Wednesday, September 30, 2009

LA Scene: Dudamel Era about to begin

Dudamel, the new LA Philharmonic music director arrived for his first rehearsal.

Cameras -- still, video and really huge -- jammed the area; Philharmonic President Deborah Borda and Philharmonic board Chairman David Bohnett hovered in anticipation while Borda exulted that the Phil just gotten word that the NBC Nightly News was planning a Dudamel feature for Thursday.

There's really no such thing as a formal greeting when it comes to Dudamel -- as he stepped from the vehicle, he waved to the cheering musicians; but the wave gesture soon turned into a Dudamel-style fist, thrust exultantly into the air. He obediently posed for photos with Borda and Bohnett at the foot of the stairs, but was soon charging upward to distribute a generous round of hugs, especially to the musicians who played a welcome fanfare on the steps.

The reception by the musicians remains very positive.

He added that the musicians see Dudamel not as their leader but as another member of the band -- just with a different role to play. "What's most important is his humility," Socher said. "Many conductors don't know what that word means -- much less exhibit it."

LAT's Swed is hopeful but trying to keep some perspective and humor on things.

As for me, I'm preparing for the arrival this week of Gustavo Dudamel by charging my pocket Nikon. The camera will accompany me on daily walks along the beach, where I'm determined to get the first shot of the new music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic walking on water.
Forget rock stars. All too often they find things that work and get stuck. Either they don't grow because the feedback for what they already do is so addictive or because if they try to change, they find obstinate fan resistance.
What works now for Dudamel, what is so vibrant in a conductor in his 20s, will not work for a conductor in his 40s and would be creepy for a conductor in his 60s. At the moment, Dudamel is a fully fueled rocket. He has the energy, the intelligence and the curiosity to take on a variety of new works and projects. But he has his tricks that he relies on to create excitement before he is in full command of many pieces.

LAT's Johnson profiles what Dudamel is doing besides the LA Phil.

At any given moment, Gustavo Dudamel might be catching a red-eye flight to Sweden, rehearsing young musicians in Venezuela, blazing a path through Mahler's First in Los Angeles or brainstorming with the head of his record label in Germany.
"He said to me the other day he wishes there were 600 days in a year," said Edward Smith, chief executive of Sweden's Gothenburg Symphony, Dudamel's other principal conducting gig. "Of course, he's doing too much, by anybody's normal standard, and I think he's beginning to realize it. But what is too much for Gustavo? What might be too much for an ordinary guy isn't too much for Gustavo."

We shall see how things develop. But for now, the city is buzzing as it awaits his welcome concert the Hollywood Bowl this Saturday, October 3 which has long ago had its free tickets all claimed and then the Gala at the Walt Disney on Thursday, October 8.

I have heard the LA Phil play under Dudamel's baton and feel the ensemble has exciting days ahead!

Bienvenido Gustavo!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Life: Happiness is a Moral Obligation

Prager offers his thoughts on happiness.

For instance, acting happy is beneficial to those around us!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Technology: Got to tip your hat to those MIT students!

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Balloon + digital camera + GPS cell phone + beer cooler + handwarmers = pictures of the Earth from high up.

Go here for their project web page. They hope to have a Youtube video of photos the camera took which was set to take pictures every 5 seconds.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Devotional Thoughts: What is spirituality?

Have you heard this self-description: non-religious but spiritual?

Being religious has gotten a lot of bad press, i.e. religious fanatic bombs cafe full of people. Religious also as in a clergyman involved in child abuse scandal. Or religious broadcaster involved in financial misdeeds.

Totally indefensible.

No wonder people run away from the label religious.

But what is spirituality?

Images: crystal power and harmonic convergences, meditation with incense and aroma candles, being out in nature and solitude ...

What is spirituality if I call Jesus Lord and Savior?

My guts tell me that the word spiritual has gotten diluted in the pluralism of our society and so many images get conjured up.

Also, in our American society, the term has become highly personal and individualized. The self-claimed spirituality of one person will be a salad bowl of items and the spirituality of another will be a salad bowl of different ingredients.

So when then is spirituality if I call Jesus Lord and Savior?

I think spirituality requires community.

There is a place for regular moments and seasons of individual solitude but when is spirituality truly put to the test and put to use?

Lately, at church, we have been looking at the idea of coming along side the other in reconciliation.

Spirituality requires the other to be present. The other who tries our forbearance. The other who needs our forgiveness. The other who I must seek forgiveness from. The other whom I love and serve.

And indeed, the most important other is God.

Without a vital and flourishing and dynamic relationship with God transforming and restoring us as individuals and in communities, our ability to relate to the other in any human context is limited to our own weak power.

And so spirituality requires community through which we can become what God intended and happens in a thriving relationship with God and with others manifesting itself in good character and good deeds.

Does this should too religious? Does it sound too nebulous?

Lord have mercy!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sports: Gutty Little Bruins Beat Tennessee Again!

Last year was a tough year for UCLA football fans. But the highlight was the upset win over Tennessee in the Rose Bowl.

Well, this year, the Gutty Little Bruins went to Tennessee and pulled off the upset again, 19-15!

Streeter at the LA Times put it this way:

Blood streamed in a river from Kevin Prince's mouth -- the painful aftermath of a shot to the jaw he'll remember the rest of his life, a shot that may help propel UCLA through this still-young season and possibly many more to come.
The game could have turned here, could have been lost. What a painful sting that would have been. But from that heap, a place he'd been much of this warm Southern Saturday, up popped Prince, giving his team belief. He was hunched over in pain. His mouth was open wide and full of red. But he never looked afraid or tentative. He looked like the winner he was about to be.

UCLA learned much in this game. It now knows, for certain, that its defense can apply the brakes, which is what happened during a goal-line stand late in what became a 19-15 win. And it now unquestionably also knows that at quarterback, the most important player on the field because the ball is in his hands so often, UCLA is manned by a kid who has something special burning inside.

"Guts," said teammate Terrence Austin in the locker room when the game was done.

"Heart," said another teammate, Rahim Moore.

"Composure," added offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who compared his 19-year-old pupil to one he coached at Brigham Young many years back: Ty Detmer. "Kevin discovered he can control a game today. Stats don't mean everything and this game was proof. It wasn't always pretty, but he showed through his body language he will to do what it takes."

UPDATE: Prince will be out 3-4 weeks with a fractured jaw. 8-(

Friday, September 04, 2009

Devotional Thoughts: Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?

Job 39 ...

Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
Do you count the months till they bear?
Do you know the time they give birth?
They crouch down and bring forth their young;
their labor pains are ended.
Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds;
they leave and do not return.
Who let the wild donkey go free?
Who untied his ropes?
I gave him the wasteland as his home,
the salt flats as his habitat.
He laughs at the commotion in the town;
he does not hear a driver's shout.
He ranges the hills for his pasture
and searches for any green thing.
Will the wild ox consent to serve you?
Will he stay by your manger at night?
Can you hold him to the furrow with a harness?
Will he till the valleys behind you?
Will you rely on him for his great strength?
Will you leave your heavy work to him?
Can you trust him to bring in your grain
and gather it to your threshing floor?

God continues to give Job a tour of the natural world.

Check this page out and this one for some of the creatures that live in modern Israel.

Am guessing this Yael is some kind of goat?

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The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
but they cannot compare with the pinions and feathers of the stork.
She lays her eggs on the ground
and lets them warm in the sand,
unmindful that a foot may crush them,
that some wild animal may trample them.
She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers;
she cares not that her labor was in vain,
for God did not endow her with wisdom
or give her a share of good sense.
Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,
she laughs at horse and rider.

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Do you give the horse his strength
or clothe his neck with a flowing mane?
Do you make him leap like a locust,
striking terror with his proud snorting?
He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength,
and charges into the fray.
He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;
he does not shy away from the sword.
The quiver rattles against his side,
along with the flashing spear and lance.
In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground;
he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
At the blast of the trumpet he snorts, 'Aha!'
He catches the scent of battle from afar,
the shout of commanders and the battle cry.

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Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom
and spread his wings toward the south?
Does the eagle soar at your command
and build his nest on high?
He dwells on a cliff and stays there at night;
a rocky crag is his stronghold.
From there he seeks out his food;
his eyes detect it from afar.
His young ones feast on blood,
and where the slain are, there is he.

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And so Job was sitting there with his friends, amidst the ashes of his life in pain and sorrow ...

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... gets a zoology tour from God ... ?

A couple of months ago, I heard a sermon at church and the speaker mentioned the children's story, The Runaway Bunny. summarized the story:

Since its publication in 1942, The Runaway Bunny has never been out of print. Generations of sleepy children and grateful parents have loved the classics of Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd, including Goodnight Moon. The Runaway Bunny begins with a young bunny who decides to run away: "'If you run away,' said his mother, 'I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.'" And so begins a delightful, imaginary game of chase. No matter how many forms the little bunny takes--a fish in a stream, a crocus in a hidden garden, a rock on a mountain--his steadfast, adoring, protective mother finds a way of retrieving him. The soothing rhythm of the bunny banter--along with the surreal, dream-like pictures--never fail to infuse young readers with a complete sense of security and peace. For any small child who has toyed with the idea of running away or testing the strength of Mom's love, this old favorite will comfort and reassure.

We all face hardship in a cold hard world. Job was not the first nor the last to feel the weight of crushed dreams, wealth disappeared, death of loved ones, lost health and sorrows which doesn't not sleep.

And so where is comfort found?

Is it in theological answers? Is it in any intellectual answer?

I suspect the only comfort is knowing that God is greater than all the great creatures of this world and that he stoops to meet us.

Job didn't get an answer, he got a visit. First, from his friends and then from God.

Lord, thank you for sending Jesus to this world. Thanks for visiting Job. Thanks for revealing yourself to Moses and to other people of faith over the generations. I don't have answers to every question but I have You. And that is enough. Amen.