In the preface of Oliver Sacks’ landmark book Musicophilia, he muses about how human interactions with music might puzzle a highly intelligent alien being with no frame of reference conjuring a scene from the world of Arthur C. Clarke. Science fiction aside, music is central to human existence, and yet on the surface it’s confounding trying to discern its purpose. Music can touch us in ways nothing else can. It can provide great solace. It can bring us to tears. It can excite us and inspire us. It can stimulate the brain and enhance learning. It can also torment us. Music can have these effects on us just by listening as well as in the course of making music. In the face of certain brain injuries or disease, it can also provide insights helping with diagnosis and can reach people who are otherwise uncommunicative. Drawing on extensive case studies, Dr. Sacks instructs, entertains, and enlightens readers on the complexities of human perceptions of music and just how important music is in innumerable circumstances. While this book will fascinate any musician wanting to understand their own musical drive, it will also delight non-musicians by opening up a whole world of perception they previously took for granted. Continue reading
I watched the 17 January 2021 episode of 60 Minutes the next morning while exercising on my elliptical trainer, a fairly common Monday morning routine. Two of their stories from the previous night were on political events – preparations for Wednesday’s inauguration, and what happened on 6 January 2021. I’ve already written about the coup attempt in my essay entitled “6 January 2021: An American Story,” so that’s not my focus here. Instead, the first 60 Minutes segment, “Against All Enemies,” hit me particularly hard. Continue reading
On 6 January 2021, the story unfolding in real time was more confounding and disturbing than any work of fiction I have ever read, and I couldn’t look away. Sadly, it also wasn’t unexpected based on the sitting president’s behavior throughout his term of office and before that as a private citizen. This administration was the runaway train that would inevitably crash where it did on this day.
It seems fitting that 2020 is a Leap Year. Leap Years are special and just a little bit strange. With February longer than usual, that means the year has an extra day making Leap Years 366 days long which seems a fitting end to the most frightening and bizarre year in the memory of most of those alive today. While we would like this year over sooner rather than later, we have to wait an extra day to say goodbye to 2020.
At the beginning of the year, 2020 seemed like it would just be a particularly rough election year with an extra day in February. Most of the public had no idea how different 2020 would be until after 29 February even though it turned out that the dangerous SARS-CoV-2 virus had already been spreading since late last year. Continue reading
Today was the third Saturday of December in the year 2020, and to paraphrase a lyric from a show I played 14 years ago, we need a little SaxMas right now. This day should have been the 27th annual gathering of sax players of every shape and size playing saxophones of every shape and size in San Jose, California. Although SaxMas founder, Ray Bernd, held out hope for as long as he could, because of the pandemic that didn’t happen, and for the first time in 27 years the event was formally called off in late October. This special event is one that players and audience members look forward to every year because it’s festive, musical, and gleaming with all that holiday saxophone goodness. Over 200 saxophonists playing holiday music together is a sight and sound to behold, and it’s one that’s not soon forgotten. At the end of last year, I wrote a piece reliving 2019’s SJ SaxMas, and I watched the included video of that concert again this morning to put myself in the SaxMas frame of mind even though I had no place to go because of our necessary lockdown. That still wasn’t enough holiday for the day. Continue reading
I have long loved the world of Star Trek and science fiction in general. I can remember imagining possibilities as a child while walking to school, wishing that it were possible to be beamed up to a starship to travel to new worlds and join with others in exploring the vastness of space. In the real world of my childhood, I got to watch, along with the rest of the world, as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked and jumped on the moon for the first time. Although very different from the pictures painted by my favorite television series, it was a breathtaking adventure that sparked many dreams. I later studied space travel and learned how manned space flight changed over time beginning with the U.S. Gemini and Apollo programs through the advent of Skylab, Mir, and the International Space Station. Various probes and telescopes continue to explore beyond the earth’s boundaries to give us crucial information about what’s really out there. We still haven’t achieved the level of development depicted in the Star Trek universe, nor have we discovered the kinds of life imagined by various science fiction writers, but we have grown outward and created stories, both real and imagined, related to what’s beyond our little blue planet. Continue reading
Since surviving the pandemic of 2020 Bea continued eating all of her meals at home. Even after the crisis had passed, although she ventured out for work and various activities, for Bea, one dinner was much like the next. Her meal consisted of a plate of rice or noodles covered in veggies, chicken, and cheese, and she zapped it in the microwave. She lived alone and loathed housework and cooking, so anything that kept those to a minimum was a plus. Continue reading
2020 has been quite a year for us all. For those missing the joys of live theatre, Sunnyvale Community Players (SCP) has quite a treat in store this December. In keeping with all the safety protocols in place to keep audiences and actors safe from the pandemic, SCP is mounting a streaming run of Once on This Island. The show, based on the book My Love, My Love by Rosa Guy, has book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty, the duo who originated Seussical and Ragtime. Once on This Island opened on Broadway in 1990. It later began an award-winning West End run in 1994, and more recently enjoyed a Broadway revival beginning in 2017. At present, a Disney+ film adaptation is in work to bring the show to an even wider audience.
Once on This Island is a mystical story of love, sacrifice, and acceptance set in the French Antilles archipelago in the early 1900s and is extremely topical today. The show is packed with lively Caribbean inspired music and dance that will delight the entire family. Continue reading
By Ande Jacobson
As I sit huddled at home as many of us have for almost eight months now, I see the world outside my windows, and I interact virtually with friends and family via phone, via text, and via Zoom (and boy do I look forward to those Zoom sessions). I never thought I would be living through a worldwide pandemic, and yet here we all are. In the US as I write this, we are also only a few days from the end of being able to cast our ballots in the most important election in almost a century. In response to this election, rather than sitting back and waiting, I am heavily engaged in some necessary volunteer work for the Biden campaign as I mentioned in my recent essay, Taking Action! As I read reports of daily happenings, these words are looming large:
WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America
Stories. We all relate through stories. We use them from the time we’re small to help us learn language and other skills we need to function as members of society. We use them in our families to ensure that we don’t forget those who came before us. We use them in school as students and teachers to illustrate new concepts and explore the vast world around us. We use them at work to convey information. We use them for entertainment to draw out emotions. We use them throughout society to help understand where we are, and how we got here. We use them in politics to persuade and move people to take action. Continue reading