Faster, Higher, Farther – Diesel Deceit

 

I recently had the opportunity to narrate this book by Jack Ewing.  Mr. Ewing was a reporter for the New York Times and covered this story throughout, so he had a wealth of knowledge which he put to good use in the book.

9780393254501_300Publisher W.W. Norton & Company says “In Faster, Higher, Farther, Jack Ewing rips the lid off the conspiracy. He describes VW’s rise from ‘the people’s car’ during the Nazi era to one of Germany’s most prestigious and important global brands, touted for being ‘green.’  He paints vivid portraits of Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piëch and chief executive Martin Winterkorn, arguing that the corporate culture they fostered drove employees, working feverishly in pursuit of impossible sales targets, to illegal methods.”

Of course, corporate malfeasance isn’t new, and it isn’t in our past.  Just today I heard reports of two respected Japanese companies – Subaru and Mitsubishi – that had been caught lying.  The first regarding safety inspections (in particular the qualifications of the inspectors) and the second regarding the properties of a wire component used in other products.  But in the VW story as told by Ewing, the most interesting aspect to me was the way he was able to piece together a larger picture of the company and the environment within which their emissions defeat device was developed and implemented.  It seemed a perfect storm of competitive pressure and corporate culture gone awry.  Reading Faster, Higher, Farther, I almost felt like the folks at VW didn’t think they were doing anything nefarious given international regulatory requirements that differed significantly in spirit and letter.  But, in the end, it seems the cover-up was the most egregious act on VW’s part – leading regulators on a wild goose chase for well over a year while continuing to knowingly sell cars in the U.S. and elsewhere that not only didn’t meet emissions standards but were designed to circumvent emissions testing in order to feign compliance.

It was a very interesting read.

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Singin’ in the Big Apple

No, I didn’t book a gig in NYC. Not yet ….  LOL But I did get the chance to perform two songs in Manhattan on a recent Sunday night. How? Simple: an open mic.  Although not the same kind of open mic you might typically expect to find in other parts of the country, it was a great evening of music and fun among a very welcoming group of singers, musicians, and songwriters.

The open mic I went to is called The Salon and is a regular Sunday evening event at restaurant Etcetera, Etcetera on West 44th Street. As it’s only steps from major Broadway theaters, there was some real talent in the house. The setup is that the host/pianist is available to play your music, and vocal mics are available for the performers.  You can also hop on the piano yourself if you wish.  I don’t know that they are prepared to handle guitar plugin on the PA, but their mixing board has more than enough channels. I didn’t take my guitar anyway.  Since I didn’t have any of my original songs written out in a proper chord chart, etc., I sang two covers (Not Over You, Gavin DeGraw; Snow in July, Garth Brooks) for which I had sheet music. And, yes, you need to bring your own sheet music.

The regular pianist/host is Mark Janas, and producer is Tanya Moberly. The night I visited, the guest host/accompanist was Ian Herman who did an awesome job. His solo work was amazing as well.  Ian was joined by co-host Dawn Derow, a very talented singer/performer whose current show in the big city is a retrospective of songs from 1941.

Again, I had a blast. And … the food was very good, too.

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Writing Songs Again

Unfortunately, I took a break from songwriting for … quite awhile.  I understand, of course, that there are times when it’s good to take a break and allow the creative juices to recharge.  That wasn’t exactly what happened in this case, but maybe the circumstances that resulted in the hiatus have done me a favor.

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photo by Baka9k

Because I’m definitely back at it.  Although I managed to return to composing tunes only very recently, I’ve already finished several.  Are they good songs?  Well, that remains to be seen.  Ha!  In any case, it’s good to be back exercising my mind and soul in this way.

Jonas aka Snowzilla Binge Watching

I can’t say I like being stuck inside due to dangerously inclement weather, but I was very fortunate that my family and I were able to remain safe during the blizzard just past.  I did lose some income due to cancelled work, and I probably got a little fatter due to a sedentary weekend.  On the other hand, this storm had a particularly fortuitous timing from my viewpoint.

As you probably know, the SAG Awards are coming up on January 30.  Yes, indeed, we are in the last week of consideration by the membership before votes are due.  Many years I find myself struggling to schedule the time to finish watching all the nominated shows and movies.  Jonas, of course, completely cleared my calendar beginning Friday night right through tomorrow (Monday) morning.  And that has afforded me the opportunity to binge watch the nominees!

So far I’ve gotten through 4 of the television productions I hadn’t seen previously and 5 movies.  I still have a few hours to go, so I may well cram in a couple more viewings thanks to Jonas the Snowzilla.  And why not?  After all, tomorrow it’s right back to the daily grind.

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Still Getting Spins -ITCL

The album I released almost three years ago, In The City Lights, surprises me with it’s ability to get radio play.  I recently did some checking and found that the song “Change Me” received multiple spins in 2015 on TLC radio New Zealand and on internet radio by DJ Nicole.  Many thanks to TLC and Nicole!  And a shout out to TSP for getting the song to them (in 2012).

The songs from ITCL were also finally uploaded to YouTube this past year by music retailer and distributor CD Baby.  Here are the top three tunes on YouTube.

 

 

 

Hope you enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Inspiration Close At Hand

I have to admit that I pretty much took 2015 off as far as songwriting.  No, I didn’t forget about it completely.  I sat down plenty of times to try and make progress on something.  But, in the end, it didn’t seem to get me anywhere.  Writer’s block, if you want to call it that.

Funny thing is … I had the necessary stuff for jump-starting my inspiration close at hand all the time.  In a book (a series, actually) that I had been reading.  I liked the book – plot, characters, subtext and perceived symbolism within.  I just really liked it (and the sequels).  Got through the whole story across this past year.

Still making no progress on my other songs (I have myriad partially-written tunes waiting), very recently I finally decided to sit down and try writing a song that you could consider like a theme song for the book – the story – if it were made into a movie.  Like fan fiction – only music.  Fan music?  Is that a genre?

Much to my joy (and relief), the lyrics and tune just began to flow naturally.  Not without some work, of course.  And it is still being edited and caressed.  But I sure do wish I’d brought that book into my songwriting sessions months ago.  Whatever happens – however good or bad the resulting song turns out to be – that so-called writer’s block is history.  Yay!  Just in time for a new year of composing tunes to start off right.

Zoom-(ba)-ing Off Topic

I like to think of myself as a moderately enthused fitness enthusiast.  I enjoy being physically active even though I am no spring chicken.  The activities I have generally engaged in to keep me moving include jogging, biking, cardio machines, and resistance training.  While I have exercised with a trainer, a workout partner and even a running club in the past, I’ve never been big on group exercise.  The running club started and ended in the same place, but you ran pretty much at your own pace.

Anyway, I’ve been pondering a change in my exercise regimen and thought maybe I should try one of those classes.  After watching a few, I was shocked to find myself drawn toward – of all things – the Zumba classes.  Why?  Well, I think it’s because those classes are very different from the exercise I can do on my own.  You know, why join a class where I repeat pretty much the same work I already do?  In the past, I have heard some fellow male colleagues (non-dancers, I’m talking about) speak glowingly about Zumba classes at their gyms.  Also, while the classes I watched were predominantly crowded with people of the female persuasion, they all had one or two guys in them.  So I decided to throw caution to the wind and give it a try.

I took my first Zumba class two weeks ago from an very nice and energetic instructor named Jamie.  As she described it to me, her class was heavy on cardio and lighter on the dance moves.  That suited me just fine!  Although, I think I still screwed up every single “routine.”  lol  Undeterred, I decided to try her class again that Wednesday to see if I could do better.  I didn’t do significantly better, but I do think I was at least keeping up with some of the others in the class.  Of course, that could be self delusion talking.   Deluded or not, on Saturday I tried a different instructor.  The class was posted as being taught by “gym staff”.  Turned out to be a male instructor named Tomas subbing in.  This guy took it to a different place … that dancier place.  Surprisingly, he also turned the music down to a level at which we could hear the beat but didn’t make our ears ring afterward.  Anyway, I don’t think my hips have ever moved (or at least been asked to move) in that way in public in my entire life.  But in for a penny, in for a pound!  I gave it my best effort.

That Saturday night as I tried to fall asleep, I realized that I was more sore than I have been in years.  Cumulatively sore, no doubt, in places I haven’t been sore since I was a kid learning to ride a horse.  My legs were a little tight, sure, but I really felt it all through my midsection – especially the obliques and serratus (those little muscles over the ribs).  I have also been sweating like a horse after every single class.  Good exercise?  I should think so!  Don’t know if this will become a regular part of  my regimen.   There are some movements my body just doesn’t seem able to accomplish, and some of the instructors clearly gear their classes toward their main audience with choreography that is decidedly not masculine (and which I choose to forgo).  Even so, I’m impressed and understand the hype now.

 

April Jazz and More at the Black Fox Lounge

Had an awesomely fun evening at the Black Fox Lounge last night.  Invited to join in the April Jazz Showcase at the Black Fox with music director Oren Levine, I brought a couple of my own tunes and a cover to the festive evening.  Although my tunes were a bit of a genre departure, the audience was warm and welcoming.

It was my first visit to the Black Fox, and I was impressed.  It’s a small venue with two floors of music – primarily jazz.  My friends said it reminded them of some of the cool, small clubs in NYC.

As far as the showcase went, it was a tremendous mash-up of jazz, jazzed-up standards, Oren Levine originals and cabaret tunes in addition to some pop and a little alt. country to boot (that would be me – lol).  To be honest, the stars of the evening were the instrumentalists – Oren Levine on piano, Winston Johnson on drums and Charlie Himel on bass.  They were amazingly facile at moving from song to song and style to style with alacrity.  Vocalists on hand included Jazz Showcase mainstay Barbara Papendorp along with guest vocalists Andrew Harmon, Deirdre Jennings, and me.   We also had a last minute addition – a jazz flute player named Eric (a coworker of Barbara’s) who was fantastic.

Thanks to everyone who came out to hear us!  And big thanks to Barbara Papendorp and Oren Levine for inviting me to join in the fun!

Books To Die For

If you are a mystery buff, you should definitely pick this up.  It’s an anthology of essays (over 100) by today’s mystery writers on their favorite tales and favorite authors that influenced them.  Edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke, Books to Die For: The World’s Greatest Mystery Writers on the World’s Greatest Mystery Novels is a veritable “Who’s Who” of authors in the genre.

As a lover of mysteries but not an aficionado of mystery literature, I discovered some authors and stories I hadn’t previously been aware of.  That’ll keep me in reading material for some time!  In addition, I was interested in getting the insider’s view on stories that were seminal in establishing and furthering the genre.  To be sure, there were a few authors who took the opportunity to talk more about their own work than the work of authors who influenced them.  Still, the large majority of the authors asked to participate make this book a very interesting read and a wonderful resource for anyone who enjoys a good mystery.

Because this is an assembled group of essays, you can easily pick it up for a few minutes, set it down, then pick it back up again as your schedule permits.  Perfect for commute-time reading or a little dose just before lights out.  If you want to find out more about this anthology, click on the graphic to the right.

From bookstodiefor.net

BOOKS TO DIE FOR is a unique, must-have anthology for any fan of the mystery genre, featuring personal essays from 120 of the world’s most beloved and renowned crime writers on the mysteries and thrillers that they most admire, edited by two of their own—John Connolly and Declan Burke.

Tana French on The Secret History by Donna Tartt; Jo Nesbø on Jim Thompson’s Pop. 1280; Kathy Reichs on The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris; Michael Connelly on Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister, and Charlaine Harris on Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male: these are just a few of the 120 internationally bestselling mystery writers showcased in this collection—a book every reader of crime fiction should own.

In the most ambitious anthology of its kind ever compiled, each author pays a deeply personal tribute to one mystery that means the most to them, explaining why that book affects them and how it has influenced their own work.  This collection presents a treasure trove of works in the mystery genre by the people who know it best, and is an essential guide for all readers and writers.