Monday, February 21, 2005

Show of the decades...

Our cruising group at the Encinal Yacht Club staged an incredibly successful Show of the Decades over the weekend.

the cast finale for the EYC show of the decades - more photos

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Another jazz project...

We’re supposed to love the music we grew up with. My mother loved opera and the classics. Her father was a voice teacher and one of the founders of the San Francisco Opera Company. My father loved jazz from the twenties and thirties, played drums, and put together a dance combo to play on the S.S. Yale, which steamed a passenger route on the Pacific Coast from Los Angeles to Seattle during the 1920s and early 1930s.

My ear never tuned into opera, though I like some classical music. My fondest memories are of my father carefully playing his 78’s on the flattop console Victrola. I really enjoyed evenings listening to Jelly Roll Morton, Will Bradley, and Benny Goodman’s jazz. Who couldn’t love the rhythms, the subtleties of Lionel Hampton and Teddy Wilson? Sure, I loved the rock and roll of the fifties and sixties, but I loved the swing/jazz of my father’s generation more.

Not surprising, then, that this is the sort of stuff I’m playing. And the old Victrola is in the garage, begging to be pulled out, oiled, polished, and allowed to make music again. I think I just found another project....

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Parents and education...

I've long thought that one of the greatest problems with public school education is that parents have dropped the ball when it comes to insisting their children work at learning. Generally, I think parents do a pretty good job through elementary school, but, when their kids get into middle school and high school, too many parents seem to think their kids will work hard without their standing behind them. Moreover, the parents who do care and participate seem to be among the first to blame the public schools for failing and send their kids (and dollars) to private schools.

"When High Schools Try Getting Touch, Parents Fight Back," an article in the Wall Street Journal, seems to confirm this. When students at some schools did not do well on a senior project requiring an eight page paper (only eight pages), and oral report, and creation of some "related" activity, parents didn't get upset with their children; they blamed the school for requiring such demanding projects. Oy vey! This is a tiny project. Eight pages is nothing! An oral report and some small, related activity! Parents should be pushing their kids to succeed, not supporting their failures by attacking the schools and teachers.

We spend much too much time in our society blaming teachers and schools for the failures of our children. If parents don't push their kids and discipline them to work hard in school, if the parents who do push their kids end up pulling them out of public schools to send them to private schools, if no one wants to pay the taxes necessary to support high quality public schools, then we deserve what we've got. We spend lots of energy wringing our hands over test scores, the perception that teachers are ineffective, and "failing" schools. But, in the end, parents, the buck stops with you. You and the rest of society get what you work for, pay for, and expect from your children!

Friday, February 04, 2005

Article 19 plays swing/jazz...

Article 19, the new swing/jazz band headed up by Jim Williams and comprised of top rate bay area musicians, plays swing and jazz standards from Duke Ellington's I've got it bad and Count Basie’s Shiny Stockings to Charlie Parker's Yardbird Suite and the Blues Brothers’ Sweet Home Chicago.

Article 19 is now appearing from 7:30-10:30 pm every Thursday night at Monte Carlo, the new European flavored restaurant & night club at 228 Castro Street, Mountain View (650-988-1500). Bring an appetite for great continental food and your dancing shoes and join Article 19 for an evening of good jazz music.

Article 19 - jim williams (piano), ed sandoval (drums), dave kawamoto (sax
& clarinet), dave lario (bass) - more photos

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

On political courage...

Courage is a hard thing for politicians. We wish they could rise above chasing the polls and worrying always about “fooling all of the people, all of the time.” But, the search for one who can rise above the ordinary, who really paid attention to Lincoln’s words and can live them, seems inevitably disappointing. It’s particularly disappointing when a seemingly pure public leader emerges, one who promises they are really not just another politician but then, mesmerized by political power, become precisely what they claimed to oppose.

Lately, Republican leaders seem to be the prime exhibits of this. Perhaps enough has been said about George Bush – remember “compassionate conservatism?” Despite being reelected, he started tumbling off his pedestal before 9/11, war, and fear-mongering gave him staying power. Now it’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, California’s white knight, who is stumbling. First, it was his pledge not to take money from “special interests,” which quickly was buried beneath the $33 million he raised in 2004. Now, it’s his promise to “protect our state’s most vulnerable children and families,” which is collapsing under his fiscal conservatism, as he trims child-care funding and keeps public education funding on a downward path. Elected as a popular moderate, he’s behaving like an on-the-take politician, and he's wrapped himself in anti-tax ideology.

Meanwhile, the people are becoming wary of being fooled. George’s popularity continues to slide, although as long as he's got fear on his side, he’ll have temporary upswings along the way. And, now Arnold’s sky-high approval ratings are waning. What's truly amazing is that serious business people are becoming vocal about their concerns over the rising national debt, and Californians, by almost 70 percent, are actually starting to ask for higher taxes. Term limits will ultimately do both George and Arnold in, but meanwhile the people actually seem to be getting a hold of the old no-free-lunch adage. My fingers are crossed. In the face of it, is there a chance our leaders could actually be encouraged to find some courage and start behaving like leaders? Well, I know, it's a rhetorical question.

I'm grateful to fellow mariner, Mike Chambreau, for pointing me to H. L. Mencken's 1920 observation that "The presidency tends, year by year, to go to such [empty-headed] men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts' desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."