Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wimbledon Day 10: Peya

Curtain Call

Player: Alexander Peya
Age: 31
Nation: Austria
Current Doubles Ranking: 61
Doubles Partner: Christopher Kas (Germany)
Notable Conquest: Marcelo Melo/Bruno Soares (13th seed, Brazil)
Today's Result: lost to Robert Lindstedt (Sweden)/Horia Tecau (Romania) (8th) in straight sets

Photo via Tennis Prediction

Doubles has gotten short shrift this tournament. Except for a few glances at the Bryans yesterday, the coverage, including DirecTV's five-court extravaganza, ignored doubles entirely as far as I could tell. The tournaments go on nonetheless. Peya and Kas, who both turned 31 just this month, reached the semifinals, a career-best Slam finish for both of them. I don't know if any of the doubles finals are scheduled for coverage this weekend.

30 Songs in 30 Days, Day 14: A Song That No One Would Expect You to Love

Song: "As Long As You Love Me"
Writer: Max Martin
Band: Backstreet Boys
Album: Backstreet's Back

I have an excuse. When I was 24, I spent the Christmas season in New Zealand, travelling mostly in the North Island. This was pre-Lord of the Rings by a few years so while I knew the country was beautiful, I was entirely unprepared for how breathtaking the scenery would be: miles and miles of exotic vegetation, tranquil bluffs, white sand beaches and an ocean the color of emeralds. New Zealand has fjords. Who knew? Neither postcards nor film do New Zealand justice and I didn't even get to see the best parts - another trip for another time.

This song was on the radio all the time during that trip - three or four times per hour. According to Wikipedia, it went to #1 in New Zealand and I'm not surprised. So while I generally object to the Backstreet Boys, this particular tune evokes images of the future Middle Earth spreading out before me.

I wish I could claim the photos below are ones I took myself. Perhaps they will give you an idea of what I mean.

Photo via New Zealand Travel

Photo via

Photo via Eske Style


I hope you'll join us for the "30 Songs in 30 Days" challenge, inspired by the tumblr list. Our 30 Songs roster:

Stay on target...
Marc Whitman's Blog
Haley says "Hello" To You

It's never too late to post your own. Tomorrow is...

Day 15: A Song That Describes You

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wimbledon Day 9: Tomic

Curtain Call

Player: Bernard Tomic
Age: 18
Nation: Australia
Current Ranking: 158
Notable Conquests: Robin Soderling (5th seed, Sweden) and Nikolay Davydenko (29th, Russia)
Today's Result: lost to Novak Djokovic (2nd, Serbia) in four sets

Photo via Tennis Australia

Tomic is destined for greatness. That much is clear. He went through qualifying, then took out two seeds. He was a bracket buster for me in taking out Soderling. Now we can add Jo-Wilfred Tsonga (12th, France) to that list. This was Tomic's first time in a Slam quarterfinal, though one doubts it will be his last. I still say he looks like Ted Williams.

Photo via Uncyclopedia

My Tennis Fantasy

Federer goes down. Let's not be too hard on him. He'll be 30 in August. The best years are past and it's unfair to judge him by the ridiculous standards he set for himself. Today was the first time he lost a Slam match after being two sets up. There will be a lot of firsts like that over the next several months. He is still Federer and thus forever capable of genius. But let's be realistic. This chapter of his story is nearing the end. I still say he packs it in after next year's US Open. Let's enjoy the end game.

30 Songs in 30 Days, Day 13: A Song That Is a Guilty Pleasure

Song: "If"
Writer: David Gates
Band: Bread
Album: Manna

I could put together quite a list of these but this ridiculously dear song is particularly dear to me. While I was in Japan, I taught in three different public high schools - two high-level academic schools and one low-level one. At the low-level one, the teachers liked using popular songs to encourage their students to learn English. We examined this one at a moment in my life when the lyrics hit me in just the right spot.

Several years ago, a friend of ours, Danny Thompson, produced a play entitled The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett as found in an envelope (partially burned) in a dustbin in Paris labeled "Never to be performed. Never. Ever. EVER! Or I'll sue! I'LL SUE FROM THE GRAVE!!!" as discovered by Greg Allen, Ben Scheider & Danny Thompson. One "play" consists entirely of a man dressed as an old woman rocking in a chair while listening to this song over and over and over and over... Very funny!

Alas, no video clips are available. But I do have the following to share with you, which is nearly as good. Trust me. Watch it. You'll be so glad you did.


I hope you'll join us for the "30 Songs in 30 Days" challenge, inspired by the tumblr list. Our 30 Songs roster:

Stay on target...
Marc Whitman's Blog
Haley says "Hello" To You

It's never too late to post your own. Tomorrow is...

Day 14: A Song That No One Would Expect You to Love

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wimbledon Day 8: Cibulkova

Curtain Call

Player: Dominika Cibulkova
Age: 22
Nation: Slovakia
Current Ranking: 24
Notable Conquests: Caroline Wozniacki (1st seed, Denmark) and Julia Goerges (16th, Germany)
Today's Result: lost to Maria Sharapova (5th, Russia) in straight sets

Photo via Live Tennis Guide

Cibulkova was thoroughly outclassed today but I suppose one can forgive her in light of the long match she had against Wozniacki yesterday. This was her first Wimbledon quarterfinal finish. Apparently, she used to date Golden Squid Jurgen Melzer.

Catching Up with Old Friends

Juan Sebastian Cabal
(Curtain Call, Roland Garros Day 14) - Cabal teamed with countryman Robert Farah in the men's doubles draw. This was the first Wimbledon for both players. The team made it to the third round before losing to James Cerratani (USA)/Phillip Marx (Germany) in four sets. Cabal also teamed with Polona Hercoq (Slovenia) in mixed doubles, though the pair lost in the first round to Paul Hanley (Australia)/Su-Wei Hsieh (Chinese Taipei) in straight sets.

30 Songs in 30 Days, Day 12: A Song from a Band You Hate

Song: "Girlfriend in a Coma"
Writer: Johnny Marr, Morrissey
Band: The Smiths
Album: Strangeways, Here We Come

No one epitomizes pretentious self-loathing quite like the Smiths and their lead singer Morrissey. My Wife just finished Talking to Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield and he has a whole chapter on Morrissey. My favorite paragraph:
His songs were a Magic 8-Ball of the damned. Whenver I would contemplate a really big adventure, like maybe washing my hair and putting on clean socks and leaving my room, Morrissey was there to talk me out of it, and provide me with excellent reasons to keep hiding in my room where I belonged. When I did go out, to attend class or pick up a bag of Zeus Chips, I felt guilty for cheating on Morrissey with life.

I hope you'll join us for the "30 Songs in 30 Days" challenge, inspired by the tumblr list. Our 30 Songs roster:

Stay on target...
Marc Whitman's Blog
Haley says "Hello" To You

It's never too late to post your own. Tomorrow is...

Day 13: A Song That Is a Guilty Pleasure

Monday, June 27, 2011

Wimbledon Day 7: Pervak

Curtain Call

Player: Ksenia Pervak
Age: 20
Nation: Russia
Current Ranking: 89
Notable Conquests: Andrea Petkovic (11th seed, Germany) and Shahar Peer (22nd, Israel)
Today's Result: lost to Tamira Paszek (Austria) in three sets

Photo via Wikipedia

It was quite an impressive showing from Pervak. In her very first Wimbledon, she took out two seeds and reached the second week. Her ranking will get a very big boost heading into the hardcourt season.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Nadal-del Potro match - very high quality. It wasn't del Potro's day in the end but I love the way he tests the limits of Nadal's game. You're gonna run down every shot? Fine, let's see it. The Argentine hits the ball so hard and so deep into the corners that Rafa has a much wider court to cover than he has against almost anyone else. Tennis is a better sport with JMDP healthy and playing at this level. Here's hoping for more of the same in New York.

Catching Up with Old Friends

Richard Gasquet (Curtain Call, US Open Day 8) - Early on, it looked like Gasquet might give Andy Murray (4th, UK) a real match today, losing the first set in a tie-break. Alas, he went down fairly meekly in sets two and three. Nonetheless, this is the fourth consecutive Slam in which Gasquet has shown improvement so I shall award him The Golden Squid!

Photo via world tennis players

Photo via Tenhand

Gasquet is a puzzle, a child prodigy with loads of talent who's never gotten his head sufficiently in order to mount a challenge to the top-ranked players. He has just turned 25 and it's possible that his window has passed. Then again, he's just the sort who could steal a Slam title some day if he gets hot for two weeks.

My Baseball Fantasy: Not Eva's Brother

Private League: won, 7-1-2 (74-39-7 overall, 1st place out of 10, 2.5 games ahead)
Public League: 3rd place out of 12
My Player of the Week: Evan Longoria (Third Baseman, Rays) with 4 home runs, 14 RBI, 8 runs and a .370 batting average

Photo via The Sports Session

Longoria has required some patience this year. He was my first draft pick in the private league and I felt lucky to get him with the fifth pick. He was on the DL with an oblique injury early in the season, then was slow getting on track upon his return. This week, he has justified my faith.

I must confess that I was among those who thought he was actress Eva Longoria's brother. Apparently not. However, as I have also learned from Wikipedia, he was a champion wrestler in college.

30 Songs in 30 Days, Day 11: A Song from Your Favorite Band

Song: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
Writer: George Harrison
Band: The Beatles
Album: The Beatles (The White Album)

If you've read any of my sports posts, you may have caught on to the fact that I have a soft spot for the underdog. In rock 'n' roll, there is no better underdog story than that of George Harrison. The Beatles' epic has been told over and over again, oversimplified by many as the saga of two songwriting geniuses and their two Liverpudlian sidekicks. Not for nothing did George call his own record label Dark Horse.

1968 was a critical year in the history of the band. Their longtime manager Brian Epstein had died of a drug overdose in August of '67 and the group had decided to manage themselves. It was the beginning of the end. While their musical output was still astonishing in both quality and quantity, group cohesion was disintegrating. The public face of the change, of course, was Yoko Ono. But in reality, her relationship with John Lennon was more a result of the changing dynamics than their cause. The dysfunctional marriage stage of the John/Paul relationship was well underway and the two men were clearly headed in very different creative directions.

In the midst of all this, a new voice was emerging. George Harrison had always managed to get a song or two on each Beatles album but, even with such successes as Revolver's "Taxman," his efforts always paled in comparison to the Lennon/McCartney masterworks. In '68, the band's eponymous album heralded many changes, but none more significant than a challenge to the well-established pecking order. John and Paul didn't even want to put "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on the album until George told them he could get his buddy Eric Clapton to play on the track. To my ears, there's never been any question as to which song on this classic collection stands out from the rest.

John Lennon was the only Beatle who didn't play on the track. Then again, if you wrote the song, Eric Clapton's playing guitar and Paul McCartney's singing backup, why would you even need John Lennon? The Beatles/Clapton collaboration qualifies the song as a genuine rock 'n' roll masterpiece but even pared down to its simplest early versions, WMGGW is hauntingly beautiful:

The song was just the beginning for George. He had the best new song on Yellow Submarine, too, with "It's All Too Much" and arguably the TWO best on Abbey Road with "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun." By the time the group split in 1970, George Harrison might well have been the best songwriter in the band - no small accomplishment. His first solo album, All Things Must Pass, far out-sold the initial Lennon and McCartney solo offerings. The Ugly Duckling had grown into quite the swan, indeed.

My favorite cover of the song is from Harrison's posthumous induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The all-star lineup includes Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Dhani Harrison and the inimitable Prince on the guitar solo.


I hope you'll join us for the "30 Songs in 30 Days" challenge, inspired by the tumblr list. Our 30 Songs roster:

Stay on target...
Marc Whitman's Blog
Haley says "Hello" To You

It's never too late to post your own. Tomorrow is...

Day 12: A Song from a Band You Hate

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Family Adventures: Sterling Pond Trail

Following is My Wife's write-up of our hike today:

Hike #9 - Sterling Pond Trail

It was a good hike for me, too. It was not particularly strenuous physically, though I was frustrated at times having to navigate through so much water. I have one personal limitation which may hold us back a bit in our quest to hike the entire trail: I am afraid of heights. We tested the bounds of my anxiety a few times today but I managed. I've assured My Wife that I will let her know when the my limit is reached.

To bring next time:
- An extra layer for Our Girl. In truth, I don't think she would have really needed her fleece jacket but would have been happier to know it was an option.

It may have been more strenuous than I realized. I'm exhausted!

30 Songs in 30 Days, Day 10: A Song That Makes You Fall Asleep

Rag: Charukeshi
Performers: Ravi Shankar (sitar) and Alla Rakha (tabla)

One of the great pleasures of being a music major is that you get to go to the library listening room, put on headphones, fall asleep in your chair and call it studying. I wonder what has happened to library listening rooms in the current technological age. Do they even exist anymore with so many things accessible online?

I took an Asian music class my junior year and sitar music, particularly of the northern classical style, was the surest bet for knocking me out. I still consider it to be the greatest nap music there is. Shankar is, of course, the world's most famous virtuoso and not just for his association with the Beatles. I have a feeling the video above may even be one I watched in college.


I hope you'll join us for the "30 Songs in 30 Days" challenge, inspired by the tumblr list. Our 30 Songs roster:

Stay on target...
Marc Whitman's Blog
Haley says "Hello" To You

It's never too late to post your own. Tomorrow is...

Day 11: A Song from Your Favorite Band

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wimbledon Day 6: Beck

Curtain Call

Player: Karol Beck
Age: 29
Nation: Slovakia
Current Ranking: 125
Notable Conquest: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (26th seed, Spain)
Today's Result: lost to David Ferrer (7th, Spain) in straight sets

Photo via BBC SPORT

It was a strong tournament for Beck. He went through qualifying, took out a seed and matched his career-best Wimbledon finish. Hopefully, this will be a good springboard into the hard court season.

My Tennis Fantasy

Soderling goes down so my chances at maximum points for Wimbledon are squelched. Does anyone else think his conqueror, Aussie qualifier Bernard Tomic, looks a bit like baseball legend Ted Williams?


Photo via Live Tennis


Photo via R&S Sports Collectibles

30 Songs in 30 Days, Day 9: A Song That You Can Dance To

Song: "Cotton Eye Joe"
Writer: Traditional American folk song, arranged by Janne Ericsson, Örjan Öban Öberg and Pat Reiniz
Band: Rednex
Album: Sex & Violins

I taught the folk song, "Cotton-Eyed Joe" to a group of students one day and one of them piped up, "Hey, you know there's a dance to that!" Long story short, she taught the dance to me and to the rest of the class. Now, the Rednex version and the dance are a regular part of my curriculum.

There are LOADS of different dances to this song but this one is closest to the one I teach:

I love these guys:

These kids are pretty good, too:

A couples version:

But these ladies put us all to shame:


I hope you'll join us for the "30 Songs in 30 Days" challenge, inspired by the tumblr list. Our 30 Songs roster:

Stay on target...
Marc Whitman's Blog
Haley says "Hello" To You

It's never too late to post your own. Tomorrow is...

Day 10: A Song That Makes You Fall Asleep

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wimbledon Day 5: A New Golden Squid

Curtain Call

Player: Simone Bolelli
Age: 25
Nation: Italy
Current Ranking: 116
Notable Conquest: Stanislas Wawrinka (14th seed, Switzerland)
Today's Result: lost to Richard Gasquet (17th, France) in straight sets

Photo via world sports

Bolelli made it to the main draw as a lucky loser. He caught a break in the first round, drawing another qualifier: Martin Fischer (Austria). But his second round victory carries no asterisk. Wawrinka's not as strong on grass as he is on hard courts but he's still made the fourth round of Wimbledon twice. Bolelli deserves high praise for that takedown.

Catching Up with Old Friends

Ivan Ljubicic
(Curtain Call, Roland Garros Day 9) - Ljubicic put up a valiant effort against Andy Murray (4th, UK) today. His third round finish matches his career-best showing at All-England. It's an improvement on last year's first round exit, too. As such, he may be in position for a seed at the US Open.

Rebecca Marino (Curtain Call, US Open Day 3) - Marino had a rough day today, losing two doubles matches. First, she and partner Ipek Senoglu (Turkey) lost in ladies' doubles to Natalie Grandin (South Africa)/Vladimira Uhlirova (Czech Republic) in straight sets. Later, she and mixed doubles partner Santiago Gonzalez (Mexico) fell to Rajeev Ram (USA)/Alexandra Dulgheru (Romania), also in straight sets. Perhaps I can cushion the blow for her by awarding her The Golden Squid!

Photo via

Image via Tenhand

Marino made it to the second round of the singles draw in her very first Wimbledon. In fact, she made her first appearance in each of the four Slams over the past four months and managed to make it to at least the second round of each. Her ranking has sky-rocketed during that period as well. She was ranked #101 at the end of 2010 but now stands at #44. She is currently the top-ranked Canadian woman to boot. As if that weren't enough, according to her tweets, she uses Hello Kitty Band-Aids. My daughter would be very pleased.

30 Songs in 30 Days, Day 8: A Song That You Know All the Words to

Song: "Take Me Home, Country Roads"
Writers: John Denver, Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert
Singer: John Denver
Album: Poems, Prayers and Promises

I was 24, on a beach in the Philippines. A man played a guitar. We all sang the song. I was the only one who knew the words to the bridge so I got a little solo. Now you can learn them, too!


I hope you'll join us for the "30 Songs in 30 Days" challenge, inspired by the tumblr list. Our 30 Songs roster:

Stay on target...
Marc Whitman's Blog
Haley says "Hello" To You

It's never too late to post your own. Tomorrow is...

Day 9: A Song That You Can Dance to

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wimbledon Day 4: Tanasugarn

Curtain Call

Player: Tamarine Tanasugarn
Age: 34
Nation: Thailand
Current Ranking: 108
Today's Result: Maria Kirilenko (26th seed, Russia) in straight sets

Photo via Asian Tennis Federation

Tanasugarn went through qualifying to reach her 15th consecutive Wimbledon main draw. She's had great success at the event in the past: one quarterfinal appearance and six additional fourth round finishes. She and Marina Erakovic (New Zealand), yesterday's Curtain Call, entered the doubles qualifying tournament together but didn't make it through to the main draw.

On the Coffee Table: Jonathan Eig

Photo of Gehrig via My Right Foot

"He really does look like Gary Cooper," My Wife noted of the cover photo.

Image of Cooper as Gehrig (The Pride of the Yankees) from GreenCine

I just finished Jonathan Eig's Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig. I realized upon beginning the book that I didn't really know that much about Gehrig. I knew about his consecutive games streak. I knew about the disease that killed him and which now bears his name, but I did not realize that at 38, I have already out-lived him. I knew he was a great player but I'm not sure I'd appreciated how good he truly was: 493 homers, 1,995 RBI, .340 lifetime batting average, .447 on-base percentage and .632 slugging. Although he spent much of his career in the shadows of first Babe Ruth and later Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig was probably the best first baseman of all time. Bill James rates him as such in his Historical Baseball Abstract. He was also elected by fans as the starting first baseman on the All-Century Team in 1999. In fact, he was the overall leading vote-getter on that team.

Since his death at the age of 37 in 1941, Gehrig has come to be so much more than just a great ballplayer. Lou Gehrig is the closest thing that American sports has to a saint. He was the first baseball player ever to have his jersey number retired and the first to have his waiting period waived before being elected to the Hall of Fame. Never a media darling during his lifetime, his workmanlike approach to the game, his courage in the face of a horrifying disease and his untimely death have bestowed upon Gehrig an heroic appreciation which no other athlete can claim.

Several years ago, I read a book entitled The Mozart Myths: A Critical Reassessment by William Stafford. Apart from debunking the various apocryphal tales surrounding the great composer, Stafford writes of the many perils of biographies in general. Among those perils is hero worship. Eig has written an excellent book but I think at times he comes dangerously close to idealizing his subject. Of course, as noted above, that's easy to do with Gehrig. He was, by all contemporary accounts, a quiet, responsible and respectable person. There were hints from his wife that perhaps his aloofness was not an ideal quality in a husband. But Gehrig never provided much tabloid fodder.

Gehrig died 70 years ago this month and, sadly, medicine still has no cure for ALS, the neurological disease which killed him. Eig, to his credit, doesn't pull any punches in his description of the disease and its agonizing toll on Gehrig and those around him. The end of the book is a tough read as a result - but important.

30 Songs in 30 Days, Day 7: A Song That Reminds You of a Certain Event

Piece: Symphony No. 9 in D minor: Choral, Op. 125, fourth movement
Writer: Ludwig van Beethoven, text by Friedrich Schiller
Orchestra: Nagano Winter Orchestra
Choruses: Tokyo Opera Singers plus several others simulcast from around the world
Conductor: Seiji Ozawa

The videos above are from the opening ceremonies of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. I watched from my apartment in Yokohama in amazement. While the technological accomplishment of the simulcast is astonishing, what really blew me away, and what still brings tears to my eyes to watch it now, are the shots of the stadium crowd in Nagano. While the choirs around the world were undoubtedly meticulously prepared, all of the people in the stadium were given lyric sheets on their way in. While some are clearly struggling through, some left the sheets on their chairs and are belting out the German as if they've been singing it their whole lives - because they have.

The Ninth is a very big deal in Japan. They know it simply as daiku, literally Great Nine. It is traditionally performed around New Year's, the most important holiday on the Japanese calendar. When CDs were originally produced by Sony, the Japanese executives in charge insisted that they be long enough to contain the entire Ninth on one disc. Even though I now realize that some trained singers must have been planted in the stadium for the sake of good television, this piece is a part of the Japanese soul and it's no stretch to imagine literally millions of people singing along at home with gusto.


I hope you'll join us for the "30 Songs in 30 Days" challenge, inspired by the tumblr list. Our 30 Songs roster:

Stay on target...
Marc Whitman's Blog
Haley says "Hello" To You

It's never too late to post your own. Tomorrow is...

Day 8: A Song That You Know All the Words to

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wimbledon Day 3: Erakovic Returns

Curtain Call

Player: Marina Erakovic
Age: 23
Nation: New Zealand
Current Ranking: 144
Today's Result: lost to Daniela Hantuchova (25th seed, Slovakia) in straight sets

Photo via women's tennis blog

This is the second Slam in a row in which I've featured Erakovic in this space. Once again, she went through qualifying to reach the main draw. This time, she did manage to win her first round match, a straight-set victory over fellow qualifier, Kai-Chen Chang (Chinese Taipei). She's been in strong form since Roland Garros, making it to the quarters in Birmingham.

Golden Squid Report

Tobias Kamke
- Kamke fell short of his third round finish of last year but he wasn't expected to do much against Andy Murray (4th, UK) today. His ranking will suffer a bit but it's still significantly better than it was a year ago: 83 now as opposed to 126 then. So, he should be able to avoid the Challenger circuit this summer and will therefore have opportunities to gain those ranking points back.

30 Songs in 30 Days, Day 6: A Song That Reminds You of Somewhere

Song: "Only You"
Writer: Vince Clarke
Band: Yazoo (known as Yaz in the USA)
Album: Upstairs at Eric's

I get 2-for-1 on this deal as "Only You" reminds me of two very different places: a starry meadow and a stuffy instrument room. In both cases, however, I am reminded of those places because of people who are very dear to me.

My favorite place at the Tree Farm is what we call simply The Meadow. I've spent many happy hours of my life in The Meadow, usually star-gazing. I truly believe that it is a magical place as I have done some of the most important thinking of my life there. It was also the setting of one of the best parties I've ever attended: our wedding reception.

The Meadow is an essential stop on the tour when I bring guests to the Tree Farm. As such, it has become an important place for some of our frequent visitors as well. The week after high school, in lieu of Beach Week, I brought a few pals up for Cabin Week. We had such a good time that we went back, in one configuration or another, every year for a dozen or so years afterward. One of our regular activities was singing in The Meadow - a cappella arrangements of our own devising. "Only You" was high on the essential song list, our interpretation based largely on the Flying Pickets version.

Fast forward a few years. For the first four years of my teaching career, I taught high school chorus. Working with teenagers is not always easy but I really enjoyed it. I'm happier in my job now, working mostly with elementary school kids. But I miss the conversations one can have with older students. Teenagers are amazing people.

I have some regrets about those years. There are definitely things I could have done better. However, there are a few things I got right. I started two a cappella quartets, one for the boys and one for the girls. In hindsight, a more inclusive arrangements involving more students would probably have been a better move in the long run. But I know that the experience was a really important one for the students involved and I am very grateful for the time I spent working with them.

One of the greatest thrills a music teacher can have is watching one's students fall in love with a piece of music. It took some convincing on my part for the groups to even give "Only You" a try. For starters, they'd never heard the song before. But also, it was an arrangement for mixed voices (SATB). To that point, I had only done all-female (SSAA) and all-male (TTBB) arrangements with those two groups, training them to sing one to a part. The boys, a particularly proud group which had made the New England Music Festival chorus as an ensemble that year, were especially reluctant to stray from that format. Thank goodness, they all trusted me and agreed to give it a go.

The more time we invested in the song, the happier we all were with the choice. There were still logistical challenges. The two groups met on different afternoons. Teenagers, particularly the talented ones, are very busy people so the opportunities to get all of them in the same place at the same time were few and far between. They diligently learned their parts separately with the understanding that we wouldn't be able to put it all together until we got closer to performance time - little did I know how much closer!

Every year our high school has an arts festival evening, presenting student work from the visual art, music and drama programs. "Only You" was on the program. Despite all of our efforts, we didn't have an opportunity to practice the song as a full group until about 30 minutes before the public performance!

Any music educator reading this wants to shoot me right now. A more responsible man would have begged off, or at least suggested better prepared music instead. But I had faith in my students and we all ducked into the instrument room to practice. They were nervous. I had arranged a variant part for one of the girls and she, apologetically, said she didn't feel comfortable with it so we scrapped it, last minute. They got their note from the pitch pipe and began...

They were perfect - absolutely sublime. With no one but themselves and me for an audience, singing the song together for the first time was a stunning revelation. They smiled at one another, delighting in the sound they were creating, the pure joy of the moment filling that stuffy little room. I have frequently said that the best part of being a conductor is having the best seat in the house. I have never felt so privileged as I did that evening.

Yes, they did just fine in their public performance, too. I, for one, never doubted.


I hope you'll join us for the "30 Songs in 30 Days" challenge, inspired by the tumblr list. Our 30 Songs roster:

Stay on target...
Marc Whitman's Blog
Haley says "Hello" To You

It's never too late to post your own. Tomorrow is...

Day 7: A Song That Reminds You of a Certain Event

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wimbledon Day 2: De Schepper

Curtain Call

Player: Kenny De Schepper
Age: 24
Nation: France
Current Ranking: 234
Today's Result: lost to Olivier Rochus (Belgium) in five sets

Photo via Mens Tennis Forums

De Schepper is another qualifier in his first Slam main draw. His opponent today, the 5' 6" Rochus, is one of my favorites. At 30, he may not have a lot of Wimbledons left.

Golden Squid Report

Greta Arn - Unfortunately, she had to pull out of the tournament with a right knee injury. She had third round points to defend from last year so her ranking will take a hit. Arn is 32. One hopes this is not the beginning of the end.

My Tennis Fantasy

A comment from Timmy regarding my Day 1 post, in which I noted that I selected the top 5 for the Fantasy Tennis Tour:
History is history, something from the past, which many people worship. That is a mistake, look at the current results, not have these top 5 seeds have achieved, but what can they do and how dangerous are they.
Fair enough. Perhaps I should explain that in the Fantasy Tennis Tour, one is limited in the number of times one can select a certain player over the course of the year. Therefore, it behooves one to save the best players for the highest-paying tournaments. As such, my selections of Nadal, Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Soderling for Wimbledon are part of a broader strategy.

I do think surface comfort is an essential consideration in making picks for any tournament. One of the great things about the world's current top 5, though, is that all are strong on all surfaces - part of why they're camped out at the top of the rankings, no doubt. The Big 3 have all been pretty solid this year and it's no stretch to imagine all will make it at least to the semis. Murray, while not in quite as strong form as those above him, can be trusted to do his darnedest to get to that stage, too. Assuming those four all make it, I can get maximum points for the tournament if I can also select one more quarterfinalist. Soderling, who deserves better than the flash-in-the-pan treatment he gets from the press, is the safest bet in my mind.

30 Songs in 30 Days, Day 5: A Song That Reminds You of Someone

Song: "Our House"
Writer: Graham Nash
Band: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Album: Déjà Vu

I share this story with full permission of its main character.

When My Wife was pregnant, she was for a time, shall we say, ultra-emotional. She stood no chance against mushy commercials and the like. One day, we were watching a documentary about Joni Mitchell. Home-movie footage of Graham Nash came on the screen with a certain song playing in accompaniment. I looked over at My Wife and she was balling! "Graham Nash makes you cry?!!" I asked incredulously, practically ready to jump through the screen and have it out with the man. I'm not pugnacious at all but I do not take kindly to anyone who makes My Wife cry!

It is a very sweet song, the world's greatest tribute to domestic bliss. Nash wrote it for Ms. Mitchell - overall, his superior as a songwriter - when they were living together. It was clear from his interview that he still has very fond feelings for her. I've found this to be the case with nearly everyone who ever had a romantic involvement with her.


I hope you'll join us for the "30 Songs in 30 Days" challenge, inspired by the tumblr list. Our 30 Songs roster:

Stay on target...
Marc Whitman's Blog
Haley says "Hello" To You

It's never too late to post your own. Tomorrow is...

Day 6: A Song That Reminds You of Somewhere

Monday, June 20, 2011

Wimbledon Day 1: Ruben Bemelmans of Genk

Curtain Call

Player: Ruben Bemelmans
Age: 23
Nation: Belgium
Current Ranking: 163
Today's Result: lost to Julien Benneteau (France) in five sets

Photo via ATP World Tour

Bemelmans went through qualifying to reach his first-ever Grand Slam main draw. Just saying his name with his city of birth - Ruben Bemelmans of Genk - is almost enough to make one want to learn Flemish. Seriously, try it!

Seeing the June sun shining on a natural grass court is good for the soul. The retractable roof was put to good use as well, allowing for a full day's schedule on Centre Court even if that didn't quite work out for the rest of the grounds. Tomorrow will be unavoidably jam packed as a result.

My Tennis Fantasy

Once again, I played it safe and went with the top 5 seeds: Nadal, Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Soderling. All five have strong history on grass. Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain sure looked like he was going to make things interesting in his match with Murray today but the Great Scot won the last 15 games of the match to squelch that idea. For what it's worth, Nadal is my pick to win.

My Baseball Fantasy: The Power of Poi

Private League: won, 6-3-1 (67-38-5 overall, 1st place out of 10, 1.5 games ahead)
Public League: 3rd out of 12
My Player of the Week: Shane Victorino (Center Fielder, Phillies) with 2 home runs, 7 RBI, 6 runs, 2 stolen bases and a .419 batting average

Photo via Fantasy Knuckleheads

As has been our tradition the past couple of years, we celebrated Father's Day with a trip to the bookstore. I picked up an ox-stunning copy of The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, an analysis of decades past by the sabermetric guru himself. I tried to explain to My Wife what it was all about but she just rolled her eyes - understandably. Anyway, I expect it to provide years of browsing pleasure.

Last night's Yankees/Cubs tilt was interesting for me on the fantasy-baseball/real-baseball conflict front. In the real world, I would never root for the Yanks in such a matchup but given that my fantasy match was still fairly close, I was hoping for a good game for my guy (Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees) and a poor game for his guy (Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs). As it turned out, both had great games so it was a wash. A-Rod went 3-for-4 with 3 runs and 1 RBI. Ramirez went 4-for-5 with 1 run scored. Alas, the Cubbies lost, 10-4.

Meanwhile, today is the first day of my summer vacation. Our Girl's school runs a week longer than mine this year so I get some time to myself. I think My Wife is staying home on Thursday so we can celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary together. But today, I plan to enjoy some quiet time. Wimbledon is calling to me...

30 Songs in 30 Days, Day 4: A Song That Makes You Sad

Song: "Loch Lomond"
Traditional Scottish Song
Choral Arrangement: Jonathan Quick
Choir: Carroll College Concert Choir
Soloist: Ryan McEldowny

The Vermont All-State Chorus performed this song at festival a few years back and I had the honor of judging the first cut of auditions for the solo. Several students made strong but unspectacular attempts. Finally, one pretty but very sheepish freshman girl sang for us and blew us away. The voice was gorgeous, of course, but her timid persona also added greatly to the character of the piece. We sent three finalists to the conductor but the choice was obvious. In the concert, she knocked it out of the park. All in attendance were thoroughly charmed - one of the great musical moments of my life. Her name was Sigrid Bronner.

A year or so later, this wonderfully talented girl was killed in an automobile accident. The car Sigrid was in crashed into a school bus on an icy road. The whole Vermont high school choral world mourned the loss and several schools around the state programmed the piece in her memory.

As beautiful as the song is, I can't help thinking of Sigrid. What a terrible loss it must have been for her family, her friends, her school and her community. How privileged we all were to have witnessed her in a moment of such perfect beauty.


I hope you'll join us for the "30 Songs in 30 Days" challenge, inspired by the tumblr list. Our 30 Songs roster:

Stay on target...
Marc Whitman's Blog
Haley says "Hello" To You

It's never too late to post your own. Tomorrow is...

Day 5: A Song That Reminds You of Someone

Sunday, June 19, 2011

30 Songs in 30 Days, Day 3: A Song That Makes You Happy

Song: "I Melt with You"
Writers: Robbie Grey, Gary McDowell, Stephen Walker, Michael Conroy and Richard Brown
Band: Modern English
Album: After the Snow

I have long believed that there should be a radio station that plays this song on an endless loop so that whenever you're feeling down, you could turn it on and feel better. I realize, of course, that in the current technological age, it's easy enough to arrange for this on my own. But it's the thought that counts.

This is no mindless pop song. Listen to the drum track sometime, performed by Richard Brown. That guy is going to town! One thing I really admire in a drummer is the ability to incorporate the toms meaningfully. In capable hands, a trap set can practically become a pitched instrument. If you really want to geek out, listen to the cross-rhythm between the drum and bass: five against eight - very cool!


I hope you'll join us for the "30 Songs in 30 Days" challenge, inspired by the tumblr list. My friends Mock (Stay on target...) and Marc (Marc Whitman's Blog) have also taken up the challenge.

Mock's daughter has now joined in the fun. Check out her blog at Haley says "Hello" To You.

It's never too late to post your own. Tomorrow is...

Day 4: A Song That Makes You Sad

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Tennis Fantasy: Tipsarevic

Current Overall Standing: 24th
My MVP for the Week: Janko Tipsarevic (Serbia) with $49,770, losing to Andreas Seppi (Italy) in the final of AEGON International

Photo via gototennis

Tipsarevic is another accomplished giant killer. Grass is his best surface so it's his time of year - always one to look out for at Wimbledon. He has a brutal first round draw, though: Ivo Karlovic (Croatia).

30 Songs in 30 Days, Day 2: Your Least Favorite Song

Song: "My Heart Will Go On"
Writers: James Horner (music) and Will Jennings (lyrics)
Singer: Céline Dion
Album: Let's Talk About Love and Titanic: Music from the Motion Picture

I will NOT include a sound file for this one. You can't make me!

I wasn't sure at first which song to pick but I tried to think if there was one song for which I would leap across the room to turn off the radio. Then it was obvious. I can hardly express the depths to which I detest this song. I can't say I'm really a fan of the movie, either.

When I first started teaching, among my responsibilities was 8th grade general music. My curriculum centered on keyboard skills and the first demo song on all of the electronic keyboards in my room was, you guessed it, "My Heart Will Go On." Mindlessly, I frequently told my students how much I hated the song - way too much information to entrust to a mischievous early teen. More than once, one of the little dears would start the demo just as s/he was leaving the room - maximum volume, of course. Oh, the joys...


I hope you'll join us for the "30 Songs in 30 Days" challenge, inspired by the tumblr list. My friends Mock (Stay on target...) and Marc (Marc Whitman's Blog) have also taken up the challenge. It's never too late to post your own. Tomorrow is...

Day 3: A Song That Makes You Happy

Friday, June 17, 2011

30 Songs in 30 Days, Day 1: Your Favorite Song

Song: "Here, There and Everywhere"
Writers: John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Band: The Beatles
Album: Revolver

I first discovered the Beatles through my parents' record collection. Mom and Dad were never much into rock'n'roll but they did have a few old LPs lying around for my sister and me to scavenge. For the Fab Four, they had three vinyl classics: The Beatles' Second Album, Help! and Revolver. Early on, I'd say that I preferred the first two plus "Yellow Submarine" from the third. But in truth, I didn't give the Beatles much thought. Top 40 radio in the early-to-mid '80s suited me just fine and I rarely if ever explored very far beyond it.

The day after seventh grade, my sister and I went to see a movie that changed my life: Ferris Bueller's Day Off. No, I was not inspired to play hooky. What really made an impression on me was the "Twist and Shout" scene. On that day, the Beatles stopped being my parents' dusty old band and became MY band - the only one that mattered much to me over the next few years. My personal journey of musical exploration had begun.

Back to the record cabinet I went. Now that I was a little older and more receptive, Revolver made a more profound impression on me, especially track #4 (#5 in the UK). "Here, There and Everywhere" blew me away. I listened to it over and over and over again. I was head-over-heels in love with that song and even now, 25 years later, it tugs at me as few other songs in the world do. I believe without a doubt that HT&E contains the most perfectly constructed melody of the 20th century. Beethoven would weep to hear that song, wishing he'd composed it himself. McCartney has called it his own favorite among his Beatles songs and it's easy to understand his pride - inasmuch as the man who wrote "Silly Love Songs" is entitled to have an opinion about his own music.

For our wedding, I created an a cappella arrangement of the song. I sang it to my bride with a few of my old pals. Our musical tastes have only modest overlap but she loves it, too.

As a teacher, I use HT&E to demonstrate melodic contour. One centuries-old convention of composition is that a melody should have either a single high point (one note that is higher in pitch than all of the others) and/or a single low point. HT&E provides a wonderful study as nearly every phrase has BOTH. I love the chromatic guitar run in the bridge, too: a McCartney trademark (though played by Mr. Harrison).

I've heard and performed a lot of music from all over the world - masterworks aplenty. There have been times in my life when I might have called another song my favorite but HT&E is home base, the point where all of my explorations began and the point to which I always return.


I hope you'll join us for the "30 Songs in 30 Days" challenge, inspired by the tumblr list. My friends Mock (Stay on target...) and Marc (Marc Whitman's Blog) have also taken up the challenge. It's never too late to post your own. Tomorrow is...

Day 2: Your Least Favorite Song

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Tennis Fantasy: Kohlschreiber

Current Overall Standing: 24th
My MVP for the Week: Philipp Kohlschreiber (Germany) with $154,789, defeating Philipp Petzschner (Germany) in the finals of the Gerry Weber Open

Photo via Photo Gallery Actors

Kohlschreiber has a well-earned reputation as a giant killer. He took out Andy Roddick (USA) at the 2008 Australian Open and Novak Djokovic (Serbia) at the 2009 French. Kohlschreiber only has three career titles at the ATP level but, interestingly, they are on three different surfaces: 2007 Munich (clay), 2008 Auckland (hard) and now 2011 Halle (grass).

I completely flaked on the UNICEF Open this week. I entered my picks for AEGON International late Saturday afternoon and fully intended to do the UNICEF ones that evening. Alas, I forgot. At least it's just a 250 tournament. It's not as if I forgot about Wimbledon or anything.

Note to self: don't forget about Wimbledon!

...............................................load? It's almost bad enough to put me off of the whole idea.


I hope you'll join us for the "30 Songs in 30 Days" challenge, inspired by the tumblr list. My friends Mock (Stay on target...) and Marc (Marc Whitman's Blog) have also taken up the challenge. We're kicking off on Friday. Let me know if you'd like to join us and I'll post your link as well.

My Baseball Fantasy: Zimmermann

Private League: tied, 5-5 (61-35-4 overall, 2nd place out of 10, 0.5 game out of first)
Public League: 3rd place out of 12
My Player of the Week: Jordan Zimmermann (Starting Pitcher, Nationals) with 1 win, 13 strikeouts, an 0.64 ERA and an 0.79 WHIP

Photo via Mr. Irrelevant

Zimmermann had two starts this past week, totaling 14 innings, during which he only allowed one earned run, nine hits and one walk. He is the first pitcher to be my player of the week this season. Playing for an ever stronger, yet still mediocre squad, his 4-6 win-loss record for the season is less than impressive. The 3.10 ERA is more admirable.

The biggest development for me this week was a mega-trade: a 4-for-4 deal in the public league. I got:

Troy Tulowitzki (SS, Rockies)
Ryan Howard (1B, Phillies)
Clayton Kershaw (SP, Dodgers)
Brandon Morrow (SP, Blue Jays)

I gave:

Ryan Braun (OF, Brewers)
Adrian Gonzalez (1B, Red Sox)
Andrew McCutchen (OF, Pirates)
Asdrubal Cabrera (SS, Indians)

For me, it was a pretty straight-forward sell high, buy low, deal from strength for need arrangement. My offensive stats in the public league are rock solid whereas the pitching needs some work. Hopefully, this will help.


Follow Up: Baseball's Quirks

Mock commented on my last post that he enjoys the obvious differences between the leagues in baseball and I would have to agree that in order to truly love the sport, one must embrace its many idiosyncrasies. However, I would argue that some are easier to swallow than others. To me, the most baffling baseball inconsistency is ballpark dimensions. How can a game in Yankee Stadium really compare to one at Fenway?

Yankee Stadium's dimensions:

Left Field Line - 318 feet (97 m)
Left Field - 379 feet (116 m)
Left-Center - 399 feet (122 m)
Center Field - 408 feet (124 m)
Right-Center - 385 feet (117 m)
Right Field - 353 feet (108 m)
Right Field Line - 314 feet (96 m)
Backstop - 52 feet (16 m)


Left Field: 310 ft (94.5 m)
Deep Left-Center: 379 ft (115.5 m)
Center Field: 389 ft 9 in (118.8 m)
Deep Right-Center: 420 ft (128 m)
Right Center: 380 ft (115.8 m)
Right Field: 302 ft (92 m)
Backstop: 60 ft (18.3 m)

And, of course, that's that massive green wall in Fenway's left field off of which one can't help but smack doubles.

Compare this state of affairs to basketball. The scene in Hoosiers when Coach Dale takes his Hickory Huskers to Hinkle Fieldhouse and demonstrates to them that the dimensions of the court are the same as those of the gym back home is very powerful. The world beyond the lines may be very different but the world within them is one you know well. Even across eras, while other aspects of basketball have changed - the widening of the lane, the addition of the three-point lines, the shot clock, etc. - the measurements from floor to rim ("10 feet") and from backboard to foul line ("15 feet") are exactly the same now as they were in 1954.

In baseball, you've got hitters' parks and pitchers' parks. A home run in one stadium is a fly out in another. Never mind the fact that most Little League fields, including the one behind my daughter's school, don't even have outfield fences.

Don't get me wrong. I'll take our breathtaking view of Mt. Mansfield over the Green Monster anytime.


I hope you'll join us for the "30 Songs in 30 Days" challenge, inspired by the tumblr list. My friends Mock (Stay on target...) and Marc (Marc Whitman's Blog) have also taken up the challenge. We're kicking off on Friday. Let me know if you'd like to join us and I'll post your link as well.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Checking in with the Cubs: Saved by the Rain?

Thursday's Cubs/Phillies game on WGN provided a nice opportunity to check in with my National League team. While the Orioles are experiencing a mild resurgence this year, the Cubs have virtually imploded. The Byzantine intrigue in the clubhouse has gotten plenty of press so we won't go into it here.

Photo via Chicago Cubs-Fan

"Don't tell me," said My Wife the quasi-fan, "they're already in last place."

"Actually, they're not," I responded. "But only because the Astros have been even worse."

On the field, the main issue has been starting pitching. The Cubs starters have the worst ERA in the majors. So, I went into Thursday's game with an eye on Randy Wells, the man of the evening. Could he get a quality start for the Cubbies and give them a shot at winning?

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on one's perspective), the weather answered that question early. Heavy wind and rain in the bottom of the third brought an hour-plus rain delay and an end to Wells's evening. Of course, he'd already allowed Jimmy Rollins's 3-run dinger in the second and was falling behind most of the batters he was facing. He had already thrown 53 pitches through 2 1/3. The bullpen pitched shut out ball for the 8 2/3 innings which followed the delay so perhaps Mother Nature was the true heroine for the Chicago side this evening, ultimately an 11-inning 4-3 win.

Among the Cubs' terrestrial entities, I'd say catcher Geovany Soto (pictured above) had the best game: 2-for-5 on the night with a double and a game-tying home run, more than making up for his three strikeouts. He also caught six different pitchers over 11 innings.

The lack of designated hitters definitely adds to the challenge of keeping a scorecard for a National League game. Between the rain delay and extra innings, the Phillies burned through eight pitchers on the night. They employed the double-switch, the National League's most exotic move, with reliever Ryan Madson and catcher Carlos Ruiz in the ninth.

I was born in the first month of the designated hitter era and have spent virtually my entire life in American League markets. Thus for me, the DH is the norm. Back when the rule was first introduced, Roger Angell was one of many who wrote in passionate dismay. After recently reading his book Five Innings, I've given the matter more thought. While I can certainly appreciate the purist perspective, the anti-climax when a pitcher comes to bat is undeniable.

Case in point: the Phillies managed to load the bases with two out in the bottom of the tenth. Unfortunately, they had no choice but to let reliever David Herndon take his turn at bat as there were no pitchers left to take the mound in the 11th. In the AL, there would at least have been a decent threat of a walk-off run. Instead, the end of the inning was essentially a foregone conclusion.

I see the counter-argument: more often than not, having to burn through the bench in such situations keeps the game from going on forever. The war of attrition is part of the sport and the lack of a DH does add an extra strategic wrinkle. It's just disappointing to see an offensive rally so thoroughly deflated.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My Baseball Fantasy: Kemp, Part III

Private League: tied, 5-5 (56-30-4 overall, 1st place out of 10, 3 games ahead)
Public League: 4th place out of 12
My Player of the Week: Matt Kemp (Center Fielder/Right Fielder, Dodgers) with 4 home runs, 13 RBI, 6 runs, 1 stolen base and a .409 batting average

Photo via The Golden Sombrero

A tie - not exactly in the spirit of baseball. It's difficult to completely avoid ties in a head-to-head format. Even if a league has an odd number of stats involved, a matchup could still have a tie in an individual stat, thus causing a tie for the whole affair. Indeed, the ties within stats count in our overall standings. Within the Yahoo! settings, tie-breakers are only available during the playoffs.

It's been yet another great week for Kemp. At the moment, he is the top-rated player for the season in fantasy baseball.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Roland Garros Day 15: Federer

Curtain Call

Player: Roger Federer
Age: 29
Nation: Switzerland
Current Ranking: 3
Notable Conquest: Novak Djokovic (2nd seed, Serbia)
Today's Result: lost to Rafael Nadal (1st, Spain) in four sets

Photo via TopNews

Fed turns 30 in August. Nadal has just turned 25 and seems unlikely to play until he's 30. We can't reasonably expect to see many more matches like the one we had today. Today's was not the best match in the Federer-Nadal oeuvre but there were definitely moments of pure magic. No one was going to beat Nadal today. But let's be honest, no one but Nadal would have beaten Federer today either. Some of their points defy belief. My parents are visiting. Not sports fans at all, they still marveled at the performance of these two titans.

Wimbledon should be pretty interesting now. Can Djokovic recover from what was surely a devastating semifinal loss? Can Murray withstand the annual pressure and do his nation proud? If Fed is, indeed, stronger and Rafa is, indeed, weaker and Fed gains further ground on a grass court, who will be the victor should they meet on the lawns?

My Tennis Fantasy

Current Overall Standing: 24th
My MVP for the Week: Rafael Nadal with $1,525,104, defeating Roger Federer for the title at Roland Garros

Photo via

Rafa has further strengthened his own credentials among the all-time greats. Does this victory give him a second wind for the rest of the season? I, for one, think he now heads to Wimbledon as the definite favorite.