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centeringI had a quick question which I’d like to ask:
if you don’t mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing.
I have had a hard time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there.
I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or hints? Thanks!

First it helps to know what you want to write about. Read the rest of this entry »

The verb “to orient” means “to align or position (something) relative to the points of a compass or other specified positions” But it also refers to finding “one’s position in relation to new and strange surroundings.”

The derivation of the term Orient comes from the Latin word for east. While a 20th century definition would suggest Asia, or especially the eastern countries there such as China, Japan, and Korea, “the original East-West (or Orient-Occident) line in the Roman Empire was the Italian Peninsula’s East Coast.” As the definition moved eastward, the area in western Asia eventually became the Near East or Middle East, with China, et al becoming the Far East.

Probably the most famous train in the world is the Orient Express, the “name of a long-distance passenger train service created in 1883 by Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL)….Several routes in the past concurrently used the Orient Express name, or slight variants there of… The name has become synonymous with intrigue and luxury travel. The two city names most prominently associated with the Orient Express are Paris and Constantinople (Istanbul), the original endpoints of the timetabled service.”

The push back against the term Orient is that it is Eurocentric. Some believe the term “Oriental” suggested to them “passivity”, based on portrayals of people in media. A practitioner of Oriental medicine asks, “Is it racist?

When Oriental was official banned in New York State in 2009, Frank H. Wu, a law professor at Howard University, said, “The world ‘Oriental’ is not inherently negative. It’s associated with a time period when Asians had a subordinate status.” He said “the term was associated with exoticism and with old stereotypes of geisha girls and emasculated men… ‘Oriental’ is like the word ‘Negro.’ It conjures up an era.”

“By the strictest definition, Oriental rugs are carpets hand knotted only in Asia. Iran, China, India, Russia, Turkey, Pakistan, Tibet and Nepal are some of the biggest rug exporters. Persian rugs also are Oriental rugs but they are made only in Iran (formerly known as Persia).”

We go to the theater a fair amount, but the first half of April 2017 was quite the outlier.

Sunday, April 2: The Little Mermaid – Catskill High School (three of us)

One of my nieces was in her fifth production, and the three of us have seen them all. This was her largest role yet, playing Flounder. She was quite good, actually, and I say this not out of familial loyalty.

In general the girls were better singers than the boys. Ariel’s sisters were fine as were Ursula’s assistants. But the hits were Sebastian (Edward Donahue), Ariel (Ade Spencer) and especially Ursula (Anna White).

Thursday, April 6: The Sound of Music – Proctors Theatre, Schenectady (three of us)

Proctors has had Broadway-quality productions for a number of years, and this was no exception. The trick with the musical is that the movie is so imprinted in the brain. My Favorite Thing is sung at the abbey, Do-Re-Mi at the Trapp villa, and The Lonely Goatherd in Maria’s bedroom, when she calms the children freaked out by the thunderstorm.

While the two leads (Charlotte Maltby, Nicholas Rodriguez) are fine, and the children are amazingly good, the largest applause went to Melody Betts as Mother Superior after she sang Climb Ev’ry Mountain.

We bought tickets for next season’s shows, including Fun Home, The Color Purple, Finding Neverland and On Your Feet! (the Gloria Estafan story). Buying a subscription THIS year will mean getting dibs on buying toicxkets for Hamilton in 2018-2019.

(Only somewhat off topic: Alison Bechdel is Vermont’s cartoonist laureate. She created Fun Home.)

Saturday, April 8, 2017: They Built America: The Workers of the Erie Canal – local school (two of us)

This is a Capital Rep show commemorating the 200th anniversary of the groundbreaking of the engineering feat that went from Albany to Buffalo. “Meet the real men, women and children, the politicians, farmers, merchants and laborers who…[built] the Erie Canal.” There are four actors, and three of them, the two men and one of the women, play multiple parts. It was quite good, about an hour long and suitable for children.

The Daughter should have come.

Sunday, April 9: Oliver! – Albany High School (two of us)

This was, aside from some occasional sound problems, extraordinarily good. I was’t familiar with the story, though I sang Consider Yourself in glee club in high school. It’s a dark, sordid, violent tale.

The standout were the terrifying Bill Sykes (Ackazemas Myers), the show-stopping singer Nancy (Williemae Fiddemon), and the shifty Fagen (Raphael Cohen), who had a fun bit with the violinist in the orchestra. Oliver was played by sixth-grader Hassan Laing who was good, but occasionally miked badly.

Saturday, April 15: Beautiful: the Carole King Story – Proctors Theatre, Schenectady (two of us)

I saw this on the calendar months ago and said, Who scheduled this for Holy Week?” It’s only on the Wednesday through Sunday. I have to sing or rehearse or travel the other days. Based on the packed house for this matinee, many folks wee in the same boat.

Just from casual conversation with the folks around the Wife and me, it was clear that almost everyone knew the Tapestry album from 1971 but few were familiar with the songwriting of Carole King (the wonderful Julia Knitel) with husband Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin) well before that, competing to get their songs pitched to the right singer or group that might make their songs #1.

As Greg Haymes noted in Nippertown: “‘Beautiful’ could have easily been nothing more than another cliched jukebox musical gathering together the hits by songwriters of the Brill Building era, i.e., ‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’ (Leiber and Stoller) or ‘Leader of the Pack’ (Ellie Greenwich). But thanks to some smart, comic dialogue by Douglas McGrath, deft direction by Marc Bruni and strong, all-around performances by the cast, ‘Beautiful’ is a snappy musical that rises above the level of the usual jukebox musical expectations.

“But it’s not all about King, and the title of the show is something of a misnomer. The secondary couple – portraying the songwriting team of Cynthia Weil (Erika Olson) and Barry Mann (Ben Fankhauser) – and their music is crucial.”

Yes, it wasn’t just a Kingfest, as the early “1650 Broadway Medley” had songs from Neil Sedaka (singer of “Oh, Carol”), Leiber and Stoller, Phil Spector and many others. The Mann/Weil hit You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling was a standout.

But Act 2 belonged to the former Carole Klein. I LOVED this show.

As I’ve mentioned before, when my sister Leslie and I were in high school in Binghamton, NY, we somehow had the opportunity to visit an eighth-grade class in suburban Vestal. It was only a few miles from the county seat, but, in the late 1960s, it was a cultural canyon.

What was amazing about this group was that they put out an album of classical and popular music. And one of the pieces was Hallelujah, from Christ on the Mount of Olives, Opus 85, an oratorio by Beethoven. They were rather good, as I recall. Where IS that LP?

From the Wikipedia: “[The oratorio] was begun in the fall of 1802… The libretto in German is by the poet Franz Xaver Huber, editor of the Wiener Zeitung, with whom Beethoven worked closely. It was written in a very short period; in a letter to Breitkopf & Härtel written shortly after the oratorio’s completion, Beethoven spoke of having written it in ‘a few weeks,’ although he later claimed that the piece required no more than 14 days to complete. It was first performed on April 5, 1803 at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna; in 1811, it was revised by Beethoven for publication by Breitkopf & Härtel. The 10 years that passed between the composition of the work and its publication resulted in its being assigned a relatively high opus number.”

While the piece as a whole has had mixed response, including from the composer himself, “the “Welten singen…” finale chorus has enjoyed some popularity on its own.

And I’ve been singing it, off and on for about a half century myself, including this very day. There’s a surprise chord about 30 seconds before the end which is always my favorite.

LISTEN: to Hallelujah:

Mormon Tabernacle Choir

William Baker Festival Singers, Guest Singers from Area Parish Choirs, and Symphony Orchestra

Chancel Choir; Scott Dean, director; Wayne Slater, organist. June 12, 2016

HAPPY EASTER!

I’ve been reading a book by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Anthony Walton called Brothers in Arms, about a black tank battalion during World War II. It’s one of several books he has written, and I would have probably finished this one by now except I became ill.

During the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 2016, Abdul-Jabbar was one of the speakers. Someone I vaguely knew commented to another, “I thought he was just another dumb jock,” expressing surprise at how intelligent and articulate he was. Being familiar with his background, I was bemused.

He has been an eloquent spokesperson for his faith ever since he converted to Islam and changed his name from Lew Alcindor in 1971. From Wikipedia: “Abdul-Jabbar has been a regular contributor to discussions about issues of race and religion, among other topics, in national magazines and on television… In November 2014, Abdul-Jabbar published an essay in Jacobin magazine calling for just compensation for college athletes, writing, ‘in the name of fairness, we must bring an end to the indentured servitude of college athletes and start paying them what they are worth.'” In 2012, he was selected by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be a U.S. global cultural ambassador.

But I cannot forget the basketball prowess. Even as a kid in upstate New York, I read about him as a 6-foot, 8-inch player, leading the “Power Memorial team to three straight New York City Catholic championships, a 71-game winning streak, and a 79–2 overall record.”

Then “from 1967–69, he played under coach John Wooden, contributing to [UCLA’s] three-year record of 88 wins and only two losses… During his college career, Alcindor was twice named Player of the Year (1967, 1969); was a three-time First Team All-American (1967–69); and played on three NCAA basketball champion teams (1967, 1968 and 1969).

As a pro: “Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points and won a league-record six MVP awards. He collected six championship rings,… a record nineteen NBA All-Star call-ups and averaging 24.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.6 blocks per game… He is also the third all-time in registered blocks (3,189), which is even more impressive because this stat had not been recorded until the fourth year of his career (1974).

“In 2015, ESPN named Abdul-Jabbar the best center in NBA history, and ranked him No. 2 behind Michael Jordan among the greatest NBA players ever. While Jordan’s shots were enthralling and considered unfathomable, Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook appeared automatic, and he himself called the shot ‘unsexy.'”

Beyond all that, Kareem appeared in one of my favorite comedies, Airplane, where he played Roger Murdock; great first name, that. And the role has affected his real life.

Kareem was the celebrity JEOPARDY! champion on the episode that aired Friday, November 6, 1998. Why on earth would I know that without looking? Because my JEOPARDY! victory was Monday, November 9, 1998.

In 2016, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.Kareem Abdul-Jabbar turns 70 on April 16.

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