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Wednesday, October 23, 2013


A wise person once told me that it takes three years for one human being to deeply bond to another human being, and that it takes an equal amount of time to successfully detach from that person.  When a person cares deeply about another for a long time, that person blends his/her energies with their partner in the form of hopes, dreams, plans and expectations.  Two people "couple up" and head down the same track.

When a relationship ends, the participants go through a process of individuation; de-coupling and rolling in different directions. If this has ever happened to you, you may remember the process of pulling back, trying to reclaim yourself and your evolving identity.  You might remember feeling like a part of you is missing.

This is unpleasant.  It can cause low spirits and significant distress.  The longing for what is lost can lead to desperate thoughts, intemperate actions and hasty decisions that  lead to regrets.

The way out is to focus on the parts of life that can be controlled - your own thoughts, actions and plans for the future.  It takes effort and commitment to pull out of social isolation and regretful rumination.  You have to accept that an egg can't be un-scrambled; a bell can't be un-rung.  The sun keeps rising every day and you are still breathing. Things could be worse.

Learn,  and remember - just get up every morning and give it another try.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

John Pizzarelli Quartet at SPACE in Evanston - October 6, 2013

My daughter, Lizz, and I caught John Pizzarelli at our local venue earlier this month.  Lizz is my one offspring who is into "old school" jazz.  My eldest kid, Ben, is more of a world music guy, and my two younger daughters are Nicki Minaj fans.  With Lizz, I feel that I have one success in implanting my musical tastes into my child.  Nothing is better than sharing a passionate interest with your kid. 

While this gig happened two weeks ago, I find myself reflecting on the evening frequently.  It was the first time I have heard a small jazz group perform at SPACE.  The venue is perfect for jazz - the acoustics are designed for music with dynamic variation and subtlety.  When a loud group plays the room, things get kinda ugly and painful.  At SPACE, the volume knob needs to stay below "5."

So the music presented well, and John Pizzarelli is a stone cold killa on the seven string electric guitar.  He plays an instrument with a low "A" string which allows him to play very cool bass lines when he plays solo guitar.  His use of the low A reminded me of a stride pianist's left hand.  In addition to being a true virtuoso, Pizzarelli is also clever and charming - New York hip in a pleasant, amusing, winking style.  The man can talk and digress far afield, but it works very well.  He is a Cafe' Carlyle player - full of banter and able to make every member of the audience feel like part of his life.

John is also a great singer. He has a casual, breathy tenor sound.   He sounds like a cheerful, energetic Chet Baker.  He can sing along with his guitar solos a la George Benson, but his solos are a helluva lot faster and harmonically complicated than the typical Benson offering.  Here is a video of John doing his solo thing.  Wickedly good and fun, too.

The highlights of the set for me were a mash-up of Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life" and Tom Waits' "Drunk on the Moon" and a minor key, quasi-kletzmer version of "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." Pizzarelli is extremely creative.  He is a musical omnivore, covering a broad range of tunes - from Nat King Cole to Dickey Betts.

The trio that backed John was an extension of his musical consciousness.  The bass player is his brother, Martin.  Larry Fuller is Pizzarelli's long-time pianist and is the sideman every jazz player and singer would love to have on the bandstand.  The drummer is the newest member of the group, and the youngest.  He had the taste and chops to hang with these veteran players.  Unfortunately, I did not get his name...maybe Lizz remembers.

The John Pizzarelli backstory is very cool.  He is the son of guitar great Bucky Pizzarelli, a legendary player still performing at a high level at the age of 87.  John is married to singer Jessica Molaskey - they often perform together, and they have a radio show (Radio Deluxe - 2 hours of great jazz and sparkling repartee').  Pizzarelli has worked hard to become a fabulous artist, but he certainly had exposure, guidance and support from his family.  John's wife retained her maiden name - Molaskey - and her comment about that decision is priceless - "I thought of changing it to Pizzarelli, but I thought that was a lateral move."

So the question lingering in my mind - is "Pizzarelli" Italian for "little pizza?"

Friday, October 18, 2013

Emotional Pain

I ran across an article by Leon Seltzer regarding emotional pain.  He included a list of self-referencing assumptions or interpretations that lead to emotional wounding.  It is an intimidating collection of feelings:

1.   Unworthy or worthless
2.   Disapproved of, invalidated, or rejected
3.   Not listened to or understood
4.   Like a non-entity--or invisible
5.   Unloved, not cared about or wanted
6.   Insulted, disparaged, disrespected, distrusted, devalued, or discounted
7.   Aggressed against, taken advantage of; betrayed
8.   Inadequate, defective, incompetent, behind the curve, inferior or looked down
      upon, unacceptable
9.   Slow, stupid, foolish or silly; contemptible
10. Dishonorable or cowardly
11. Embarrassed or humiliated
12. Weak, helpless, or defenseless
13. Undeserving of time, attention, or recognition
14. Like a failure; "loser"
15. Guilty, shameful--or a bad person generally

When someone is experiencing one or more of the items on this list, they often keep it quiet.  There are good reasons for this.  We hide our emotional frailty to avoid appearing  pathetic to others.  If other people see you as weak, bad things can happen.  Even more interesting - we hide these emotions from ourselves, too.  Admitting self-loathing generates a feeling of powerlessness, incompetence. So we deny these emotions if we can.  We hide our vulnerabilities and tender emotions because we are afraid - of being judged by others, of being rendered helpless by our own pain.  Withdrawal and silence can feel self-protective, but it really isn't a good long term strategy.  The challenge is to find the ability to regard these emotions for what they are - perhaps valid, perhaps not, but not subject to acceptance or rejection by others.  Seltzer talks about "psychological courage" - the ability to honestly and unashamedly admit our needs and fears.

Our emotions can't victimize us unless we give them the power to do so.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

A Stupid Situation That Achieves Nothing But Damages Everything

Happy October 1st, everybody!  It is a great day for anarchists, I guess.  Or maybe not.  We still have government, but we don't have leaders - or at least, we don't have good leaders.

I don't generally blog about politics, but today I will break my rule. This is STUPID!  It achieves NO GOALS!!  If it goes two weeks, it will trim 0.3% or so off the 4th quarter GDP growth rate and will have negative effect on employment.  And Obamacare sails ahead.  No one wins, but the losses are felt by about 2 million folks - the  workers that get no paychecks.  And many more folks will be inconvenienced - no National Parks, no issuance of important government data, no Centers for Disease Control......

We have had 17 government shut-downs since the 1970's, all of them pretty short except for the 3-week hissy fit between Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich in the mid-1990's.  The economy was experiencing stronger growth in 1995 than it is today, so this shutdown will cause more damage.  With luck, this one will end quickly and we can get down to avoiding the next disaster - a U.S. Government default due to a urination contest over the debt ceiling. 

As a nation, we are pretty equally divided between folks that want the government to do more and folks that want the government to do less.  There is lots of room for constructive disagreement and principled compromise on the huge issues that face us. Our system of taxation is broken - major U.S. corporations are moving their headquarters overseas due to our extremely high corporate tax rates (Aon and Eaton are two examples) and more folks are working "off the books" to flat-out evade taxation.  We have a structural deficit that will get worse without serious action as our country ages and a flood of oldsters like me start slurping up government benefits.  We have insanely high unemployment rates and millions of people are becoming "downwardly mobile" due to the jobless recovery.  The largest mental institution in the United States is Cook County Jail in my home state of Illinois due to the collapse of public mental health services. We really can't afford a bunch of elected officials that refuse to negotiate.

Here is a one guy's story.  My family has a very good friend -  a young fellow named Dustin Cammack.  Dustin led a military police platoon in Baghdad in the worst part of the war (2005-2006) and led 55 combat missions.  He also served in Afghanistan.  He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service. This man is a badass with a heart of gold.  Dustin is now the head of public relations for the Illinois National Guard, which is a surprisingly intense job due to the National Guard's  interaction with so many constitutencies (state and local governments, media, schools, etc.).  President Obama signed an emergency bill guaranteeing that active military personnel will get paid during the shutdown, but Dustin and his colleagues in the National Guard are not covered.  He will get to figure out how to pay his bills without a paycheck.  Dustin and lots of other folks like him are the economic collateral damage of the political bombs our elected leaders are dropping on the government.

So, let's re-cap - the government has shut down, Obamacare is going "live" today, the economic impact of this stupidity will be widespread and nothing positive will be accomplished.  And guys like Dustin Cammack, who have sacrificed to carry out the military policies of this country, end up getting laid off by their government.   Thank you, Congress and Mr. President. 
In the immortal words of Mercutio, "A plague o' both your houses."