.