beautiful, cello, funny, pictures, true No Comments »

Earlier today, I heard someone mention the phrase, “We only use ten percent of our brains,” and that got me thinking of a number of reasons why that statement isn’t true.  First of all, most human beings are very highly evolved, and every part of our bodies (with the possible exception of the coccyx) has a specific function and purpose.  Things that don’t serve any purpose get evolutionarily ‘weeded out’, you might say, and tens of thousands of years of that process have left us pretty dang streamlined.

Different brain functions are handled by different sections of the brain, so while at this very second you may be using only ten percent of yours by watching television, or by having sex, or by reading this blog, you’ll be using different parts of it to know where your limbs are (without looking), or to recognize your childrens’ faces, or to simply keep your balance, or to recognize subtle social cues, or to play the cello.  You’ll have used your entire brain in just a few minutes without even, dare I say, thinking about it.

Where did the ten-percent myth originate, and why does it persist?  According to Barry Beyerstein, it seems to be a skewed modern outgrowth of an idea put forth by Victorian-era psychologist William James, who was fond of saying that people rarely achieve more than a small amount of their potential.  From there, the idea spread into the public vernacular, where it somehow morphed into ‘ten percent of their potential’, and then into ten percent of the brain.  Once that meme spread out across the world, it never really went away, despite the enormous scientific and technological breakthroughs on the subject during the intervening decades.

I love to find out about the modern discoveries that prove how ‘plastic’ and changeable the brain is, especially following a brain injury.  If you lose your sight, for example, your brain will learn to process things you TOUCH with the visual cortex.  A friend of mine used to have a little blind cat who knew her way around the entire house, could walk right over to you wherever you were, could jump to window sills (and even knew which window sills had decorative stuff in them she needed to avoid, or were sills that she was unable to jump to), and could even climb up and down the fire escape without ever missing a step.  My own cat, who had normal vision, wouldn’t go near the steps of the fire escape because she could see how steep the angle was, and how high up our third-floor apartment really was, and it was all too much for her.  The blind cat would run up and down without a care in the world.  She had the place completely mapped out in her brain, and knew exactly where everything was.

The ten-percent theory seems to rank up there with other misinformed phrases like ‘sweat like a pig’ and ‘eat like a bird.’  Pigs don’t sweat, which is why they lie around in the mud to keep cool, and birds have to eat twice their own weight every day in order to have enough energy for all that flying.  My favorite thing to say, when someone says they eat like a bird, is, “Oh, really?  Twice your own weight every day?  Or do you mean you peck at the food on your plate, without using your hands or utensils?”

The good news, possibly the most heartening of all about the brain theory, is that if you DO only use ten percent of your brain, but you use it to think about THE Brain, that should bump you up to at least a good fifteen or twenty percent right there.

best of BFS&T, 2010 edition

beautiful, blogging, cello, dreams, funny, love, music, Oregon, pictures, Portland, recording, sad, true, Washington, Yakima No Comments »

2010 has been very strange.  At the beginning of the year, I was still on blogging hiatus, so it took a while to get back up to speed.  Springtime was crazy, with lots of great musical endeavors and memorable trips.  By the summer, both my life and this blog went into overdrive, when I really started writing again, and found my full stride while sharing a bit too much about my childhood.  Suddenly it was October, which is the month of my birth, but this year was also the month of my stepdad’s death, which has sent everything into a tailspin since then.  A surreal trip to Yakima for the funeral was followed by multiple trips to Seattle, both for gigs and for family functions.

There were some standout moments from this last year that didn’t manage to make it into the blog, for various reasons.  For example, here’s a video of a particularly interesting recording session that I was lucky enough to be involved with, albeit in a small way.  A local singer-songwriter, who is also a friend, put the word out on SocialNetwork that she wanted to create a cacaphony of 50 pianos, all playing an F chord at the same time.  I jumped at the chance.  She rented a piano showroom downtown, and my friend and I (and forty eight or so other people) joined in to participate.  I brought my camera to capture a bit of the action.

Another memorable moment from this last year was Trek in the Park.  This theater group gets together every year to re-create a famous episode from the original Star Trek television series.  This year’s was Space Seed, in which we meet the infamous character Khan (who returned in the movie The Wrath of Khan).  It was a very well-done production, with live music and everything. . .and it was all free of charge.  Here’s the climactic fight sequence between Kirk and Khan.

IrishBand released our self-titled EP this year, as well as an amazing animated video that a friend created for us.  I would post that here, but our band name is very unusual, hence the pseudonym.  To celebrate, we went to Port Townsend, Washington (the hometown of three of the band members, and an adopted home away from home for the rest of us) to play a CD release party and catch the Rhododendron Festival and parade and everything.  It’s always a huge party weekend for PT, and this year was the tenth reunion for PT High School, which included Violinist and a bunch of other friends, so I actually went to the reunion barbecue in Chetzemoka Park during the afternoon, since I knew so many of the people there.  (God forbid that I actually go to any of my own class reunions; I haven’t yet.)  I also performed in the parade, in disguise, as an honorary member of Nanda.  I’m the guy with the Mexican wrestling mask, playing the bass, miming along to the dance music that was blaring from the speakers in the back of the truck.

I had the opportunity to see the Oregon Symphony perform many times this last year, with some pretty big-name performers.  Violinists Midori and Hilary Hahn, violinist Pinchas Zukerman and his cellist wife Amanda Forsyth (who, incidentally, gave a cello master class at the Old Church that afternoon, which I also attended, even though I’m far from being a cello master) who performed Brahms’s Double Concerto together, and a number of others.  This month, I have a ticket for pianist Emanuel Ax’s concert, which I’m very much looking forward to.  Yo-Yo Ma performed here a month or so ago, but his concert was sold out in the spring, only a few weeks after tickets went on sale.  Curses.

So it’s been a good year, overall, but I’m really hoping that 2011 is better, or less confusing at the very least.  I have lofty goals for the upcoming year, which include finding a job, finding love and a real relationship, taking care of some things that have been dogging me for a while now, and producing more CD’s.  I have a bit of news on the music front, actually.  A friend of mine hurt her arms a year ago, and has since been unable to play the piano, but that hasn’t stopped her from singing, or from writing lyrics and melodies, or from having tons of ideas.  She e-mailed me at some point to ask what people in her position do in the music business.  I told her I don’t know about ‘the music business’, but I’d love to give the songs a listen, and that maybe I could put music to them.  She sent me some mp3’s, and I instantly felt like I knew where the songs should go.  They felt familiar without being predictable, which is always a good sign.  That was about two months ago, and we already have five or six collaborations in the works.  Pretty awesome and exciting.

In other news, December is the fourth anniversary of this blog, so it seems appropriate to have a little birthday party, no?  Come on, let’s have some sis-boom-bah.

So anyway, on to the Best Of.  Here are the lists of what I consider to the best entries BFS&T has to offer from this past year, which naturally includes a list of the most interesting dreams, as well.  Enjoy!


SteamCon – the steampunk convention in Seattle in which PolishCellist and I played, and had a total blast doing so

tragedy – the death of Stepdad

struggle – the early aftermath of the death of Stepdad

sitting here thinking about the Holocaust – one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard on the radio

folk festival fun – Portland Folk Festival, starring IrishBand, Dan Bern, Roll Out Cowboy, etc.

I’m kind of an a-hole – see for yourself

birthday present – prostitute schmostitute

the unicorn code – love it, learn it, LIVE IT

no one’s laughing – a peek into our family dynamics

déja vu – what it feels like, and a friend who claims to never have experienced one

the truth is out there – interesting UFO story, I promise

it’s not for shaving – Occam’s Razor, and how it applies to recording music

what if it is? – a very memorable and touching moment from the show Six Feet Under



love and curiosity

he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

the final innocent tryst



lights, camera, dream

festival dream

shape shifters

inimitable and imitable

subconscious and libido

this needs a name


Just in case this wasn’t enough for your insatiable appetite for blog entries, here’s the Best of BFS&T 2009 entry, for your gluttonous pleasure.

Thanks for being here and reading all this, and for supporting this blog for such a long time now.  I really appreciate it.  I hope we all have an excellent New Year’s Eve, and Day, and that 2011 allows us to learn, and to grow, and to change for the better, a little bit each day.

Happy New Year!


music, Washington 1 Comment »

This past weekend I did something for the first time; I attended SteamCon, the steampunk convention in Seattle.  I had only an inkling of an idea what to expect, but I have to tell you that it was amazing.

I found out about it when PolishCellist (her name is unusual and therefore requires a pseudonym for blogging purposes), with whom I play accordion, was asked to perform there.  I’m pretty easily put off by large crowds, but I’m familiar enough with the ideas of steampunk (I have a handful of friends who are super into it), and I’m definitely familiar with the type of circus and cabaret culture with which it shares many similarities and ideologies, so it sounded like it would be, at the very least, an interesting experience.  Plus, we had free all-weekend passes.

I’m interested enough in anime and cabaret and stuff that I knew the convention would be full of more than just teenagers dressed like comic book characters, but I have to admit that the wide range of ages was a surprise to me.  Young and old alike roamed the halls and congregated in the lounges and rooms, and the garden area by the pool.  There were whole families, each clearly interested in different aspects of the culture.  If you’re not familiar at all with steampunk, look it up it stems from the idea that the Victorian Age was the height of creativity, and culture, and technology.  There are a myriad of sub-genres within that simple idea, though.  There are people who simply like to dress in Victorian style, and there are people who are fascinated by the elaborate gadgets that were created before electricity was in common usage.  There are people who are interested in cabaret music, and people who are interested in the popular entertainment of the time, such as burlesque and circus acts.  There are people who build weapons using this antiquated technology, and there are people who build elaborate mechanical body parts for themselves.  There are people who are into early flying machines.  There are people who are inspired by the Gothic and vampire novels of the time.  You can see how there’s plenty of room for interpretation, and all can fit under the umbrella of steampunk, albeit some more naturally than others.

The best thing about a convention like that is the people-watching.  Just about everyone was dressed stunningly.  It was interesting to see the lengths to which people would or wouldn’t go.  One girl wore a beautiful blue ‘peacock’ dress, and one guy simply wore a polo shirt and jeans with his aviator goggles.  One guy doctored up an electric guitar, and a husband-and-wife team (who led one of the panel discussions) arrived with an amazing brass electro-mechanical dog that could actually roll under its own power and lift its head, and probably did various other tricks as well.  Its eyes were lit up in blue.

There was an art room, which did double duty as a silent auction.  There were pictures and sculptures, as well as the requisite gadgetry.  The antique bicycles modified into antique motorcycles were particularly well done, I thought, and as a typewriter enthusiast, I love the fact that people have figured out ways to modify them with USB connections, so they can be used with their more modern counterparts.

I feel sorry for the ‘regular’ people who just happened to be staying in those two hotels at the time this was all going on.  It was hilarious to watch and overhear people on their cell phones trying to describe what they were witnessing.  “It’s some sort of convention,” they would say, “or maybe a fashion show. . .”

All I can say is that it was a total blast, and I’m hooked.  I’m into old music, and antiquated technology, and I do love to dress nice.  My usual attire owes more to the 1970’s than to the 1870’s, but there are enough cool places in town (not to mention garage sales) that it wouldn’t be too hard to find clothes.  It would be nice to go to a different meet-up at a turn-of-the-century hotel or club or something, rather than the ultra-modern hotels.  Not that there’s anything wrong with those hotels; it should be noted that they did a tremendous job of hosting the enormous convention.

I think it would be funny and awesome to buy a cheap cello and doctor it up.  I would never do that to the cello I have, but it would be a great experiment on a different instrument.  Maybe a violin would be better, since it’d be a lot cheaper, not to mention easier to carry around as a prop.  Only problem is, I don’t know how to play violin, and I know I’d get tired of constantly having to refuse people when they’d want me to do something with it.  Cello for the win (I accidentally typed ‘wine’ just now), as The Kids Today would say.

Why don’t I have any pictures in this entry, I can feel you asking, after gushing about how amazing and beautiful everything was?  Because I couldn’t find my camera when I was packing.  After I got home, it turned up in the glove compartment of my car, buried under CD’s, where I had left it the other day.  I wanted to punch myself in the face when I saw that it was in the car with me the entire time, and I didn’t even know it.  Curses!

As a little aside, I have to confess that after dressing quasi-Victorian for the weekend, it was really nice to slip into a comfortable sweater and jeans today.

P.S. – If you should ever find yourself passing through the tiny town of Nisqually, Washington (an hour or so south of Seattle), you owe it to yourself to stop in at Norma’s restaurant, for a great time and an amazing burger.  I don’t eat very many burgers, let alone recommend them, so that ought to be a pretty good impetus.  While we’re on the subject, Violetta and The Hop and Vine here in Portland have excellent burgers as well.   Seek ’em out.

P.P.S. – I hate to end this entry talking about burgers, even really delicious ones, so I thought it would be funny to tack on this completely unnecessary paragraph.  I stand by my decision to do that, even though it doesn’t add anything to the blog.

P.P.P.S. – There is no third post script.  Please move along.

P.P.P.P.S. – There’s also not a fourth one.  Sorry.

P.P.P.P.P.S. – There IS, however, a fifth post script, and this is it.  There will not be a sixth, unless I decide to add one later.  Who knows, maybe I will.

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. – Yup, looks like I did add a sixth one.  Okay, now I’m really done.

P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. – Or AM I?

[Edit:  P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. – Here and here are some great pictures (including some of the dog!), many of which are from the fashion show on Saturday, which required a separate $50 ticket to attend.  Also, PolishCellist is in a couple of those pictures.  HINT:  She is without her cello.]

O, frabjous weekend

blogging, cello, music, pictures, Portland No Comments »

Man, I swear this blog gets more hits when I don’t post for a week than when I post all the time.  I guess it’s a good thing I’m still feeling un-bloggish lately, then, in order to give everybody a chance to soak up a bit of beauty, humor, sadness (although there’s been precious little sadness lately!) and truth.

Times have been good, overall.  Had a great gig on Friday, at which I got the chance to see many friends.  I started mixing the EP for IrishBand (our goal is to finish mixing some time in December), and I had an excellent birthday.  Got some new clothes.  My friend LJ returned from three weeks in the U.K., so we went to brunch and then came back here to my place where she could upload the pictures and explain the stories behind all of them.

I had another excellent day yesterday, which involved a new friend and much random fun.  We met at Powell’s, then watched a bewildering theater performance at Pioneer Square (we left after about ten minutes, scratching our heads with confusion), watched some buskers outside Nordstrom, bounced around between a bunch of closed restaurants (which finally led us to get sushi at Sansai), then we walked clear up to Vivace for coffee and dessert.  Lovely day.

NewFriend is a piano teacher, so we’ve been looking for classical music we’ll be able to play together as a duo.  I found a book of ‘easy to intermediate’ cello solos at Powell’s, which consists of classical pieces arranged for cello, with piano accompaniment.  Perfect!  It’s part of a two-book series; Book One is the piano book, and Book Two is the cello book.  I bought the piano one because A) it was the only one they had, B) it had both the piano AND the cello parts on it, and C) I figured we could track down the complementary book at some point, or just photocopy whichever pieces we intend to learn.

When I pulled up at home, CellistSkip was standing next to his car, and he said hello.  I brought the book over to show him, and he said, “No way. . .I think I used to have that book when I was a kid.”  FlutistSusan came down the steps just then and I showed it to her too.  “That sounds familiar,” she said.  “I think I may actually have the cello book in my files somewhere.”  She ran into her office, rummaged around in a drawer, and after about ten seconds pulled out a tattered copy of the companion cello book.  The cover is gone and about half of the pages are missing, but it’s the same book.  What a crazy coincidence, no?

So here are a few pictures.  I wish I would’ve taken more, but I was too hungry to think of it when we got our sushi.  The sushi was excellent, by the way, but the sunomono salad (with octopus, red onions, bell peppers and daikon radishes) was the hit of the day.





Perhaps I could recruit your help in locating a piece for NewFriend and me?  We’re looking for Antonin Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance #2 in E minor, Opus 72, arranged for piano and cello.  You know, it’s this piece (and what a beautiful performance this is!):

I could watch that all day.  Thanks in advance for your help!

stolen cello in Portland

cello, pictures, Portland, sad No Comments »

When I arrived, I got out of my car and noticed that my friend Skip’s car had a piece of plastic where the rear passenger window should have been.  I tried to call him to find out what happened, but there was no answer, so I sent him a text asking if anything had been taken.  No response, so I signed onto VisageTome to find that practically everyone I knew had posted an update saying something to the effect of, “Skip’s cello STOLEN!  It looks like [description]. . .please help!”

It happened this afternoon on Northeast 13th Avenue, sometime between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.


Here’s Skip’s description of the instrument:

“There’s a coffee stain on the bridge of the instrument.  It’s very dusty and has a large area of finger nail scratches on the right side.  It’s made by Virgilio Cappelini 1982 in Cremona, Italy and the label inside says so. It has a metal tailpiece (all scratched up) and a Shuback bridge.”

If you have this cello (and if you’re not Skip), IT IS NOT YOURS and you should do the right thing and turn it in to the police.  They are looking for it (AND FOR YOU!) and so are hundreds of Skip’s friends.  You’d better pray that the police find you before one of us does.