What now for the performing arts?

What now for the performing arts?

Due to Government Edicts all over the United States and the entire world, performing arts organizations have essentially been prevented from staging their symphony concerts, big-band jazz concerts, chamber music performances, and choral concerts, due to fears of spreading the Wuhan Coronavirus.  They range from world-class orchestras like the Seattle Symphony, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, to stage plays on Broadway, to the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, and Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra.  Smaller groups have smaller cash cushions to get them through half a season with no presentations.  Groups have had to cancel needed fund-raising events like dinners and auctions, further reducing their available funds.

Many orchestras, especially the large ones like New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, have audiences that skew older.  But even places that cater to younger audiences, like nightclubs and rock concerts, have been closed down.  The venues themselves are in trouble, not having any ability to stage the events that keep them in business.  Will arts organizations like this be forced to deny tickets to older people, “for their own good”?

What will the future look like for these arts groups and venues, when the government holds their future in its hands?  Will a concert hall like the Kimmel Center Verizon Hall in Philadelphia, be able to stay in operation if its audiences are limited to 25% capacity?  Will the Philadelphia Orchestra be able to continue under those circumstances?  The Arts are a part of life that makes living worthwhile.  Millions of people all over the world spend time watching and listening to music of all kinds.  What happens when the “music stops”?

What will be the future of the Arts, if a vaccine against the Wuhan Coronavirus takes longer than anticipated to hit the market?  Will Governments insist that there be no concerts, or performances, or plays for audiences larger than say 50 people?  Will Arts organizations agree to commit suicide, because that is what they will be required to essentially do?

This spring and summer in Seattle, everything has been canceled.  We are very unhappy that the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, the Northwest Chamber Chorus, and the Seattle Symphony, have all not been able to stage one concert.  We are very sad that we will not have the wonderful experience of sitting in Benaroya Recital Hall listening to our favorite musicians play their sublime chamber music.  They have even canceled the outdoor concert scheduled for August!  And the Leavenworth International Accordion Celebration was also canceled, preventing Hubby’s band from performing.

We are very unhappy and depressed about what is going on, but if we are feeling that way, just think of what the musicians and the Festivals are going through right now.  This is their livelihoods, and that hangs in the balance.  People who make their living playing music need an audience, and those audience members need that music.  We are not allowed to make our own decisions about whether to take the risk of being in the same room with the rest of the listeners and performers.  Government has deemed that we not be allowed to attend concerts, because we might be infected.

Funny, but you don’t see concerts being canceled during flu season from October to March, in case someone might catch the flu from the person next to them.  Flu kills thousands of people every year, but the world does not stop turning.  I wonder what the ongoing effects of the Wuhan Coronavirus will be on the performing arts, that add such love and excitement to life.  Will the organizations survive?

2019 It was a (mostly) Very Good Year

2019   It was a (mostly) Very Good Year

As 2019 ends, and 2020 approaches, I have to say that it was a pretty fine year for our little family (Me, Hubby, and Kitty).  There were no disasters, no serious illnesses, only a few bumps in the road.  Our Country has been wracked and torn by the disgusting DemocRATS impeaching President Trump, but he has not let it stop him from governing well in the meantime.

Month by Month…

January

Not much going on in January.  Early in the month, we went to the Seattle Athletic Club, where Hubby plays squash, to watch exhibition matches with some professional players. Some of it was good fun, as world-renowned players played doubles on the big, glass court.  They were intentionally tripping over each other, missing shots, and getting in some good laughs.

Doubles

Singles…

SquashMatch

If you have never watched a real professional squash match, I urge you to go over to your favorite video site and search on pro squash.  They are very exciting and fast-paced.

February:

February was a busy month for us.  Early in the month, we got some snow up in our home of Everett, Washington (not that common an occurrence), and our backyard looked like a winter wonderland for awhile.  Our local birds were happy to take advantage of our seed and suet feeders.  Here’s one of our Varied Thrushes.

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Later in the month, we went down to Southern California for a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar, which has already been documented here on Calling-all-RushBabes.  It was a wonderful trip, and we were thrilled to be able to meet some well-known Conservatives.  We also confirmed that we will be endowing a Hillsdale scholarship.  From this year on, all of our donations will be credited to our scholarship (for a music student).  We are pleased as punch to be able to do this.

My Age started to affect things this year, as in October I turned 70-1/2, which means I have to start taking Required Minimum Distributions from my Traditional IRA account. My account is with Vanguard, and they do make it very simple to set them up.  I had decided a while ago to dedicate that money to Hillsdale donations, and I did that in May and November this year.  Of course, the College was happy to receive the donations, and they will fund our endowed scholarship.

March:

March was a pretty uneventful month, with no big trips or happenings.  We did drive up to the Skagit Valley to see the scenery.  It was too early for the tulips, but the daffodils were already blooming. It’s only about an hour drive from our house, so we make the trip often.

Mar-Daffodils

April:

April, on the other hand, was full of interesting happenings.  For a few months, we had been noticing that our water bills had been increasing, and we didn’t know why.  Well, we finally called a plumber, and they discovered that we had a broken water pipe in our front yard that was making a lake near the side of our house!  So, on a rainy day, they came out, dug up the yard, and discovered the broken pipe.

BrokenPipe-Apr

See the bend in the pipe (vertical)?  Here is what the yard looked like:

BigHole-Apr

However, when he was through, the plumber replaced the dirt and sod, and the yard looked almost untouched.  We were grateful.

I turned 70 years old this year!  I don’t feel that old, and I’m still working more than full-time and liking it.  And, as a 70th birthday present to myself, I purchased my very first smartphone, an iPhone 10R.  I am liking it a lot, especially the camera.  It takes wonderful video, and it’s now my primary video recorder.

April is the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, and we went back up there to see the flowers.

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May:

In May, I took my solo trip to the Olympic Peninsula, also already documented here.  It was a great time to get away and unwind from all the stress at work. [I just looked at my final paycheck for the year, and I worked 383 hours of overtime in 2019!]  I got some excellent photos, and enjoyed the relaxation.

June:

In June, as usual we went to Leavenworth for the Accordion Celebration.  Leavenworth never changes much, and the music was fun, and the kids cute, as usual.  We love the drive there, too.

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July:

In July, we again took a day trip up the North Cascades Highway, to the Diablo Overlook.  That is always a fun drive, and we still marvel at the blue-green water in the glacial-fed lake.

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At the end of the month, for the finale of the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, I got to play with the Festival musicians at the Outdoor Concert.  It was a thrill to play with Amy Schwartz Moretti in the Second Violin section, playing the Elgar Serenade for Strings.

Violins-SCMFJul

August:

In August, we went to a party at my cousin’s house, to celebrate the birthday of his son’s daughter.  We had not seen the son in many years, and had never met his wife.  It was a nice party, attended by my sister, my nephew, and my great-niece too.  Later, we took another fun trip down to Tumwater Falls Park in Olympia.  That park never loses its fascination for us, and I understand why that was one of Hubby’s favorite places before we knew each other.

TumwaterFalls

September:

September was another busy month for me.  We took a trip to the Puyallup Fair, which I already documented here with numerous pictures.  Even at our advanced age, we love going to the fair!

Later, I had a very pleasant dinner with my sister, and our cousin from Portland.  When I thought about it, I had not seen her for over twenty years!  It was wonderful to get caught up on what we had all been doing for such a long time.  I sure hope it won’t be another 20 years until we see each other again.

At the end of the month, I went, with my violin, to the 30th Anniversary celebration for Music Center of the Northwest.  I was on the original Board of that community music school in Seattle, and it was fun to catch up with all the former board members, and hear about what had been going on at the center.  They also scheduled a reunion of Hildman Strings, the string orchestra whose leader was the driving force behind Music Center.  We played together again, and didn’t do too badly for a pickup group!

October:

October was a momentous month for us.  For the first week, we flew back to Michigan for the 175th Anniversary celebration at Hillsdale College (see my post).  They dedicated the new Christ Chapel, and we got to hear Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas speak at the dedication ceremony.

We also celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary in October, with a nice dinner at the Metropolitan Grill in Seattle.  I just had to take a picture of a page in the menu, describing the various varieties of Wagyu beef they serve there.  Having seen a picture of a slab of Wagyu, I certainly would not be interested in eating any, since it looks like it’s at least 50% fat!

Oct-Meat with your fat?

Just look at those prices!

November:

In November, we celebrated our first Thanksgiving since our marriage, alone.  I have been basically drummed out of the family, based on the content here on my blog that my sister objects to.  So we went to a nice dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Bellevue, and didn’t have to worry about saying anything that would offend anyone.

And we made our excursion to Snoqualmie Falls, that I have already documented here.

December:

I made a momentous decision in December, after I received a letter from my long-term-care insurance carrier.  The letter informed me that, if I did nothing, my insurance premium would be increasing in January by 40%, and would go up by an additional 150% in the next five years.  Well, that was the last straw.  I decided that this would be throwing good money after bad, so I basically canceled my policy.  The money that I have already paid in premiums (over $30,000) would still be there for me to draw on if necessary, but I will be paying no additional premiums.  I made the decision to take the money I would have paid in premiums, and invest that money in my own account, to earn dividends until needed.

Hubby and I had a very much Christmas dinner at home.  I made a boneless rib roast, and he made garlic mashed potatoes.  We had a nice salad, and apple pie for dessert.  I even got out the good china and Grandma’s silver plate.  Here’s our table:

ChristmasTable

The day after Christmas, we did the University Unitarian Church full-length sing-along, play-along Messiah.  I played first violin, and Hubby sang.  It was wonderful, as always.  This year was the fiftieth year the church has been doing this, so the conductor appeared as the Composer!  Cute, but she said the getup was really hot!

Karen-Handel

The remodeled sanctuary was beautiful, and we got nice padded chairs!  The choir sang very well, and we in the orchestra were proud to be playing for them. It was a great ending to a good year. Oh, one more thing…  This is a Unitarian Church, which is as far Left as you can possibly be and still be a religion.  Here is a sign outside the rest room.

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We are both in aerospace, and get the time between Christmas and New Years off.  This year, we saw three movies in our weeks off.  We saw the new Star Wars movie, Richard Jewell, and Ford Vs. Ferrari.  That’s more movies than we normally see in six months!  And we enjoyed them all.

Also this year, we followed the case of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which was grounded for much of the year, after two fatal crashes in Asia and Africa.  This incident brought opprobrium to Hubby’s employer, and my company’s biggest customer, and we winced every time new bad news was received.  This issue will carry into the new year of 2020, and promises to be uncomfortable for everyone.

Now, as the old year winds down, I would like to express gratitude for all the good things that have come our way this year.  I earned a very nice salary, was able to put away a rather large sum in my retirement accounts, and benefited from a rising stock market all year.  Hubby and I have been healthy, except for my cancer scare (also documented here) in the fall.  We are incredibly fortunate not to have had any major problems this year, and we thank God for our lives, and our friends, and our colleagues.   We are big supporters of our President Donald Trump, and wish him and his family a good new year.  I would also like to thank all of my loyal followers and commenters, here on my blog.

Onward to 2020!  Happy New Year to all!

Christmas Music, and celebrating Independence

Christmas Music, and celebrating Independence

Less than a year ago, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was granted Independence from the main body of Russian Orthodoxy. There is now an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, with its own hierarchy, free of the Russian yoke.

Even though I am a Jew, I love Christmas music, and one of my  main favorites has a new meaning, in the light of the above news. (actually, my maternal grandfather was born in Odessa, now a part of independent Ukraine, so I do have a connection).  Each year, I try to pick up a new Christmas CD, and a few years ago I found this disk of Kiev Christmas Liturgy.  I love the sound of the male voices, singing in Russian.  Sublime, and I hope you like it too.

 

 

A Trip to Hillsdale College, 175 years!

The first week of October, Hubby and I flew to Michigan, to attend the Hillsdale College 175th Anniversary Gala, and the dedication of the new Christ Chapel.  The weather was fine on the flight out, and we got to see Mount Rainier from above.

Mt. Rainier

We arrived in Detroit, picked up the rental car, and headed south toward the town of Hillsdale.  It was a beautiful day for a nice drive.  We stayed in the town of Coldwater, about 30 minutes south of Hillsdale, due to the fact that Gala attendees had taken up ALL of the available hotel rooms for miles around!  We learned that there were about 800 people there, and around 600 on a waiting list, which just blew our minds.  The Hillsdale Campus had never entertained that many people at once.

When we arrived in Coldwater, this retail store caught my eye immediately, and I told Hubby that I just had to get a picture.  What with Dick’s Sporting Goods publicizing their decision to stop selling guns, this was an interesting sign in the front windows.

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Our Second Amendment-supporting friends got a kick out of this.

The following morning we were rousted out early, since the first program started at 9:30AM. We grabbed a bite to eat before they finished up the breakfast buffet, and headed over to the Searle Auditorium to hear a presentation on the new Hillsdale Master’s Degree in Classical Education.  Hillsdale is doing their best to encourage real education, not the progressive indoctrination most kids get these days in government schools.  This new program will help train the right kind of teachers.  Next, we heard a great presentation on the School of Government.  Would that all politicians could be educated at Hillsdale!

Lunch that day was quite elaborate (like all the meals at the conference), with carefully-plated dishes that looked very artistic. Are we supposed to eat this?

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We were fortunate to meet up with our Ricochet friends Susan and Jerry from Florida.  We got to sit with them at all the meals except the last one.  You can get an idea from this picture of how many people there were at this celebration.

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And that’s only half the room!  There were almost as many tables behind us!  The lunch speaker was Victor Davis Hanson, whom we had met previously on two Hillsdale Cruises. His topic was Nationalism Good and Bad: Lessons from History, and as usual he spoke without notes.  Mr. Hanson is a veritable treasure, and every word he speaks is golden.

After lunch, we boarded a bus for the short ride over to the Performing Arts building to see a short selection from the college’s presentation of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice.  The student actors were wonderful, and got a standing ovation from this audience.  I had never actually seen any of the play before, and I was impressed by how well it was done.

We learned that this production included the senior project of one of the students of stage design.  I was very impressed!

MerchantOfVenice-stage

The student cast was also pretty impressive.

MerchantOfVenice-cast

On the last night, we actually went to see the full production, with some other Ricochet friends, and at the end, the cast got standing ovations, cheers, and whistles from the mostly-student audience.  They sure deserved it.

We finished the play and chose to walk back to campus rather than ride the bus.  Smart, because it was only a two-block walk!  The bus had driven a lot farther than that to get there.

We then got back in the car and drove to our hotel to dress for dinner and the evening’s activities.  First there was a reception in a building described as a tent.  Well, it was bigger and more permanent-looking than most tents we’d seen before!

OutsideBigTent

Inside the tent, there was a nice bar setup, and tables of finger food.  The decorations were pretty elaborate, too.

InsideBigTent

And there was a student group providing entertainment.  They were very good!

StringQuartet

After the reception, we went in to dinner.  After the meal, there were two speakers.  First was Dr. Larry Arnn, the President of Hillsdale.  Dr. Arnn is quite a remarkable guy, and everyone loves to hear him speak, on whatever topic.  Tonight’s speech described the 175th Anniversary, and the History and Purpose of Hillsdale College.  Or the Reason for the Season.

Next was everyone’s favorite Rush Guest Host, Mark Steyn, speaking on American Academia.  He got lots of laughs, and some groans, as everyone in this audience is pretty familiar with the horrid state of most modern universities.  After dinner, it was back in the car to the hotel, to rest up for the Big Day.

At 9:30AM the following day, we proceeded to the new Christ Chapel for the formal Dedication Ceremony.  We had seen the outside of the Chapel the previous day, and it looked amazing.

ChristChapelFront

We proceeded inside for the dedication, and we were a bit late, so seated way on the side in the back.  But we did have a view.

ChapelGallery

The first speaker was Dr. Arnn.  But it was the second speaker who inspired everyone, and that was Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

JusticeThomasSpeaks

After the Dedication Ceremony was over, everyone left the Chapel, and was standing outside waiting for the call to lunch.  That included Board President Pat Sajak, Dr. Arnn, and some Hillsdale students.

Pat,Larry,pals

With the Chapel empty, we walked back up the stairs, and got some time with the organ master, who described the features of the Fritts Organ, made by a company in Tacoma, Washington, and got to hear some samples of what it could do. Remarkable!

ChapelSanctuary

That’s Hubby in the foreground.  Now, the Organ:

FrittsOrgan

OrganPipes

And get a load of all those switches!  Even the pedals have extra switches.

Switches-organ

Then we all trooped back into lunch and more speakers.  The lunch speaker was Mollie Hemingway, whose talk was about the political divide in America.  We all had extensive experience with that.

After lunch, we went to a presentation on the Barney Charter School Initiative, with which we were already familiar.  See who was there:

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That was as close as we got to Justice Thomas.  His Security was everywhere, although this audience was about the most congenial and welcoming he could ever ask for.  After that, it was back in the car to the hotel to change for dinner.

The dinner speakers were Dr. Arnn, Mr. Sajak, and Stephen VanAndel, Vice Chairman of the Board, introducing the new Four Pillars Campaign, to raise zillions of dollars for Hillsdale.  There was an excellent video, of Hillsdale students and faculty describing the school.  I can think of no worthier place to donate than to Hillsdale College.  We are so proud of what they are doing, and we are endowing a scholarship for a music student.

After dinner, it was back to the Chapel, for a concert by the Hillsdale Symphony Orchestra.  They were magnificent!

HillsdaleOrchestra

But the best part of all was the end.  The conductor had promised us a big surprise, and that it was.  The Choir all trooped up to the front, and the orchestra and choir played and sang the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.  I tell you, there were few dry eyes in that audience, as the student musicians and singers praised the Lord in song.

After the concert, there was a reception in the Tent, and music by Hillsdale’s Jazz Band.

NightChapel

JazzBand

And that was the official finish of the 175th Anniversary Gala.  However, we stayed another day, so we could do some shopping and sightseeing.

We parked on the edge of Campus, and we saw an animal that we last saw there in 2010. I don’t think we have these in Washington.  Have you ever seen a black squirrel?  They were very pretty.

BlackSquirrel

We next went to the Grewcock Student Union to do some shopping in the bookstore. And guess who we met on the way?  I just had to get my picture taken with the guy.

RB-Churchill

When we were done with our shopping, we went over to the Music Building, so we could see where our money will be going, when we endow our scholarship. I guess you can tell that this must be the Music Building.

MusicBuilding

It was a school day, so we did hear various ensembles, and a student taking a private violin lesson.

Then we got back into the car and did some sightseeing before returning to our hotel to rest and pack to leave the next day.  We saw a fair amount of fields with already-harvested corn, with the stalks still standing.

MichiganField

This was an excellent trip.  We renewed our commitment to Hillsdale, and we look forward to visiting again soon, before another nine years go by!

 

Random thoughts on Saturday

School dreams.  We all have them.  There are numerous variations on the situation where you find yourself in class, and it’s test day and you haven’t reviewed any of the course material.  The textbook is a fat volume of stories and you haven’t opened it all semester.  And you’re naked.

I have been having an entirely new variation on the school dream.  I am playing in an orchestra, and it’s concert time.  I open my violin case, and my violin is just a pile of sticks.  Or my bow has broken in half.  This one actually has a small connection to something that happened to me in real life.  I opened my case, and one of my bows had lost half its hair!  Another time, I opened my case and discovered that I had bugs, and they had eaten away part of the tip of my bow (you could see the little bite-marks-gross!). I had to fumigate the case and get the bow repaired, which just happened a couple of weeks ago.

On an entirely different subject, I feel a brag coming on.  I have been keeping a running tally of my finances lately, to show progress toward my goal of financial independence when I retire.  My total of investments at my primary investment company, Vanguard, is now comfortably over a million dollars.  About $650,000 is in my retirement accounts.  I am now a “Flagship” investor at Vanguard, and am entitled to a free meeting with a financial advisor, which I intend to set up sometime in August.  And in keeping track, I discovered that I have run out of digits on my little calculator!  Frustrating, but in a good way.

Last weekend, we took our first drive of the season up to the Diablo Lake Overlook in the North Cascades.  I have zillions of pictures of that area, but I always take my camera and get more.  Here are a couple.

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This is the Skagit River around the town of Rockport.

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This is Lake Diablo.  People for scale over on the left.  The water is always that bright blue-green color, as it is glacier-fed.  However, the temperature that day was about 85 at the overlook, and 92 at Newhalem, the town just where the road goes into the mountains.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Independence Day Salute to America

Independence Day Salute to America

 

The Greatest Country on God’s Green (and getting greener) Earth.  I am proud to be a Citizen of the United States of America.

The United States is the most Prosperous nation in the history of Mankind.  People who come here from elsewhere know that, if they work and save, they can aspire to be wealthy, and their children will do better than they did.

The United States is the most Free Nation on Earth.  Why else would hordes of people from most other parts of the world travel thousands of miles, across oceans and deserts, to come to America?  Why are thousands of Africans, South Americans, Europeans, and Middle-Easterners clamoring to come to America?

The United States has the most polyglot, diverse population on Earth.  People here in America speak hundreds of languages, and our governmental units, from local to national, accommodate them with ballots, signs, and government forms in so many other languages it boggles the mind.

Despite what detractors say, America has the best, most-advanced medical care system in the world.  Our scientists and medical professionals bring to market more new, life-saving drugs and procedures than any other country.  Americans earn more Nobel Prizes than any other country.  America has non-profit organizations that, with donations from private American individuals, fund vital research on all sorts of genetic and communicable diseases, improving the lives of millions of people, both Americans and foreigners.

The US Military literally protects the World from Tyranny.  After World War II, and the Marshall Plan, America rebuilt Europe, and allowed their countries to spend less on their own defense and more on their vaunted social programs.  And We Protected Them, and still do.  NATO is still predominantly funded by the United States of America.  Would Germany be quite so prosperous today if it had had to fund its own defense?  Probably not.

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And the US Military is the largest benefactor in the world, when natural disasters happen.  Any time there’s a bad earthquake, a tsunami, a devastating hurricane or tropical storm, the US is there, with food, infrastructure, and other supplies to help the suffering.  Some people like to say that they don’t want America to be the world’s policeman, but just hear them scream if the US is not there within 24 hours after a disaster somewhere.

Americans are the most generous people on Earth.  Americans give a higher percentage of their incomes to various charitable organizations than anyone else.  So-called “social democracies” nurture Government as the source of all good works.  In America, it’s the People who do most good works.  Disasters here bring out the donors in minutes-the Red Cross and United Way rake in the donations when there is an appeal.  Americans volunteer more of their precious time too, working at soup kitchens, shelters, and offices to help their fellows.  Personally, I saw how generous Americans are.  One of my Ricochet friends had some very bad family problems, and was in need of support.  I started a GoFundMe campaign, and within a few days, our Ricochet Members donated over $7.500.00.

I get very angry when I hear Americans tear down their country, calling it “racist, sexist, greedy, and mean”.  There are many Americans who grew up in the relative lap of luxury, and now, from their ivory towers and suburban homes, denigrate America.  I believe every single American should appreciate how fortunate they are to be an American.

Speaking of ivory towers, most of the worst America-haters are found on US college campuses these days.  Instead of being seats of learning and exploration, they have become nests of vipers, despising and spreading lies about their own country, the country that allows them this kind of free speech (become mere liberal propaganda).  There is, however, an antidote to the modern “progressive” college campus.  That antidote is Hillsdale College, in Hillsdale, Michigan.  Named one of the best private colleges in the United States, Hillsdale accepts not one penny of government money in any form, and they have been Pursuing Truth and Defending Liberty since 1844.  RushBabe and Hubby are endowing a music scholarship at Hillsdale, and we urge followers and friends to learn about the school, and support it.  Here’s a production of the Hillsdale music department, just for Independence Day.  I have to admit that, while watching this, tears came to my eyes.  Maybe it’s the Music.  Maybe it’s the Truth.

 

 

Next, here’s a taste of my favorite march for Independence Day.  The Stars and Stripes Forever, played by the President’s Own Marine Band.

 

And here are some of the comments on that performance.  Get a feeling for how people in other countries feel about America.

Man, that’s amazing. I’m from Brazil and it’s impossible to be a patriot here. I wish there was something like this here. But this… this is awesome. Glad many of you enjoy it. The 284 dislikes are from heartless bitches. God bless America!

My deepest respects and regards to the culture and values of the american people, my neighbours. I am from a city called Monterrey in north east Mexico and I have nothing but praise for what the US has done in a short amount of time as an independent nation. Hopefully in the near future we can solve our differences and bring our nations to the level of mutual respect and dignity. Only then we can make this part of the world the most prosperous, peaceful and free, but In the meantime i’ll still enjoy what your culture has to offer. 

So, on this Independence Day, cheer for America!  It deserves all our praise.  And fireworks.

God Bless America.  God Bless our President Donald Trump.

It’s Leavenworth Time!

Once again, its mid-June, and time for the Leavenworth International Accordion Celebration.  Hubby and I took last Thursday and Friday off from work, and drove the 2 hours up US2 to the Bavarian Village of Leavenworth.  As usual, it was a beautiful drive, with nice scenery all the way up and over Stevens Pass to Leavenworth in Chelan County.  The pretty town was much the same as previous years, but we did notice some changes on Front Street, the main “tourist trap” (but we love it).  This building had been repainted in front, and there was a new business there.

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There has always been an outdoor store on the main street, but this year the facade had been re-imagined too.  Nice!

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And inside the Festhalle, we saw more changes to the decor.  There was some new wall art.

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And a new piece of equipment.

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Of course, Leavenworth is nothing without the accordions!  There was a special exhibit this year, of very old instruments.

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And, of course, the new ones, on sale at the booth of Tempo Trend Music of Victoria, BC.

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The competitions brought out many new players who we had not seen before, and a few familiar faces.  I especially love the kids, ranging in age from about seven to teenagers.  Here’s a group picture of all this year’s kids.  Those guys on the ends are this year’s judges!  On the left is Emmanuel Gasser of Canada, who has been competing since he was about eight years old.  On the right is everyone’s favorite pro, Gary Blair, from Scotland.

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I also took some video with my brand new iPhone.  This act was the best of the entire festival.  Every time I play it, I get all teary-eyed, since they are so cute!

Of course, I had to do my obligatory pilgrimage to the Taffy Shop on Front Street.  I found  a new product they are selling!

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The proprietor says they are selling like hotcakes.  But here is a fixture at the store that never fails to bring smiles.  How long has it been since you saw one of these?

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All in all, another great year at the Leavenworth International Accordion Celebration.

Friday, on the Santa Monica Pier at Sunset

Yeah, it’s basically a cliche, isn’t it?  Who hasn’t seen pictures of a sunset off the famous Santa Monica Pier?  I first saw the attraction way back in 1999, on my first adult trip to the area.  I remembered how beautiful it was, and jumped at the chance to repeat the experience.  February can get cold, and it was about 54 degrees with a brisk wind.    Here’s what we saw.

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The view from the little park on the street above.

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This gentleman was playing an amplified Erhu, a Chinese stringed instrument.  Very nice!

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SunsetSurf

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The pier has an amusement park, with some nicely-lit rides.  I was taken with the Ferris wheel, which looked like it was wrapped up in the roller-coaster.

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And later, after the sun sank below the horizon, the lights came into their own.

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Just good fun.

Zeal…I really DID build that!

In about 1975, my first husband and I had returned to Seattle from Minneapolis, and were living on a shoestring.  He had found a job as a transformer winder at a company that made industrial transformers, and I, with my MA in psychology, was working as a pricing clerk in a hospital pharmacy.  Now, Larry was ultra-handy.  He could and did work on anything and everything around the house and the cars.  He fixed anything that needed fixing.  But when our stereo tuner bit the dust, that was something he couldn’t fix (“no user-serviceable parts inside”).  So we were faced with needing a new tuner, and having little spare money lying around.

So we decided to get a Heathkit and build the tuner ourselves.  We looked in the catalog (no internet in those dark ages), and picked out a model that did what we wanted at a reasonable price.  We mailed away the order form, and waited for our tuner kit to arrive.  In the meantime, we made a trip downtown to Radar Electric, a local firm that sold new and used electronic parts and tools.  We both loved going there, just to see all the bins filled with interesting-looking stuff.  We bought a soldering-iron, solder, and other assembly tools that we would need.

When the kit arrived, we unpacked everything, and set up an assembly area on Larry’s workbench.  Then, he taught me how to solder, and together we worked through the initial instructions.  It turned out that I just had so much fun doing this electronic assembly that I said I’d do it all.  I literally kicked him out of his own workshop and proceeded to build the entire assembly all by myself.  I followed all the instructions to the letter, and did all the operations in the correct order, with the correct parts and pieces.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching that tuner take shape under my hands, and I had visible progress to show off every day.  I worked on that tuner in every spare moment when I was not working, eating and sleeping.  I remember at least one night when Larry had to drag me away to go to bed so I could get enough sleep to go to work in the morning.

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Finally, after about a week, all the circuit boards were finished, and it was time to do the final assembly.  We placed all the boards in the enclosure, hooked up the correct wires, closed it up and applied all the necessary knobs and labels for the various switches.  We hooked up the power cable, took a deep breath, and plugged it in.  And it worked!  All the lights came on, we tuned in our favorite station, and sound came out!  That simple Heathkit tuner did yeoman duty, and it lasted a good 15 years.  I was so proud of myself for having completed that project with little help.  I gained some very valuable skills, and learned a little about electronics in the process.  I never would have thought that such a task would totally capture my imagination, but it did.  And I think I gained from being able to finish what I had started and have it work from the minute it was finished.  I was zealous in attention to every detail, reading each instruction twice to make sure I had it right.  And thereafter, I could look at and listen to our tuner, and say to myself, “I built that!”.

[This essay was first posted over at Ricochet.com, where it has 21 “likes” and is under consideration to be promoted to the Main, public-facing, Feed]

Instant Happiness

Just recently, I re-discovered a band that I liked way back when they were new, in the 1970s.  Now, I could kick myself for not going to see Jethro Tull when they were in town.  For some unknown reason, maybe a snatch of tune heard over someone’s PA system, or a random mention in a post on another blog, I decided to see what was available on YouTube.  Much to my delight, I discovered a wealth of audio and video over there at the site of the Evil Google-owned YouTube.  Not only have people uploaded single songs and entire albums, but video of entire concerts!  Never having seen them in person, I sat in front of my computer and watched some of this 1977 concert.  It was so good, I begged my husband to watch it with me on our TV.

I swear, Ian Anderson is a veritable musical genius!  He just does it all.  How many other rock band leaders play a mean flute, in addition to every other instrument possible in a rock band?

So, I dropped by the iTunes store, and bought The Very Best Of album to load on my iPod to listen to at work.  I have a very demanding job these days, and when I put on my noise-canceling headphones and listen to this, I can’t help smiling and even humming along-my cube-mates wonder if I’ve gone insane.

I have decided that Jethro Tull = Instant Happiness.  It is impossible to listen to Bungle in the Jungle or Living in the Past and not smile, and forget your troubles (or those parts that were just rejected).  Now when someone asks you who said “He who made kittens put snakes in the grass“, you can say “Ian Anderson, Bungle in the Jungle”!

Candidates for “best song I never knew”:  “Steel Monkey”, and “Songs From the Wood”.  I just wish I had paid more attention back then.  It is fortunate that these songs are still readily available for anyone who wants to listen and enjoy.

YouTube has video of Jethro Tull concerts from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s, a truly great band, who has remained great for 40 years!  Remarkable!

 

Then, there’s this:

 

Instant Happiness, indeed!