Archive for Music

Are We Comfortable Yet?

There is nothing quite so humbling as stepping on foreign soil and realizing that your self-assurance, built over decades, has dissolved—a reminder that when you leave the comfort of home, the security of family and friends, and cross into territory where language, culture, and daily activities are even slightly different, an element of insecurity rises to the surface. There’s no turning back; you’re on an adventure, so drink up. Prost!

M and I are here in Berlin for a month. It feels strange to be out of my comfort zone after living here for almost a decade—but that was 30 years ago. It’s odd that I didn’t feel the same on extended stays in Paris and Rome, but I guess I have higher expectations because of my history here. I should be at ease. I was never truly fluent but I had no trouble being understood or getting things done. I know the vocabulary’s in there and wants out, but for now it feels like a painful dental extraction when the clerk or cab driver stares at me and I can’t find the right word to complete the transaction. It reminds me of an experience in Spain with my son, Brent. He was 8, and I wanted him to be part of the adventure, so I gave him money to buy a Coke at a roadside cafe and told him how to ask for it in Spanish. He looked at me, paused for a minute and then said, “But what if they talk to me?” I know how he felt. Today, my German is so rusty I can’t quite get going, and while the rust is beginning to flake off it’s annoying, frustrating, and embarrassing that things don’t come more easily.

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Why Should You Care About This Man?

This is Garry Kasparov, a Grand Master and former World Chess Champion. Not only is he a master chess tactician, he is also a student of Vladimir Putin’s tactics. He knows Putin is a cagey, calculating, politically savvy, cold-blooded killer. He’s seen Putin’s enemies murdered – Alexander Litvinenko poisoned in London and opposition leader Boris Nemtsov shot four times in central Moscow days before the Russian election.

Kasparov’s is only one voice, but it’s worth listening to. What other voices should we be listening to in the acrimonious debate surrounding Russian interference in the American election? We need to know the truth, the Russian truth and the American truth. How do we go about identifying, sorting, and selecting from all the voices vying for attention ?

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Nashville: Skyline and All

“If you’re travelin’ in the north country fair

Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline

Remember me to one who lived there

For she was once a true love of mine.”

Both Bob Dylan and the Nashville skyline have changed since he wrote those words for the Nashville Skyline album in 1969. I loved the record (yes, it was a record in those days), and I loved his surprising shift from folk-protest to traditional country music including an off-pitch duet with Johnny Cash. Beyond that I didn’t know much about the city except that it was the home of the Grand Ole Opry. I had never been there and neither had M, but a chance meeting with a young couple at a Peter Cetera concert in Seattle got us thinking about a visit to their hometown. So, on impulse, with an Alaska Airlines companion ticket to burn, we booked the flight as just the right destination for an escape from our long wet winter in Seattle.

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Tears in Heaven…

M.C. Escher’s lithograph, Convex and Concave, 1955

In Franz Kafka’s short story Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa, the traveling salesman, wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a giant insect. The rest of the story deals with his attempt manage his new condition and explain it to his family.

In The Trial, Kafka’s Joseph K finds himself mysteriously on trial for no discernable reason.“Someone must have traduced Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.” Traduce is an arcane, seldom used verb, that means “to tell lies about someone so as to damage their reputation.” It should be in current usage, for sure.

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Timing is Everything…

IMG_4038

This came in the mail yesterday. It’s wildly misleading.

Well… I did pay my dues for 50 years. That must have been a factor. “Service” is another matter. Does it count if I only practiced (keyword) for 9 months?

Last week I noticed my old firm’s name roll by in the credits of Woody Allen’s latest film, Café Society. Yep, Loeb & Loeb is Woody’s legal counsel. How fitting. My experience at the firm was like something out of one of his films. On my first day, Goldie Cohen, a secretary for one of the senior partners, told me that as a goy I would never understand what was going on at L&L unless I knew a little  Yiddish. She offered to provide some informal tutoring, so whenever I passed her desk she offered up another Yiddish morsel. Meshuga, eh?

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