Monday, April 20, 2015

Read.Eat.Listen: Iterations

I grew up on a wooded hill so I'm always jonesing a little for a nature hike. Getting outside is generally the most reliable head clearer. These days, living in Alameda, the San Francisco Bay is both the backyard and the nature escape. And with no hills to climb, that means heading for either the beach or on the water.  On Friday, we took off for a long-planned overnight sail to Paradise Bay, a lovely anchorage on the east side of Tiburon. We'd sailed there more than a year ago and I had memories of a smooth sail, warm air and gentle anchorage, suitable for a little yoga on the deck and napping in the sun. Anticipating a similarly idyllic two days, I dressed in shorts, brought my iPad writing set-up, and we added the mandolin to the on board instrument inventory. However, though the weather was warm and clear when we set out on Friday, the water soon became choppy and rough. Out came the long pants and foulies.
It should be noted here that while I'm a pretty experienced outdoors person,  I'm really a fair weather sailor. Suddenly, I was feeling nauseous.  Fortunately my captain is more than capable, and ably navigated the rough patch while I worked on steadying myself. 
I was reminded how easily the mind gets attached to an idea of how things should be like they were before. Hah! Paradise, it turns out, like everything, is changeable.  The upside of the strong wind and current was arriving at Paradise Bay in record time, albeit amid high winds, cool air and a half-hidden sun.
Once I got over partially cloudy and cool weather, I embraced our actual circumstance. There's something so soothing about sleeping on water. And waking to coyotes howling through the morning fog and loons paddling on the calm morning water isn't bad either.
Read: The Folded Clock, by Heidi Julavits, is a diary, but it's nonlinear. Comprised of two years of highly literate entries, each started with "Today, I..." Julavits mines insights about her everyday motivations and encounters with bracing candor, about herself, her strength and shortcomings, creating a new order of experience.
Eat: A friend handed me some scissors and directed me into her garden recently to harvest some of the many fava beans she'd grown. I shelled them for salad and for pasta and proceeded to see fava's everywhere, on menus and grocery bins. Fava beans,  are something I would have hated as a kid and now find beautiful. Large and green and kidney shaped, I like them as much for their aesthetic as their flavor. This Fava Bean and Pecorino dish is simple and pretty.
Listen: I've been fortunate to hear a lot of great live music lately a while reviewing shows for No Depression. Someone I'm looking forward to seeing play there next month is Steve Poltz. I'm not sure any video can capture how mind-blowing Poltz is live — he's as much performance artist, comedian,  faith healer and spirit channeler as songwriter/guitarist — but this will have to do until you see him. Poltz tours a lot. (Bay Area heads up: He's in Berkeley in May and in SF in July.) Check him out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

10 Steps to Change Your World: A List in Progress

"Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own -- indeed to embrace the whole of creation in all its diversity, beauty, and wonder." — Wangari Maathai 

I think a lot about whether I'm helping or hurting the planet. Maybe this is because I grew up in California, maybe its because I practice a Buddhism that challenges me to revolutionize my life.  Maybe its a persistent naivete, but I woke up this morning thinking of ways one can change the world. Is that possible? In college, earnest, unjaded and sure my actions made a difference, my college professors were pulling their hair out over the fact of climate change. Twenty five years later here we are. The news is full of woe; who know where are water is going to come from; the result as of entrenched racism and sexism and greed have never been more stark; the presidential race is a sales job... people are struggling everywhere. And after 25 years of ups and downs of action, result, periodic disappointment...we're still here. I think, I know — because I've changed a lot — change —of one's mind, of ones limits, changes that can result in a more peaceful world —is very and always possible. Actions add up to result. Why not make them positive, proactive actions? Why not start with your own world?  Think of it all as an experiment if you have to. We might all yet surprise ourselves. What I've found thus far...

 10 Steps to Change the World: A List in Progress
  1. Love something or someone. Show up every day and decide to love it or them. This can be your practice (#2). Life is suddenly that much more amazing.
  2. Practice. Regular practice is where it's at for me: a prayer, an exercise, a martial art, an instrument, an art, a relationship...all the above!  Like  #1, its about paying attention and through repetitive action you learn your mind, your habits and what needs to change to progress. 
  3. Get involved with a community. That is volunteer for something or join a committee: whether that's music or gardening or spiritual study or cat rescuing or a project at work, get involved with something where you're a part of it but IT's not all about you. Yes, you'll find out how tricky it is to reach agreements about seemingly simple things. And you'll find out that you really don't like everyone. But that's the point. You'll learn to work with other people to make things happen.
  4. Know nature. Go for walks where there's dirt underfoot.  Learn about the other creatures around you. Be amazed.
  5. Eat locally grown, organic food whenever possible. Plant it if you have to. If you don't have a yard, inquire about a community garden.
  6. Limit fossil fuels. Carpool. Use public transportation. Walk. Or ride your bike. Clean air, healthier you.
  7. Clean up. Wash your hands, etc. et. al.
  8. Vote whenever you can. Run for office or get involved (#2) yourself if you don't like what's happening.
  9. Say thank you. Simple acknowledgement can go a very long way.
  10. Forgive. Assess the past, take the lesson in the mistakes and move forward.

 
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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

New Acoustic Music Series debuts May 3 @ Island Yoga in Alameda

 Kwame Copeland and Deborah Crooks will be playing a selection of BRAND NEW material - Songs from the Desert & the Sea - at this BRAND NEW Music Series.
New Acoustic Music at Island Yoga
A "chamber concert" series for acoustic music performance from popular idioms to classical. The NAM series seeks a focused atmosphere, similar to a classical concert. Totally unplugged original music in a serene setting. The 2015 schedule runs May - Nov with performances on the 1st Sunday of each concert-month. Island Yoga supports this goal as a sensitive, resonant, space where performers can showcase their most personal work.

All shows are 45 minutes total length: starting at 4:15pm, ending at 5:00pm
Ticket price is $10 at door / $11 advance via PayPal

Concert performance is at the 2nd floor studio of Island Yoga, 911 Central Ave, Alameda. There is no wheelchair access.  http://www.jom-songs.com/NAM_series

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Read.Eat.Listen: Art & Magic

The pursuit of truth and beauty through plumbing one's own line of particular inquiry is a road I trust, even if it's fairly unmarked. I've been neck deep in a bunch of projects this month, while planning a whole course on getting projects done, so I was pleased to be tagged on Facebook as part of an artist challenge earlier this week. The challenge is to post your work 5 days in a row and tag two other artists while you were at it. Already on day 5, I realized I've a lot more folks I want to tag! Oh my! 
In the meantime, I flew up to Portland for a few days, mainly to spend more time for my sweetie whose been traveling a lot, and also to enjoy that hyper-creative city. It was raining, and cold for most of my visit, but the trip started beautifully, with a view of a rainbow over the Willamette River, and ended sweetly with a big slice of gluten-free berry pie, with a good helping of quality time with my husband, yoga practice, good coffee, writing sessions and catching up with friends who live there. I got back in touch with a dear and brilliant artist, Kitty Wallis, who I knew years ago in Santa Cruz, while in town. She was already a master colorist when I first met her and I'm lucky to own a couple of her pieces. What a delight it was to see her current, just that much more realized work! If you're in Portland, look her up and seek her out. She's also continuing to teach her vivid and inspired approach to painting. 

Read: I've pretty much designed my life to be surrounded by creatives.  So I love coming upon this book:  Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers, by Janet Malcom. 
Eat: I ate out a lot this week, in Portland, at home, for Easter. I'm grateful for all the good food, and happy to see spring is busting out on menus in the form of an abundance of artichoke and asparagus based and laced dishes. Artichoke and asparagus on pizza, artichoke ragout under poached fish, artichoke grilled with x on top, asparagus on goat-cheese ravioli, asparagus lightly with brown butter...you get the idea. Go green I say!
Listen: With a name like,  Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, how can I not want to listen? Love the sass and soul of this group. Check out Mama Knows: 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Songwriterly Abundance: New Music Here for the Listening

As you can guess from this photo, the Songs from the Fog CD Showcase at Doc's Lab was super fun for we performers. Eight of the 9 featured songwriters performed and I can't say enough about how stellar the folks on this compilation are. Thanks again to the leaders of this latest songwriting expedition, Maurice Tani and Jim Bruno. If you didn't get a Songs From the Fog CD at the show, you can pick one up at any one of our gigs, or write me [deborahrcrooks@gmail.com] for more info.
As you can guess from this photo, the Songs from the Fog CD Showcase at Doc's Lab was super fun for we performers. Eight of the 9 featured songwriters performed and I can't say enough about how stellar the folks on this compilation are. Thanks again to the leaders of this latest songwriting expedition, Maurice Tani and Jim Bruno. If you didn't get a Songs From the Fog CD at the show, you can pick one up at any one of our gigs, or write me [deborahrcrooks@gmail.com] for more info.
As you can guess from this photo, the Songs from the Fog CD Showcase at Doc's Lab was super fun for we performers. Eight of the 9 featured songwriters performed and I can't say enough about how stellar the folks on this compilation are. Thanks again to the leaders of this latest songwriting expedition, Maurice Tani and Jim Bruno. If you didn't get a Songs From the Fog CD at the show, you can pick one up at any one of our gigs, or write me [deborahrcrooks@gmail.com] for more info.
- See more at: http://deborahcrooks.com/blog/songs_from_the_fog_cd_releasebration_recap/#comments
As you can guess from this photo, the Songs from the Fog CD Showcase at Doc's Lab was super fun for we performers. Eight of the 9 featured songwriters performed and I can't say enough about how stellar the folks on this compilation are. Thanks again to the leaders of this latest songwriting expedition, Maurice Tani and Jim Bruno. If you didn't get a Songs From the Fog CD at the show, you can pick one up at any one of our gigs, or write me [deborahrcrooks@gmail.com] for more info.
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- See more at: http://deborahcrooks.com/blog/songs_from_the_fog_cd_releasebration_recap/#sthash.gTmKDJ8P.dpuf
I'm coming off a week of playing shared shows with a bevy of Bay Area and beyond musical talent, and was reminded again of this fact of how much great independent music is available for adventuresome ears. I feel fortunate to know so many artists who are writing and releasing great, interesting music!
As you can guess from this photo, the Songs from the Fog CD Showcase at Doc's Lab was super fun for we performers. Eight of the 9 featured songwriters played and I can't say enough about how stellar the folks on this compilation are. Thanks again to the leaders of this latest songwriting expedition, Maurice Tani and Jim Bruno. If you didn't get a Songs From the Fog CD at the show, you can pick one up at any one of our gigs, or write me [deborahrcrooks@gmail.com] for more info.
Songs from the Fog artists: l to r, Carol Denney, Bruce Kaplan, Claudia Russel, Keller Sisters, Paul Griffiths, Michael Schaffer, Mike Anderson, Deborah Crooks, Kwame Copeland, Maurice Tani, Jim Bruno
Alameda Songwriters Roundup: Ted Nunes, Sara Rodenburg, Della Lupa, Kev Minney, Deborah Crooks, Adrian West


Kwame Copeland & Deborah Crooks
On Saturday, I hosted another Alameda Songwriters Roundup at our neighborhood listening room, High Street Station. I've been organizing these 6-artist shows on a loose, every few months basis, and this one was notable for having three out-of-town guests. UK artists Della Lupa and Kev Minney were in town from Brighton (!) and Ted Nunes joined in from the Central Valley. Minney is a phenon guitarist, Lupa reminded me of a young Kate Bush, and Ted brought great country-western flavors to the mix.  Mark your calendar for another Songwriters Roundup May 29.

Between those two events, another local songwriter friend, Lisa Graciano, invited us to play her monthly Artis Coffee Music Series. This hip Berkeley coffee shop 'live roasts' its coffee and provided a pleasant backdrop for an afternoon set. Live music, live coffee, why not!