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1/1/2017 -- next page  

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I started writing this last Monday: and didn't finish. Here it is Friday, and the week has flown (indeed!) by. I am in Helsinki with Daniel, delivering him to the University of Helsinki/Institute of Biotechnology where he will be spending his Fulbright year working with Jaan-Olle Andressoo. The week has been wonderful. Right now the sun is shining outside, and I am waiting to meet Daniel for lunch and a final good-bye as I depart for the airport.

Oh my, oh my!

Instead of trying to recount this past week from memory today, I did write a series of e-mails back to the family talking about our initial experiences in negotiating Finland. Here are excerpts:

So that's about it. I think my blog has become more life-reportage than much else, but that's fine. I've discovered that I enjoy going back and reading about experiences at different times in the past ten years I've been writing this. The tortured quasi-philosophical nonsense gets a bit thick, but the 'this-is-what-we-did/this-is-what-it-was-like' aspects are interesting, not the least reason being how they differ from my direct, internal memories. It seems appropriate to start this new "chapter" in the blog (i.e. a new index.html page) with these changes: Jill is in Seattle with Shai, Lian and Itay, and here I am in Helsinki with Daniel. Definitely these are new chapters!


The summer days are waning. I'm looking forward to the coming school year with the now-familiar mix of anticipation and trepidation. I'm anxious to meet our new students, and we have some interesting happenings planned. I'm fairly confident about my classes, and I think they'll be good. What causes me to worry? Same old stuff: the fear of letting people down, of not doing a good job (whatever that means in an academic context...), of things falling apart. It always feels like we're on the edge of some kind of chaos, but I suspect that's part of the game if you want to pretend you're doing cutting-edgey stuff. There is a lot going on, too.

Our weather has been glorious since my return from Finland. I'm sitting again on our upper back porch, listening to the 'hot bugs' (cicadas) and the late-summer neighborhood sounds. The sky, the light, the climate, they all remind me of other life-experiences; being in St. Louis, mountains in Switzerland, islands in Greece. Nothing seems truly new any more. Now that's certainly a sign of encroaching old-age.


Almost a month has passed since I last wrote here. A word of explanation: there is this counter-productive thing happens to me, not just in blog-writing but also in other areas where I do work. If I get a little behind, then it becomes more difficult to catch up because I tend to think "oh, I have even MORE ground to cover now, and I want to cover it all properly!" That approach leads me to getting even more behind, and eventually I'm facing a kind of paralysis fueled by the Things I Haven't Done.

The way out of the dilemma, of course, is that clichéd Nike sportswear slogan, "just do it!" So here I am, finally just doing it. Much has happened: Jill had a birthday several days ago (Happy one, sweetie!), Shai is growing by leaps and bounds (and is literally leaping and bounding in this bouncey-thing Lian and Itay got for him), Daniel is having a grand time in Finland -- he's already visited Talinn (Estonia), Mom and Dad, John and Brenda, the nephews, school starting. How will I remember all this? I need to write it here!

I do use this blog as a memory-bank now. Here is a month-long gap in my memory. I promise to do better! Oh, and Happy Equinox!


Finally a nice fall day. Summer has been hanging on. Maybe this is the new global-warming normal? It's been in the upper 80's through most of September.

With the cooler day came memories, and the powerful ability of music to conjure them. I was listening to some Nickel Creek out in back earlier today. I had one of those freeze/flow moments, but this time it was almost sad. Time, place, things to do, a life still open. Overwhelming in a way. Where do we go from here?


It seems that the first thing I feel compelled to write here anymore is a comment on the weather. To be sure, I initially started this entry with "Today is an absolutely beautiful fall day." Maybe it's an attempt to leave markers that will goose my memories when I read this in the future? Will I remember the felt texure of this "absolutely beautiful fall day"? The description is pretty bland. I'm not sure what else I can say, though, except to slather on more adjectives. It's a gorgeous fall day! It's simply stunning! (all of these are true, by the way.) Am I providing a tangible context for these remarks? Nah...

I did finally carve a few minutes away from the start-of-school intensity (and it seemed especially intense this year for some reason) and managed to get the recording sessions from last month on-line:

I also put up these three recordings: done with Ron Kostar, a Roosevelt neighbor down the street. I guess August was fairly productive.

One more thing to report, since I'm in a reporting mood: Family Vineyard, a small, 'boutique' record label run by Eric Weddle, released a bunch of the old punk-rock music we did back in the late 1970s:

(scroll down to the promotional video; it's lotsa fun!)

Included in the package is a 7" EP featuring Your Truly and some of the very early music I did:

The activities surrounding the official release of these records by Family Vineyard included a series of live concerts back in Indiana. I was unable to attend, but we came up with a nifty idea. I joined the band 'on stage' via Skype for several songs. Even with the huge timing-disparity, it worked! Several people in the audience had taken videos of the shows; this is from the Indianapolis concert: The URL above is to an instagram account, so I have no real idea how long it will be valid. It was great fun to do, though! My friend Dave Fulton apparently videoed the whole Indianapolis show, so hopefully we'll get good documentation from his efforts.

There seems to be a resurgence of interest in these older tunes. Stay tuned -- another release from some other Indiana bands is planned to come out soon. Wheeee! I was young once!


Family travels! Last weekend Jill and I flew down to the Gulf Coast of Florida. Bro-in-law John had arranged a surprise for my sister. This year is their 25th wedding anniversary, so John had close family and friends arrive in Boca Raton where we surprised Brenda at a lighthouse on the tip of the island. The event was to renew their wedding vows to each other. She was very, very surprised! But fortunately it was a good one (I'm not sure Jill would ever forgive me if I tried this with her).

Despite the fact that Hurricane Matthew was hitting the eastern seaboard at exactly the same time, we arrived with no problem, and the weather was actually very nice. We stayed in a famous place called the Gasparilla Inn:

where we also had a great dinner after the renewing-vows ceremony. The inn is also a favorite of the Bush (presidential) family, but they still allowed Jill and I to stay. It was a delightful time.

Right now I'm in Seattle, having a grand time (grandpop!) with baby Shai. I hadn't seen him 'live' since the beginning of last June. My oh my how he has grown! And what a guy! Loads of smiles, and a lot of direct engagement with the world. We've been having a blast, playing with things like "the floating monkey head in spaaaace" and other happy toys. This is life.

Two weeks from now Jill and I will head over to Helsinki to check on Daniel. We knew this would be a time of intense traveling for us, but it's all good. We're also firming up plans for the holidays, so more travel ahead. Good travels, though!

All is going well at Columbia. As I said earlier, the start-up was pretty insane, and there hasn't been a whole lot of let-up. I think I'm barely managing to stay on top of it all, but some things may have fallen through the cracks. Ha, if I'm not even aware of them, do they count? Classes and students are really good this year, though. With people like Dave Sulzer, Miller Puckette, Ben Holzman, Miya and Terry around, the CMC is a hoppin' place. More on Center goings-on later (including a koto workshop we did last week). I've also finished a new piece, but haven't done the final mix or set it up on-line yet. What a dummy! I guess the fun for me really is in the creation and production. I do like listening to my older pieces -- I think my mother and I are among the few who do -- but I think I like making them even more.


Instead of posting a set of photos from my recent trip to visit Lian/Itay/Shai, I thought I'd put up some videos! Hey, we live in an age of ubiquitous media, right? This is my latest contribution to ubiquity.

The first is me playing "Monkey, monkey, monkey, monkey" with Shai the first day I was there. The second and third are actually not from my visit; they were taken the Monday after I left. Itay and Lian were participating in the Grace Hopper Conference in Houston, TX. They took Shai along for the fun. And what fun he seems to be having! I wanted to include these because I love those happy sounds so much. He is one Smiley Boy

The last video is of me, Lian and Shai making pesto. We have this strange 'tradition' in our family when the pesto-ingredients get munged in the food processor. It's very important to wave a 'magic wand' as the processor kicks in and chant (in a suitably mystical voice): "Pesto, CHANGE-o!" Yep, Lian and Daniel did it when they were kids, too. The chain is unbroken.

Click on the photos or the links below the photos to see the .mov files:

shai1 video                                         shai2 video                                         shai3 video                                         shai4 video

What a grandson! What a time! When I was visiting, I would wake up early in the morning, still on East Coast time, and when Shai would awaken I would pick him up to help coax another hour or so of sleep from him for Lian and Itay. Standing in his room. holding him as I would sway gently back and forth, the world, the universe, existence, it all enveloped the two of us with a tangible love. I know there are Syriahs and there have been Rwandas, Kosovos, much world-terribleness just in my recent lifetime. But for those few precious moments it all seemed right. It all was good.


Today the rain stopped just in time, and we participated in the Roosevelt Arts Project 2016 Art Walk in the Woods along our town's newly-renovated Woodland Trail. When I say "we", I mean both Jill and me. Jill had a number of her pottery pieces on display, but this 'framed' one was particularly interesting:


My contribution was sonic, of course: Lots of our friends and neighbors also participated. It was organized by Hunter Ellentuck, Jeff and Sharlene's son.

Later Jill and I went out for a wonderful meal, complete with a delicious (Januik, 2011) cabernet sauvignon. It was our thirty-third wedding anniversary!

I love you sweetie!


It's now election day eve. Oh my. I haven't written at all (I don't think) about the election here, but that's not to say that it hasn't been very much on my mind. I finally had to go 'cold turkey' on some of the polling sites, because it was driving me crazy. I cannot, cannot believe that a despicable human being like Donald Trump has a real shot at becoming our next president. My faith in humanity is at an all-time low. We are a bunch of stupid monkeys, screaming our hate for tribes other than ourselves.

Let's hope sanity prevails.

We've also had fun with our local political scene, but more on that later. Right now I've had a chance to post some things that I've been meaning to get on-line. Yay Columbia with the 'election day' holiday!

The first is a piece I actually finished over a month ago, but then didn't get around to rendering it until a week or so ago, and just now(!) am linking it here in the ole blogaroo:

I've also managed to collate and put together the photographs I took while dropping Daniel off in Finland, and from the trip(!) Jill and I took last week to visit him. It was great! It snowed when we left. Now we're back home, waiting to see what happens to the world tomorrow. Hope, hope!


Last night was a terrible night. This is a terrible day. I am ashamed of my country and disgusted with humanity. I am angry and afraid. I am severely depressed. I'm not sure how I will come out of this.


I wake up in the morning, and I feel ok for about ten or fifteen seconds, and then I remember: President Trump. As I said above, I am angry, I am afraid and I am very, very sad. I am trying to get over these things, but it is taking time.

Yes, I am angry. I think back to conversations with people who helped further the "oh Clinton is just as bad as Trump" narrative that ultimately resulted in Trump's election. In the interests of 'wanting to get along', I generally remained silent, occasionally pointing out the latest stream of bile issuing from Trump's tweety mouth. Now I wish I had shaken people by the lapels and said NO NO NO YOU ARE WRONG! THERE IS NO 'EQUIVALENCY' BETWEEN TRUMP AND CLINTON! Donald Trump is a despicable human being. He represents most everything I have worked against in my life. I hate his smarmy bullying. I hate his division of the world into "winners" and "losers" (I'm apparently a total loser), I hate his vanity orange hair, his piggy little eyes. I hate. I hate.

I am afraid. Trump has already appointed a climate-change denier (oops, sorry... "skeptic", yeah) as transition administrator for the EPA. Russia is already flying military sorties over Finland. The world is toast -- investments in clean energy in the US will plummet. Travel to Beijing and take a deep breath. That's our future.

The Supreme Court, oh my. Mike Pence (I believe it will be him who gets the most 'say' in court appointments) will take his commandments directly from God because he certainly hears God's voice. Trump will appoint truly enlightened jurists to make our social judgments [yes I am being sarcastic]. The Republicans control all three branches of government, so there will be no brakes on this retrogression. God help us.

I am selfishly and personally afraid, too. What kind of life lies ahead for Daniel and Lian, and baby Shai? What about me and Jill? Repeal Obamacare! Oh yeah! And replace it with... what? A return to the health industry of ten years ago, when it was deemed the number one problem facing our country. Phrases like 'pre-existing conditions' and 'cap on lifetime benefits' will have currency again. Oh I forgot -- once social security is privatized we'll have so much money that Jill and I will be able to afford the $100k+/year spent on our care. See, we'll be able to deduct it from our taxes! Ha ha! And if I need another $500k stem cell transplant? Well, maybe not this time.

Finally, I am profoundly depressed. As I said above, I am now a total loser under the new Trumpian ethos. By venerating and embracing the values of Donald Trump, the US has resoundingly rejected everything that I find true, meaningful and good. My work has no worth. I am worthless. Right now I see no good path to the future. Why do I even bother.


In the fantasy stories I read, in the mythologies we were taught when we were young, the heroes always find a well-spring of strength at times of deepest despair and overcome the obstacles of evil to prevail in triumph at the end. I'm not sure now that 'the good' will win in the end -- my generally optimistic attitude has been fundamentally shaken. I don't think I have any heroic strength. Even thinking of myself as a 'hero' is laughable.

I know this is true because I have been behaving atrociously. I simply can't get over the fact that a horrible human being has been raised up and given the highest elected office our society can offer. As I said above in this blog, I am angry, afraid, depressed. These feelings are not subsiding. There is no well-spring of strength that I can detect.

I am randomly spewing my anger in many directions. My poor sister has taken a lot of it. I know that she and her family certainly didn't support Trump, but in my trumped-up righteousness I am angry because they helped promote the "Clinton is just as bad" falsehood that resulted in a terrible 'winner'. I see their support of the Republican party -- an organization that in my absolutist world is morally and ethically bankrupt -- as contributing to the fracture of my family. How can I convince Daniel that there is good in the US, and that it is important for him to return from Europe to bolster that good? What do I say to Itay and Lian if they begin seriously to contemplate a move to Israel, especially if (as I surely believe he will) Donald Trump pursues Amazon because of his vindictive hatred of Jeff Bezos? And of course health care, and research. Dad believes that foundation support will help make up for the federal grants that will vanish, but that's just not true. The discoveries that won't be made, that will be the real tragedy of a benighted Republican economics.

Read through that and see how ridiculous I am! Intellectually, I can pretend to back off from myself and realize what a pathetic person I've now become. But I still wake up in the morning and think: President Trump. Of course there is a lot of deep personal psychology going on here, especially with my sister, and this all makes me more depressed because it reveals who I am. And it's not good. It certainly isn't 'heroic', ha ha. At least I know that my mean and cowardly behavior won't have much of an impact. Hopefully not many people even read this stupid blog any more. Who I am and what I do really doesn't matter much, and it surely matters less in a glitzy Trumpian world of 'winners' and 'losers'.

An awful addendum to my self-centered, foolish words:

Sometimes life conspires to show just HOW STUPID you are. This particular conspiracy to do that for me is horrendous. Melissa Branco, a good friend and neighbor, had actually read this blog and stopped by to give me some great words of advice (especially about the importance of family -- thanks Melissa!). After she came over, though, she learned that Ron Filepp, a friend and neighbor here in Roosevelt, was riding his bike yesterday and was killed in a hit-and-run accident. In outward appearance, yesterday was such a beautiful day.


Yes, I have let my blog-postings lapse a bit again. Partly it has been the intensity of the end of the term (lots and lots going on!), and partly it is because I am still trying to accommodate to my feelings following the election. But I still think about writing here often! It's my good-old "confuse the intention with the act" conundrum.

Life has been going, and it has generally been going well. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving visit with Mom and Dad in Indiana. Lian and Itay also flew in from Seattle with Shai. Nana and Grandpa got to meet their great-grandson for the first time! Family, very very strong.

We've had some concerts that I actually(!) very much enjoyed. Zosha DiCastri was featured in a "composer portrait" concert at Miller Theater last week, and it was terrific. Her world-premiere piece had a pronounced theatrical aspect that really took me away. I am happy to have her as a colleague at Columbia. Our December Sound Arts/Columbia Composers concert at the CMC was also really entertaining. We have great students.

Speaking of happy-to-have-as-colleagues, Georg Haas gave a stunning and highly personal presentation at our graduate composition seminar yesterday. I'm still digesting what he said (I had known of much of it before-hand) and will probably write more about it here if I can get my lazy butt in gear.


Finally it's beginning to feel like the holiday season! As with my spottines through the past few months in posting here, it has been on-going intensity at Columbia that seems to have blitzed my free time once again. I need to make some changes to regain a sense of myself once more. Things aren't as enjoyable as they should be. That's not to say they aren't good -- our students are doing amazing work, and I think I've been doing an ok job. It's probablty that fear of letting-people-down that's been eating away at me again. Well, that and the fact that Trump is still our president-elect. arg.

But today we awakened to some snow on the ground, and I've managed to get the outdoor christmas lights up and running (about a week ago, actually). Last night I had a moment to snap some photos:


Lian and Daniel are all grown and off on their own adventures, so I've resorted to making up the 'theme' for the lights all by myself once again. Someday Shai will be old enough, and I can draft him into this action. This year it depicts the intersection of a 4-dimensional hypercube (a tesseract!) with 3-space. My thinking is that if we can master this geometry, then we can use it to travel instantaneously to places like, oh, Seattle or Helsinki. Yes!

The tree is up and decorated too, so I think we're on-track. I've been playing all the holiday music I have reserved for this time of year. I'm sure it drives Jill crazy, but I love the sense that this music has a meaning in time for us. When I hear the particular recordings that Mom used to play on our family stereo for Christmas, it makes my memories soar.

Everyone (Lian/Itay/Shai/Daniel/Brenda/John/Stefan/Bo, whew!) arrives towards the end of next week, and the holidays will commence in earnest.


Now, ten years. So much can happen. So much has happened. Daniel, Lian, Jill, Itay, Shai, family... this is how life is constructed. I honestly didn't think I'd be here by now. "Five-year survival rate was 47%", etc. I read all these statistics, did a bogus extrapolation, and ten years seemed unattainable. Here I am, though.

Christmas Eve ten years ago was when I started this blog. I could quote from past Christmas Eve entries here, but it's easy to simply go back and read them (I did). This has become annual time when I take sit and think, take stock, wonder about the future. I listen to my Byzantine Monk recording of Christmas Eve chants and sip my Amaretto. It's my own little holiday ritual. And here I am.

The remission I'm in has been holding fast. As a result, I'm not as aware of life passing sometimes as I should be. It's when things are apparently stable that they really aren't. I don't want to be blind-sided again.

I'm also letting the 'small stuff' get to me. This last semester at Columbia was, as I've said repeatedly in postings the past few months, intense. Politics knocked me around. As always, I worry about letting people people down. Why? What happened? I need to regain some balance, some of that perspective-thing that immersed me ten years ago, when I didn't realize I would be around to see Daniel and Lian graduate, to watch my daughter get married, to meet my grandson. Some things are important.

Tonight, right now, through my little ritual I know what is important. I am surrounded by love, by family, by an awareness that life is, in fact, too short. I need to carry this forward. I want to make it all good. I will try.


Yesterday when thinking about ten years passing, I did a list of the text files I've used for the entries in this blog. Even though there have been times, like recently, when I haven't been as diligent in committing my relatively mundane life to blog-memory, the output was surprisingly long. Here is a screen-shot of the files listed:

I also noticed that there were more entries when things were going poorly, health-wise. I guess this makes sense for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that I started this whole blog enterprise because of my health. If I want to keep the action going here without having to rely upon badness, hopefully I can find other topics to explore. Of course, this will always continue to be the Prosaic Exploits of Brad, but at least it will be something.

And there is so much goodness to write about! Maybe it's all banal, but the holidays, my family, my friends, colleagues, plodding along with new music, new work -- all these things add up to my sense of being. I'm selfish enough to want to communicate that. To whom? I don't know. Maybe someone else can read here and find some resonance. Or humor. Or the documentation of a safe life, and maybe that will even mean something. Maybe Shai can read this when he gets older, or some other relatives, and learn a bit about their ancestry (I know I really enjoy learning about my own forbears; Jill has been doing a remarkable job on I was here. These are some things I thought.

Today the thoughts have been wonderful. Here's a few photos of our Christmas tree (only one this year -- we needed space! Our family is growing!):



I just said to Jill: now I know what my mom means when she remarks that the house seems so empty when we leave with our families after the holidays. We had such a glorious, full time! Having Daniel, Lian, Itay and (of course!) Shai here was magical. Seeing my sister and her clan made it even more so. All our kids are doing so well -- life is definitely 'most goodly' right now.

I had forgotten how much babies alter time. Shai totally monopolized our days (and nights!), and we all happily allowed that monopoly to rule. I barely logged into my Columbia account, and I let many things slide. I didn't mind it at all, although I'm paying the price now. Babies also accelerate life. As I get older, certain periods of life start to accrue a kind of stasis, and I get tricked into thinking "oh yeah, it will be like this on into the future". No, it won't. It never was. Being with Shai was like being thrust directly into the rush of time. He was a total learning-sponge, adopting and adapting new skills every day. My favorite moment was when he learned to make a 'kissing' sound. The rest of the day was spent exploring the vastness of lip-smacking. FUN! And I realized that that moment was a singular point, one among many, and that life was flowing and changing as I watched. Any sense of stability is nothing but a castle drawn in the air. We pretend it's real, but the sadness and the joy of living is that it isn't.


New Years Eve. I've spent the day working to get 'caught up' with things, and I've been sort-of successful. I think it's the things I don't remember to catch that will come to bite me. Ah, such is life.

We have a nice evening planned with good friends and neighbors. Our family is well, and hopefully 2017 will bring some pleasant surprises. For many, 2016 wasn't that great a year, but for us it was exceptional. Here's why:

click to play

And all the other pictures I could put here -- me, Jill, Daniel, Lian, Itay, Brenda, John, Bo, Stefan, Mom, Dad, our new in-laws in Israel, friends, neighbors. Yes I am very upset about Donald Trump, but there is much goodness in the world. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!

Two things I forgot most recently: My oh my, what a life we've had!

And Happy Winter Solstice. The light should now return...

1/1/2017 -- next page