My magical, musical journey: Part 8 – Nostalgia

By Ande Jacobson

Earlier in this series, I talked about how my parents inspired me and encouraged my love of music. They are both long gone now, Dad for over 50 years and Mom for a decade, but every time I play anything, I think of them. In the last installment discussing whether I was still a musician or not, I came to the conclusion that even without performing for others, I am and always will be a musician. The pandemic has pushed me to enjoy my music more privately, and in doing so, return to my roots and my first instrument, the piano. Playing the piano reminds me of my mother, especially when I play some of the repertoire that she played frequently. One of her favorites was Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude. Mom used to play this one with deep expression and early on told me the story her piano teacher told her about the piece. Her favorite teacher used to tell her stories about every piece she was assigned, and in doing so made the music come alive as much more than mere notes on the page. Continue reading

Something’s coming to Sunnyvale very soon

By Ande Jacobson

As Stephen Sondheim wrote back in 1957,

“Could it be? Yes it could.
Something’s coming, something good.”

And his work is coming to Sunnyvale Community Players (SCP) on September 11, 2021 and running through October 3, 2021.

After over 18 months, SCP is returning to its home at the Sunnyvale Community Theater, live, to present a work as relevant and timely today as it was when it first opened on Broadway in 1957. West Side Story is a story of forbidden love and the need for acceptance amidst societal turmoil. This musical with its classic score by the incomparable Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents, and choreography by Jerome Robbins is a challenging undertaking for any theater company. It’s a big show in every sense of the word, and the SCP cast is 35 strong supported by a live, 20-piece orchestra. The material is technically challenging and emotionally charged, and everyone is ready and eager to perform this exciting work for live audiences. Continue reading

My magical, musical journey: Part 7 – Am I still a musician?

By Ande Jacobson

Music is an important part of my life even in our pandemic riddled world. I’ve been partaking privately, safely sequestered at home as I listen to music daily or play solo for my own amusement. As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, I’ve embraced a change that I couldn’t have imagined even just two years ago. As my local theater and music community begins to blossom again, I’ve watched from a distance. Over the summer, I reviewed a production remotely, streamed from the comfort of my den. Unlike the majority of my theatrical and musical colleagues who are racing back to rehearsals and performances as fast as they can, I am not yet willing to return to live performances in person on either side of the lights. At this point, I am not sure if I ever will return begging the question, am I still a musician? Continue reading

‘Why We Sleep’ shows that sleep makes us smarter and healthier

By Ande Jacobson

Matthew Walker, PhD is a world renowned sleep researcher who shares some astonishing, well-kept secrets in his 2017 New York Times Bestseller, Why We Sleep: Unlocking The Power Of Sleep And Dreams. In this fascinating book, Walker starts with the basics such as what sleep actually is, how widespread sleep is in the animal kingdom, and why it is needed. He goes on to explain what the various stages of sleep do for us and what happens when they are missed. He closes with an enlightening discussion of how our societal norms help and harm us with respect to sleep. To accomplish this, he breaks the book into four main parts including:

  1. This Thing Called Sleep
  2. Why Should You Sleep?
  3. How and Why We Dream
  4. From Sleeping Pills to Society Transformed

He draws a startling and compelling conclusion at the end. He also provides a helpful appendix drawn from the NIH Guide to Healthy Sleep with 12 common sense tips.

Walker’s book packs insights from decades of research and over three million years of evolution into under 350 pages, and it’s worth reading every word. He is a masterful storyteller citing numerous studies and expanded material via footnotes throughout the book to support his assertions. In format, while the index is extensive, the one thing missing is a consolidated bibliography that would help readers refer back to those informative studies. Continue reading

A World With Choice Reversed

By Ande Jacobson

Alex was musing over something that had long bothered her about humankind. Humans were the only species that had the capacity to use external intervention to voluntarily control or even stop their population growth and reach a steady state either by preventing a pregnancy from happening if it was the wrong time, or freely choosing whether to take a pregnancy to term or terminate an unwanted one. Unfortunately they kept getting bogged down with in-fighting surrounding forcing people to complete pregnancies whether they wanted to or not based on religious convictions or control issues. A few years earlier, she had read a fascinating work of fiction where a mad scientist genetically engineered a virus that over the course of a single week infected every human in the world, and as a result randomly sterilized a third of the human population. He had engineered the virus to modify and become a part of the human genome so it was inheritable, but the trait only turned on about a third of the time permanently reducing the human population over subsequent generations to something more sustainable. Continue reading

The arts are alive again in the SF Bay Area

By Ande Jacobson

Since California’s reopening on 15 June 2021, the performing arts in the San Francisco Bay Area have come alive. Over the 4th of July holiday weekend, picnics were accented with live community band concerts galore. Most of these bands had very limited outdoor rehearsals to prepare, but many of the musicians have enjoyed meeting in person to play together again, and in addition to the larger concert bands, several smaller ensembles have been cautiously resuming rehearsals in person over the last several months. Continue reading

Confessions of a Trekkie

By Ande Jacobson

I was lucky. I grew up in an era when Star Trek was new. This was the original series where so many of the pressing problems of the time were solved long ago in the storylines. Although I was a little young to catch the first season in its prime time slot because it was after my bedtime, I initially saw the show when the first season summer reruns aired earlier in the evening. I loved space and the idea of space travel to explore new worlds. This was during the era of the Apollo program, and the first moon landing occurred just a little over a month after the final episode of the original Star Trek series first aired. Continue reading

Photo journey: Geometry

By Ande Jacobson

I have always been intrigued by geometry and interesting shapes and perspectives in pictures. In fact, going through school, geometry was my favorite math class and not just because of the beautiful logic proofs, but I digress. In photography, sometimes a rather mundane scene can be fascinating when approached from a unique angle. Other times, the shading can even make common shapes pop. As mentioned in previous essays, I have spent a lot of time wandering through the exhibits packing the various Smithsonian museums over the years. While the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, D.C. is my favorite Smithsonian location by far, I also appreciate several of the others in its vicinity. The Museum of Natural History has much to offer, and although the easiest way to get a good picture there is to buy one of their brochures which are filled with many elegant professional photographs, where is the fun in that? It’s far more satisfying to discover a unique perspective and capture it directly if possible. Continue reading

Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’ takes readers on an unforgettable journey

By Ande Jacobson

Dan Brown is known for writing entertaining adventure stories centered on his fictional character, Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon. Langdon is drawn as a kind of super-sleuth who uses his knowledge of symbols, particularly religious symbols, to solve earthshaking crimes. Brown’s 2013 book, Inferno, is the fourth in the Langdon series and takes a rather Malthusian look at the world as it intertwines imagery and symbols from Dante Alighieri’s The Inferno in a plot threatening human existence. Although written in 2013, the story has unexpected relevance now as the world takes steps to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Continue reading

‘Shylock’ explores crucial questions at Tabard

By Ande Jacobson

Tabard Theatre, in partnership with Silicon Valley Shakespeare, is exploring several important questions through their current production of Shylock, a play by Mark Leiren-Young. The playwright deftly confronts several considerations surrounding the questions of how artistic works should be presented to a modern audience. On the one hand, should audiences be shielded from that which makes them uncomfortable when imbued with current cultural sensitivities, particularly for works from another time? Should they be spoon fed the intent of a given work, or should they be allowed to come to their own conclusions? More directly, the play uses the controversial character of Shylock and questions how he should be portrayed to a modern audience or even whether a company should mount a production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice in the first place. Continue reading