Monday, December 21, 2009


Winter solstice has been celebrated by cultures all over the world for thousands of years and is of course the main reason that Christmas is celebrated at this time of year. The main motivation was the need for light at the darkest time of the year; the need to affirm life in the presence of nature's cyclical death. The main means was to party 'til you drop; dissipation was the order of the day and the season (see: Roman saturnalia). Still is, in a way: We need to party to keep the dark at bay and to forget all the money we're spending at this time of year. At least I do. And part of the reason we party and spend money is that we want to do anything we can to forget what this time of year represents: death.

We don't like to think about that and look for reasons that death exists by first of all wishing it didn't. But it does, and my long-time friend Larry Meredith has come up with a handle on it that moved me profoundly when I read it in his Christmas letter. That handle was hard to grasp at first reading; I thought he was paraphrasing the old 'life wouldn't mean as much if it went on forever' theme. He wasn't, though. It is much more than that. Here it is:

On Sunday morning, [we] gathered to remember those who had passed into the final adventure. It was a profound moment as we lifted up those who were no more. In gratitude and sadness we touched the inevitable dis-union. We faced death as the moral equivalent of the speed of light. We celebrated life, but we all sensed that death is the insistent measure of that life, its container, the marker of the edge of our universe, the quiet auditor of our precious gift of time.

I am utterly incapable of coming up with something like that and stand in awe of those who can. I thought it needed to go beyond Larry's friends and to a few of mine, however few there may be who read these digital pages.

Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas to all of you.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Been fairly professionally busy for once since the last posting. For one thing, am enjoying our small Episcopal choir that is improving weekly, I think--incrementally, but improving. I really enjoy the people. The sopranos chewing and grinning at [i] vowels, especially up high, still present problems but we are working on it slowly. Other vowels are improving immensely as is breath control.


Went to the third NCCO conference at Yale. Never been to Yale: home of most of the early recruits for the beginning of Dulles's CIA; home of the Whiffenpoofs; home of the Legacy education of the troglodyte Shrub; home of damned fine music making and scholarship. Was great to see Aya Ueda, who got her Master's there and is more of a feather in their cap than Shrub. Was also great to see and have dinner with USC alums Buddy James, Lisa Graham, James Kim (whose ensemble gave a stellar performance), Charley Jurgensmeier, Keith Whitlock and TJ Harper. Also saw Hugh Davies and too many colleagues from around the country to remember. Bill Bausano got an Honorary Life Membership for being the organization's Godfather.


Closer to home, took a rehearsal of Erin's fine community chamber choir and had loads of fun with them, i.e., they laughed at all my jokes and worked very hard. Days later, started rehearsals with the First Ever UAH High School Honor Choir of 45 local kids. After the first eight seconds of Mozart Regina Coeli, wanted to go home and hide my head but couldn't because Erin is my wife and I had seven hours, fifty-nine minutes and fifty-two seconds of rehearsal to go. Sigh.

In the end, amidst much of my sweat and hair on the floor, the kids pretty much came through in a somewhat difficult program--even the Trash was a bit tricky. The main thing is that the kids enjoyed it and second, Erin scored some points with colleagues and local teachers. I got a lousy $37.50/hour, for which I am grateful because it was more than I expected. Following the Honor Choir, Erin's group gave a spectacular performance for the full house. She is doing truly great work here. The kids love her to death; colleagues respect her, one only grudgingly but that's normal.

So then to some Bama conference in Tuscaloosa come January, and finally to Memphis for ACDA southern division in March. Then no more. Enough with this Conference Ca-Ca for a while; it costs beaucoup bucks and you can't really get anywhere from here if you fly. We'll drive to Memphis.

So professionally, I'm really looking forward to working with that fine Taipei chorus and maybe a few good conductors at the Varna workshop in Bulgaria. Also looking forward to New Years in Green Bay; we can't leave until Xmas Day because of my church job. Sicut erat in principio . . .

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

NewYear'sDay III

College football season officially begins Saturday. It seems like forever since January. Jeez.


Since I wrote the above sentence, a few things have happened, including attendance last night at the Titans/Packers pre-season game in Nashville. We went with Ian Loeppke and his new wohman, Dana, who got great tickets in the top tier on the 50-yard line. I could see pass patterns opening up before the TV crews did. Was fun. Titans have one helluva fine rookie receiver who caught two TDs from Vince Young against the second string GB secondary. We left in the fourth quarter with the score at 27-10, Titans, in a game that didn't count, just lined the pockets of Titans management. At least the city of GB gets the money, not some rich guy with too much money and time on his hands. Gotta love 'em for that, at least. GB QB Rodgers played only one series. Ho hum.

(Oh, and 'ah ite ree-ubs' in the downtown Music Alley right across from Ernest Tubbs' shop. Parked the car right next to the Grand Ole Opry, which my Dad and his buddy Charlie used to watch religiously when I was a lad).

Funny, I lived in SoCal for 30 years of my life and only went to one Rams game in all that time. Lived 20 years in NoCal and only went to one 49ers game. Lived here a little over a year and have already been to two Packers games. (Think my GB wife and her family have something to do with that? She's a rabid fan, actually, and has Brett Favre at the top of her s**** list for going over to the hated Vikings).

But have been to plenty of UCLA and USC games in that half century, plus a boatload of UOP games in Stockton while I lived there; often took the girls, who left me immediately after kickoff and cruised for friends and boys. Sigh. I tried. But they turned out more than OK otherwise.

Fight on, Trojans; Go, Bears and Bruins; kick non-conference butt, Pac-10. I hate the corruption and exploitation of college ball, but I do so love the sport, God help (and forgive) me.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Wow, that was fun.

We were a great quartet on the road through France (Alsace), Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. We majored in Munich and I think the other three are glad we did: had to major in something during the 12 days, might as well be Munich, thought I. Biggest hit there was the Viktualien Markt behind the Marienplatz: all manner of exotic food stalls and a biergarten. Well . . . Hofbraühaus was fun for all, too (I've managed to outgrow my innate snobbishness, but I did take them to a less well known beer hall first. Just to make sure . . . ). Only problem was that Erin and I seemed to be the only ones who knew words and tune to "Ein prosit . ." which the band played every twenty minutes--too damned many touring furrigners . . .

Biggest surprise to start with was an upgrade on the car from a Beemer 5 Series wagon to the Beemer X5 SUV with inline 6 turbo-diesel and an incredible navigation system. It held all of our luggage with even a little room to see out the back window and was very comfortable, even in the back seat. And did that sucker scoot: Gene got it up to 220 kph with pedal room left, but it seemed that every time I drove it there was either rain or a lot of construction so I only got to get it to 180. Sigh. Such travails.

Oh. And we did eat, drink and make merry, the highlight of which was a great Italian restaurant in Munich where we could watch the cook and sous chef work and listen to them holler at the waiters, the customers (all of whom seemed to be Italian) and each other. The chef/owner forced some very smooth grappa down my gullet for free during one of his smoke breaks at an outside table: he and his son-in-law thought I was the best American they'd ever met because I could speak both German and Italian. They may be right. The Colwitz's and I went through three bottles of wine and a dessert shot of grappa each. I had the worst hangover of the bunch the next morning. Groan. I'm back to asceticism, thank goodness.

So that's the important stuff to us guys: cars and food. Gene even liked the Munich beer and now he knows where Wisconsin got its brats. The unimportant lady piffle wasn't bad, either--city tours, quaint walled cities, experiencing the best social democracies outside of Scandinavia, museums, shopping for Bohemian crystal in CZ, and Munich's smooth, fast rapid transit. The highlight of the tour was High Mass on Pentecost Sunday at St. Stephens in Vienna. The resident Cardinal officiated, the chorus and professional orchestra did Haydn's Harmonie Messe (damned well, by the way), the air was suffused with smells and bells and the place was SRO (Pentecost is a big deal in Europe). All in all a real cultural thrill for the three Catholic Colwitz's and even for this lapsed Lutheran. Also in Vienna, it was great seeing USC Chamber Choir alums Melanie Heyn and Gabe Wyner, who have been there quite a while studying opera and voice; they showed us around the inner city and we had fun at dinner together talking about their studies and their lives as ex-pats in Deutscher Land.

For me, the most fun was using my German daily after over twenty years. It came back fairly quickly and I was never mistaken for American; if nothing else, my pronunciation is very good, guided as it is by my musician's ear. Gloat.

So cities, in order: Colmar, Bern, Geneva (with a short side trip to Montreux--Lord, what a beautiful location), Munich (including Dachau concentration camp), Salzburg, Vienna, Cesky Krumlov, Munich again, Dinkelsbühl (and Rothenburg), Frankfurt. Total of four nights in Munich, two each in Geneva and Vienna, one night each elsewhere, except Bern, which was just a morning stop-over from Colmar to Geneva. Hotels ranged from one 4-star (Vienna) to a cutesy B and B (Dinkelsbühl). The rest were great except for the second Munich one, which sucked despite the three stars it seemed to have earned somehow.


For more pics, see Viking Goddess's album at Since arriving home, Erin has been busy acquiring leadership of a fine community chorus here in town (three cheers for her), and running rehearsals for an opera and a musical most nights. I've been busy acquiring her birthday present: a new 2008 Wolfsburg Edition VW Jetta. Red. With the two-liter GTI turbo motor (200 bhp). Got ground effects all around, plus a lip spoiler on the trunk lid. Snakey little thing. Premium, 10-speaker sound system with Sirius radio, too. Only problem is some hail dimples on all horizontal surfaces from the last big winter storm, but that lowered the price mucho plenty. We'll leave them there for the time being, until we have enough money to get paintless dent removal. We donated Erin's nine-year-old Mitsubishi with 170k miles to our local NPR station for the tax deduction.

Bis nächstes Mal: wiedersehen.

Friday, April 17, 2009


OK, so:

It's from a psychological profile of Adolf Hitler done by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during WWII. The OSS (Wild Bill Donovan's Boys and Girls--Julia Childs was one of them) is the wartime forerunner of the CIA. The quote I used is drawn directly from a page of Mein Kampf, almost verbatim. I was struck dumb by the similarity to the tactics used for eight years by the Axis of Evil: Bush-Cheney-Rove. When I read it to Erin and asked her who it was, that was her first guess. (Actually, Bush is not bright enough to qualify as evil; he was a failed college twit easily lead astray by the other two, but you get my point).

I think that they learned a lot from Paul Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister and the founder of modern mass propaganda. It was from him that George Orwell and Aldous Huxley got their main ideas for 1984 and Brave New World, respectively. I found the quote in the blog whilst googling Goebbels and ran across The Big Lie, Hitler's idea that people will question and forgive small lies but will most probably believe the Big One, especially if repeated often enough, which is what Goebbels did (as did Bush: Iraq, yellow cake; Cheney: WMD, 9/11 = Al Qaeda; Rove: the Kerry smears, and as do Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Tantaros/Malkin, Fixed News, Ingraham, anything about Obama and the Democrats and their work-- 'never concede that there may be some good in your enemy'.

I mean, hell, even Hitler had two good ideas: the freeway and the Volkswagen. Is that what the TeaBaggers mean when they compare Obama to Hitler? Must be. 'Twould be laughable were it not so pathetic ('Note his elegant use of the subjunctive! Isn't he something, though?!').

One of my favorite lines from Huxley: 1,720,426 repetitions = One Truth. Sad but, I fear, true.

I came across the quote during my reading of The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell. Almost all of the characters in it are real Nazis from the period with major roles in the Holocaust, so I spent a long time with Wikipedia looking them up. The novel's protaganist is 'one sick puppy' who is with the SD/SS involved with killing squads in the Ukraine and is later involved with Auschwitz and Mauthausen. He is unrepentant.

I stayed with the book (almost 1000 pages) because of my interest in WWII, not because of style or plot, both of which are turgid (one paragraph ran four pages) and/or ridiculous. The French (original language) loved the book, naturally, while the Brits and Yanks gave it either an A or an F. For me it was fascinating as history (and very accurate), but as literature it sucked. Jonathan's daddy, Robert, is a far better writer (in the spy/espionage genre) and I have read all of his books. So in this case, as one reviewer put it, 'the apple falls galaxies from the tree.'

My recommendation: unless you are retired and interested in WWII history, give this one a pass.

Thanks to the three who responded, even though two cheated and got the answer through
Google! Tsk, tsk.

Hope spring is being good to y'all wherever you are.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


"His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it."

Hey, gang. Anyone have an idea who the above refers to? I'll give you the Answer and the source only if you either email me or make a guess in the comment section of the blog. You gonna be amazed. Then again, maybe not.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

April . . .

. . . may be the cruelest month around here: tornado sirens again yesterday, followed by a 5-minute gully washer that included marble-sized hail. Knocked the phone out and it's still not back on. On the other hand, finally had two days in a row of warm, dry weather to finish the media unit for the bedroom. Never used gel stain before and it is marvelous stuff: you can use a disposable foam brush, second coat goes on with rags, not necessary to sand between coats; just used #250 sandpaper before I began. Results above. Beauty, eh? Gene Colwitz and I made the doors, I mounted the hardware (perfectly, of course). You can see how it matches the corner shelf (in mirror), the lamp wood and my silent butler. What you can't see is the bedspread and shams, which is where Erin got the accent color (called Java by the stain company, Espresso by designers after three Cosmos). We have the most beautiful bedroom in creation. And only Louis XIV had a bigger one. Oh, and that's the 26-incher LCD I bought for my Torrance apartment. Talk about perfect fit!
Take a look at my elder daughter's blogpage ( great pic of me during my last visit instructing the boys on the finer points of hoops during that first weekend of March Madness. They actually listened. For ten minutes. Long enough to get the pic, anyway. Poor guys: it would be like me trying to keep track of the puck during televised hockey. Never could.
Milestone today: my 100th workout at the local YMCA since 1 July, when I joined. Have gone from 30,000 lbs./week to 41,500. I guess that's progress. Wish the Fitlinxx system could transfer; I had a year's worth of workouts in San Pedro and two year's worth in Torrance. But it doesn't matter: they don't give away T-shirts here for achieving the levels, anyway. I'm working on brown: already have white, yellow and red that I got from Peedro and Torrance. I need to bitch to the Bama manager about that.
Speaking of bitching: did I tell you that they tax food in this state? Unbelievable: that's the most regressive tax imaginable. On the other hand, property and income taxes are nothing around here, which of course helps the rich. Welcome to the Red-State South. Damned Republicans.
So this has evolved from ThreeDot journalism to ThreeAsterisk journalism. Thanks for the read, Buddy: that makes three. 'Preeshate it, as the coaches and car salesman say. Off to the Y and the dog park now; Erin off to an extra rehearsal. It's a long time until college football season; baseball is boring and golf is for tastelessly dressed Republicans. Sigh. How they must hate that the best in the game is buff, handsome, Stanford-educated, and half-black. Snicker. Neither is a sport, by they way, they're both games. And I'm not as hard-ass as Hemingway, who said that there were only three sports: bullfighting, boxing and rugby; all the rest are games.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Went to the ACDA National Convention in Oklahoma City last week. The event itself? OK: best choral performance I heard in my opinion was a small British group, VOCES8--fantastic and artistic. I got chills for the first time in a long time. Truly. But did not hear UT or Hak-Won Yoon's Incheon City group from Korea. Heard they were stunning, especially the pros from Incheon.

New people: Debra Cairns, U. Alberta, Canada; Alec Harris, GIA Publishing; Mia Can't-Remember-Last-Name from Portland.

Was also great to see Hugh Davies (plus Tony and Christina), Kirke Mechem, Polly and Burt, Ginger and Rich, Mary Breden, Paul Salamunivich, Allan Petker, Jo from Daegu, Korean Deutsche Sprecher from Pusan, Patricia Corbin, and too many Korean acquaintances to remember much less pronounce. And of course waved and hollered at too many other folks to remember.

Wonderful to see former students In-Gi Min (Korea), Chung-Uk Lee, Soon-Jung Kim, Dominic Gregorio, Shawna Stewart, Charles Jurgensmeier, Bill Bausano, David Hughes, Aya Ueda (UOP), Michelle Jensen. The former students named here and below span three institutions and my entire 37-year collegiate career, starting with Bill B. (1970) and ending with Dominic (2007).

Great to have meals and martinis with former students Rob Istad, Ariel Quintana and TJ Harper. The latter two, Erin and I had an especially wonderful time together until 2:30 AM at the funkiest cowboy bar I've ever seen, the Wormy Dog Saloon (bar stools were saddles). Unfortunately, I lost my Louis Vuitton tie there that was a gift from the Chamber Choir and that cost a small car payment. Sob . . . Also had a meal with current Bama colleague, Ian Loeppky. (Still owe y'all $35, friend. Getcha back soon down here in Dixie).

The picture you see above is 32 years worth of all former conductors of the USC Chamber Choir except its founder, Charles Hirt. From left to right: Jo-Michael Scheibe (current), Paul Salamunivich (one-year interim following me), Rod Eichenberger (15 years--'76-91), James Vail (two-year interim following Eichenberger), Me (15 years--92-07). A lot of people commented on how good I look, all thanks to my own cooking plus 39,000 pounds and 225 hoop shots/week. Oh, and, uh, being personally happy doesn't hurt either, I suppose.

I don't really go much for the conventions themselves anymore but for the people. And what a great time it was, including a chance at the end to chat quite a while with former fan and current blog reader, Lori Marie Rios. She loves my derriere, I love her frontiere--actually, love all of ya, darlin'. Comment now, y'hear? Don't just read.

That goes for all of you: Comment so I know someone's out there. Sniff.