Food for thought

(as opposed to thoughts about food …)

Came across these this morning … the first one is pretty general but nicely presented … http://www.ted.com/talks/roger_mcnamee_six_ways_to_save_the_internet.html
The second one is from one of my heroes, Larry Lessig, the founder of Creative Commons, which we should all support.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lessig_nyed.html

also http://www.ted.com/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_creativity.html

We live in a rapidly changing world (how’s that for an original observation!), and for my part I don’t think it’s a lot of use to pull the covers over one’s head and wish it would all go away. I have friends who are in denial about digital communications, the Web, and so on, and I must admit that a lot of the stuff that shows up on my facebook page I immediately delete—I really don’t want to know the intimate details of my friends’ day to day life, I have enough trouble managing my own. As for their friends and “friends” it gets even less important unless they are doing something important or creative.

So there …

Still, I’m always open to new things—for instance, as a guitar player I was raised in the Jazz world, and that’s always been my main focus, along with an enduring love of Brazilian and Latin music. YouTube opened my eyes (and more importantly, my ears) to other styles. I listen with fascination to players like Paul Gilbert, Steve Vai, and Joe Satriani—unbelievable dexterity and speed, yet always in the service of melody.

I used to play bass in an Afro-pop band, and became enamored of the great Soukous guitar masters. Flamenco, tapping techniques, effects, I love it all!

A guitar player who impresses me no end is John Scofield, who like myself is no respecter of musical boundaries or stereotypes. Every album is different—you can see why Miles Davis used him.

Well, that wandered around, didn’t it? One of those days …

More about writing …

Since my last entry, I’ve picked up four or five books, and had to stop reading after the first few pages. Why? Redundancies, information-stuffing, over-use of adverbs, characters addressing each other by name when they wouldn’t in real life, you name it …

Have I read anything good, you ask? (or not).

Well yes, I just shed a tear upon reaching the last page of a beautifully-written book by Gary Kamiya, entitled “Cool Gray City Of Love—49 views of San Francisco” (Bloomsbury USA, 2013). You know that feeling—”No, no, more, more …”

I won’t attempt to describe it, just go read it and let me know what you think.

For me, his writing is on a par with that of Craig Childs—like Childs, Kamiya draws you in by his exuberance and love for his subject. They both lead you to want to know more about their interests and enthusiasms, and in both cases you feel like you’re sitting down with them listening as they speak. I came across Childs www.houseofrain.com/while looking for books on Chaco Canyon Culture, after a trip there a couple of years ago. I found “House Of Rain,” and within six months had read everything of his I could find—how’s that for a recommendation?

I’m currently finishing up “Love Potion #10″, the second in the Jana Bibi canon, about an British woman living in an Indian hill town in the earlier 1960′s. Author Betsy Woodman www.betsywoodman.com has created a cast of characters living quiet but quirky lives in a backwater of the old British Raj. You won’t find deeds of derring-do or major earthshaking events, yet you come to care about her little town and its inhabitants as they deal with the 20th century at their door.

And finally for today, a book that deserves to be more widely read …
I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not a US citizen, although I’ve lived here since 1969 (sorry, guys, just never got around to it … ). At school in England we studied European history from 1815-1915—this was back in the 1950′s and we were still pretty much caught up in our own affairs! I really never learnt anything about the American Revolution, but lst year I happened upon the HBO special docudrama “John Adams”, and my interest was piqued. I subsequently read the book, then “1776″ by the same author, David McCullough. Looking for more background, I searched the shelves at the amazing little library on Bainbridge Island and found “The Unknown American Revolution—The unruly birth of democracy and the struggle to create America”, by Gary B. Nash (Viking, 2005).
Exceptionally detailed and researched, it tells a story that has been swept under the mat in history teaching today—the Founding Fathers, as a whole, were not very pleasant people, and frequent and fierce class, racial, religious and gender conflicts almost scuttled the American cause.
Nash tells the story dispassionately—he doesn’t have an agenda other than bringing the whole story to light.
If you ever felt your teachers weren’t telling you everything, or that your heroes were too good to be true, read this.
(If you’re looking for passion and controversy, you can’t do much better than “Lies My Teacher Told Me” by Professor James Loewen).

Okay, enough for now …!

The wonderful world of editing

Since I last put up the first few paragraphs of my detective novel, I’ve made some changes.

It’s a fascinating process, revising and pruning one’s own words. I’m used to doing it in composing music, of course, but this is different. What I didn’t expect was that my tolerance for sloppy writing in published works has diminished. Books that I would have plowed through happily a year ago now often find themselves on their way back to the library after only a chapter or two, if not a page or two …

Anyway, here for comparison the latest version of the same passage. The changes are subtle, but it seems to work better. Breaking up the first paragraph into separate lines lengthens the time span of the action …

CHAPTER ONE  (ORIGINAL)

The phone rang, breaking his concentration. Three times in as many minutes—what was wrong with leaving a message? He tried to ignore it, continuing to work his way down the page. Why couldn’t she answer it? Probably had the stereo on too loud …

Silence at last.

Then the muffled sounds of Cuban music rang out from under a pile of paper on the desk.

God dammit!

Tony put down his guitar pick and reached out to uncover his cell phone—he looked at the little screen and recognized the number. Of all the people he knew, why was he calling at this time?

“He knows I always practice in the morning, what’s so important?” he muttered, pressing the speak button.

“What’s up …?”

Tony had not slept well, and had woken up with a headache—as he walked to the kitchen he flexed his fingers and rotated his wrists, easing the stiffness in his hands.

“Oh man! are you getting old, or what?” he thought. He savored his first cup of the morning—tea, English, strong, with milk. Although he normally didn’t take sugar, he added a spoonful for energy. “It’s kinda cold this morning,” he said out loud, as if to validate the choice. He pressed the hot cup against his forehead in an effort to get some relief, then went to his studio, where he sat down on his stool and contemplated his daily practice routine—he had some new exercises to try out.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

CHAPTER ONE (REVISED)

The phone rang, breaking his concentration. Three times in as many minutes—what was wrong with leaving a message?

He tried to ignore it, continuing to work his way down the page.

It rang again.

Why couldn’t she answer it? Probably had the stereo on too loud …

Silence at last.

Then the muffled sounds of Cuban music rang out from under a pile of paper on the desk.

Goddammit!

Tony put down his guitar pick and reached out to excavate his cell phone—he looked at the little screen and recognized the number. Of all the people he knew, why was he calling at this time?

“He knows I always practice in the morning, what’s so important?” he muttered, pressing the speak button.

“What’s up …?”

Tony had not slept well, and had woken up with a headache—as he walked to the kitchen he flexed his fingers and rotated his wrists, easing the stiffness in his hands.

“Oh man! are you getting old, or what?” he thought. He savored his first cup of the day—tea, English, strong, with milk. Normally he didn’t take sugar, but this morning he added a spoonful for energy.

“It’s kinda cold out,” he said, in self-validation. He pressed the hot cup against his forehead in an effort to get some relief, then went to his studio, where he sat down on his stool and contemplated his daily practice routine—he had some new exercises to work on.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

R.I.P.

Two losses in one week—first, Nelson Mandela and then Jim Hall.

Mandela’s passing was to be expected given his age and health, of course, but nothing will ever diminish his stature and importance in the development of the human race to greater awareness and enlightenment.

Jim Hall pic

It was a great shock to hear about Jim—only 83, but playing as strongly as ever. It was said that he was not so much a great jazz guitarist as a great jazz musician who used the guitar. He always managed to surprise with his melodic and harmonic twists, and I often got the impression he even seemed to surprise himself!

I had the great pleasure of meeting Jim and chatting with him on a number of occasions when he was playing in Seattle at the Pioneer Banque, a forerunner of Jazz Alley (it was in the basement of the building on the NW corner of 1st and Yesler). He was very friendly and self-deprecating—one time I was telling him about a conversation I’d had with Barney Kessel. I had asked Barney (in my innocence!) why, as it seemed to me, that there was a whole school of great jazz guitarists influenced by Charlie Christian, and the next major change seemed to have come with Jimi Hendricks and the fusion players.

I wanted to know why there appeared to be no guitarists associated with the Miles Davis/John Coltrane period, did he think it had something to do with the harmonic set-up of the guitar not fitting that style, or what…he just looked at me and said “Jim Hall…”. At the time (this would have been in the mid to late ’70′s) I was only familiar with Jim’s work with Jimmy Giuffre (“The Train and The River”, etc.) Barney said something along the lines of “Go check him out, you’ll be surprised”

I came across the “Jim Hall Trio Live” album not long after, and my life changed…

The following year I told Jim about what Barney had said, and with a wry smile he said “Barney said that? Barney said something nice about somebody?”

I feel very sad knowing he is no longer with us, but at least there’s so much in his recorded work that we’ll never be at a loss for something fresh and inspiring.

Thank you Jim, for keeping us honest (and on our toes!)

A Book?

“You’re writing a book?”

Yes, how about that? It all started early one Sunday morning about a year ago—I was sitting in bed with a nice hot cup of tea (strong, English, with milk) and I cracked open a mystery by a writer who was new to me. After a couple of pages I thought to myself “Sh…, I can do better than this! But what should I write about?” Thinking it over, I decided to write a mystery based in the world of jazz music. After all, I was raised in that world, my parents took me to jazz clubs in England when I was a toddler—I remember sitting under the (raised!) lid of the grand piano, safely out of harm’s way from the stomping feet, my eyes pouring with tears from all the cigarette smoke. It was the late ’40’s, say no more!

Where was I…?

Oh yeah, so I thought about it for a bit, threw on a bathrobe and went down to the computer. It was about 10 AM… Next thing I knew it was 4 PM and I had finished the first chapter—here’s a snippet:

THE IONIAN INCIDENT (A MAJOR CATASTROPHE)

CHAPTER ONE

The phone rang, breaking his concentration. Three times in as many minutes—what was wrong with leaving a message? He tried to ignore it, continuing to work his way down the page.
Why couldn’t she answer it? Probably had the stereo on too loud…
Silence at last.
Then the muffled sounds of Cuban music rang out from under a pile of paper on the desk.
God dammit!
Tony reached out to uncover his cellphone—he looked at the little screen and recognized the number. Of all the people he knew, why was he calling at this time?
“He knows I always practice in the morning, what’s so important?” he muttered,  pressing the speak button.
“What’s up…?”

Tony had not slept too well, and had woken up with a slight headache—as he walked to the kitchen he flexed his fingers and rotated his wrists to ease the stiffness in his hands.
“Oh man! are you getting old, or what?” he thought. He savored his first cup of the morning—tea, English, strong, with milk. Although he normally didn’t take sugar, he added a dash for energy.
“It’s kinda cold this morning,” he said out loud, as if to validate the choice. He pressed the hot cup against his forehead in an effort to get some relief, sat down on his stool and contemplated his daily practice routine—he had some new exercises to try out.…