Thrills in Sports for a Non-Jock

An old, old story tells of a young man rushing down the street in New York. He sees an older, more mature man and excitedly asks, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”  The older man slowly answers, “Practice. Practice.”

The question could also apply to AT&T Park, Levi Stadium, Oracle Arena or any other sports venue. The answer could also include, “Dedication and discipline.”  Of course, a little natural talent also helps.

Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles

When I was young I loved participating in sports, especially basketball, softball, table tennis, baseball, badminton, and tennis. I loved participating, but discipline, dedication, and practice were not in my vocabulary or my personality. Do not worry, this will not be about my triumphs and great moments in sports, but rather about lessons I learned, my enjoyment, and some defeats. Whatever skills I had can now be found in my personal rear view mirror and getting up from the couch and walking across the room require Herculean effort–well, almost Herculean.

DISCRETION:  When I was a senior at Washington High School in Los Angeles, then a virtually all white school, some buddies and I drove over to Fremont High, a virtually all black school that kept its gym open well into the evening. We went to shoot a few hoops. I was guarding a young black man and he was guarding me, but he kept doing little tricks that got beyond annoying rather quickly. He would pinch, poke with his fingers and open hands, and pretend to spit at me. I lost my temper and used an old trick involving my rather strong hips to knock him to the floor. He quite loudly accused my mother of having four legs, a tail, and being quite hairy. The entire gym suddenly quieted and all eyes were on the black guy on the floor and the white guy who put him there. The tension was palpable.

I did not want an evening of fun to develop into a race riot, especially when I was in a distinct minority. I had to act and act quickly, so I went over to my nemesis, put out my hand, and said loud enough for most everybody to hear, “Sorry, it was my fault,” and I helped him up. The tension immediately dissipated and the usual gym noise returned. We both continued playing hard, but there were no more incidents.

A quick word about the man who taught me how to use my elbows, knees and hips as both offensive and defensive weapons. When I was thirteen my family moved to Atlantic City, NJ. I had never played basketball prior to moving there. For some reason one of the NBA players who worked out there decided to help this stranger to a basketball court. He taught me how to protect myself, with sometimes a good offense being the best defense. He was a little man, about 5’ 7” but as fast and cool a player as I have ever seen. I never saw him off the court, and why he taught me so thoroughly I will never know. Some of you may have heard of him:  Red Klotz. He became the most losing coach in the history of sports because for over thirty years he was the playing coach for the Washington Generals who played against the Harlem Globetrotters. According to Wikipedia he played until he was 68 years old, won two games against the Globetrotters, but he lost over 14,000.

KNOW WHEN TO SHUT UP:  As a theater student who also loved sports, I was chosen to be the public address announcer at my community college, then called junior college, football games. We had a miserable team and had won one game all season. In the closing minutes of the final game we were behind, but down to the opponent’s 16 yard line with time running out. The quarterback threw a pass which was intercepted and run back 84 yards for a touchdown. Over the loud speaker I stupidly and hurtfully said, “Oh, well, you can’t win them all.”  At which point our entire bench turned to face the booth as if they had been choreographed and some sixty players saluted me–with one finger. The band director who was also an assistant dean suggested that I might want to stay home the following Monday. I still have not fully mastered the lesson of knowing when to keep my mouth closed.

HUMILITY:  Although I never had any coaching or formal training, I was always a fast runner. While at a special school in the Army at Ft. Benning, GA, our barracks were about 150-200 yards from the “Beer Garden.”  Several men in my company had run track in high school or college, and when we visited the “Beer Garden,” they would challenge me to a race. I have tried beer several times and just do not like it, so winning would get a beer for the others, a pint of ice cream for me. In the four months we were there, I never bought a beer, and I had a lot of ice cream.

One Saturday, however, one the trackmen and I were running just for fun. A young soldier came up to me and said, “You’re fast. Want to race?”  Confidently I agreed. We both were wearing green fatigues, and when the starter yelled, “Go!”, he exploded as if shot from a rocket launcher. All I saw was the back of his uniform. When the rest of our group got to us, one of his friends asked if I knew whom I had just raced. I did not. “Oh, he’s Curtis Cooksey and he holds the world’s high school record for the hundred yard dash.”  Mr. Cooksey and I shook hands, and I had a small dose, albeit temporary, of humility.

HISTORICAL DRAMA:  In October of 1957 I was on the public address system at a high school basketball game at the school where I was enjoying my first teaching experience. During the game one of my students came over to me, held up a portable radio, and said, “Listen.”  All I heard was a strange “Beep–beep–beep.”  The student explained what it was, and I in turn asked everyone to listen during a time out. It was, of course, the Soviet Union’s Sputnik, the first human made satellite in space marking the beginning of the “Space Age.”  Who won the game?  I have no idea.

THE BIG THRILL:  Perhaps the most exciting time I ever had connected  with sports occurred when I was not a participant, not an announcer, but simply one of 35,000 spectators at Dodger Stadium to see Sandy Koufax pitch against the first year New York Mets. Better actors learn quickly to “feel an audience” and respond to the audience’s responses. It is a lesson he or she carries over into being a member of the audience. On June 30, 1962, those of us among the spectators all began to notice that the Mets had put up a lot of goose eggs by the fifth inning. By the sixth or seventh the throng was unusually quiet and anticipatory, yet few would discuss it. The crowd hushed by the end of the eighth and everyone wanted to get to the top of the ninth when the Mets would bat. The hometown Dodgers had a comfortable lead, but few cared about that.

As those of you who know baseball probably realize, Koufax was on the verge of his first no-hitter. 35,000 of us began breathing as one body. With each pitch we inhaled as the ball left Sandy’s hand; we then held our collective breaths until the pitch was called a ball or a strike or foul,  Twice the ball was put into play and resulted in an out.  If I remember correctly some fifty-five years later, I think Koufax issued one walk in the ninth. When pinch hitter Gene Woodling came to bat, each pitch had all 35,000 standing and inhaling together, holding our breath together, then exhaling a sigh together. On the final pitch,  it was inhale, hold, and then explode as one body.  Johnny Roseboro, the catcher, raced to the mound and threw his arms around the beaming pitcher. We all wanted to do the same, but it was a quieter, more sedate time.

On the shelf above the computer desk where I am writing this, there is a gold (not real gold), small picture frame with a fifty-four year old ticket stub in it. The stub reads “Dodger Stadium/June 30, 1962, RESERVED $2.50.” No, that is not a typo:  the reserved seat cost $2.50 back in 1962.

Exciting? Good? Please do not tell any of my former English students, but It don’t get no better than that.”

Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

I could have used a number of different titles for this article, no doubt many of them clichés, such as; “When the Genie’s out of the Bottle…” or, “Wrong Time, Wrong Place,” or, “Yes, You Can, but Maybe Your Shouldn’t,” or, “You Can’t Fix ___,” Okay, we won’t go there.

As wannabes all over the country now appear to have been infected with “Take-a-Knee-itis,” I feel an obligation to offer some advice that I am ashamed to say I should have offered to Mr. Kaepernick, way back when.

Before offering my advice however, I must say that I am perplexed by much of the discussion and apparent confusion on the part of team owners and NFL executives about team players’ “rights.” Because these are paid employees with contracts that specify standards of behavior, both on and off the playing field, based upon previous actions by the NFL, I believe that modification of the players’ rights of free speech and expression are within the bounds of employer policy.

For example, the NFL said “no,” when the Dallas Cowboys wanted to wear small decals on their helmets to honor the police officers murdered in July 2016. Cowboy owner Jerry Jones concurred, stating, “There are tons of things out there that need to be recognized. Once you open that Pandora’s Box, how do you ever stop?” Were the players’ intentions noble? Sure. But do they have the freedom to express themselves, even when they’re at work? Apparently, in some cases, no.

It’s much like in any business. An unhappy customer may stomp in and call an employee every name under the Sun—“Idiot,” “Nitwit,” “Useless Piece of Garbage.” But the employer won’t (if they plan to remain in business) tolerate an employee being disrespectful of that same customer—regardless of whether or not they “deserved” the same comments in return.

So, back to the exercise of free speech during professional sports events. Will the league and team owners fall in line and support players if they decide to “make a statement” by temporarily donning t-shirts over their jerseys (when they’re not actually playing), with a giant, emblazoned message on both sides proclaiming, “JESUS SAVES?” Come on! At least this is a positive message with a suggested solution for all that ails humanity.

Many voice their support for the kneelers’ rights to express themselves at these events. But what about messages we may not agree with? The ACLU says that Nazi symbols and Confederate flags are in bounds when it comes to free speech. Or how about a big, black ISIS flag? This is America, after all—surely there are people who support these causes too.

I am old enough to recall the raised black fists during the medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympics. Are all hand gestures protected?

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do something. When the “I won’t stand for our flag” thing began, I believe Kaepernick acted solely on emotion with little thought of the long term ramifications. Maybe he should have consulted with a PR firm before launch! As soon as it was revealed that he had never even bothered to register to vote, his credibility was, as they say, “toast.”

Beyond that, when he justified his protests by referring to the September 2016 police shootings of Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott, by saying, “This is a perfect example of what this is about,” he merely dug his lack-of-credibility-hole deeper. In both cases, Kaepernick accused the police of murder, but the investigations in both case by both local law enforcement and the United States Justice Department, exonerated the officers in both cases.

I won’t get into lots of facts and figures about racism in America today, because in truth, that isn’t really the point here. This is more about the perception and impact of “Taking a Knee.” Is it having a positive effect on professional football? No. Ratings, viewership and attendance are down. There is even a movement now circulating among veterans groups to boycott all football games—in person and on TV—on Veteran’s Day. The vast majority of American’s are clearly saying, “I support his right to do it… but I think it’s disrespectful.”   

Now for the Advice

If you’re goal is to draw attention to inequity or injustice, be certain that what you’re offering as evidence truly exists somewhere beyond the social media universe. And don’t accuse anyone, police or otherwise, of being a “murderer,” until you hear a judge and jury foreman say it first.

Think long term. Does your action really encourage the response you’re hoping for? Kaepernick drew attention to his point by doing it once or twice. Now that has become some kind of “in your face whether you like it or not conga-line spectacle,” it has no real meaning other than division.      

Where Do You Stand (Or Kneel)?

There is an even larger issue here also having to do with perception, but in a different way. What does the American flag and the National Anthem represent? What do they stand for? How does Kaepernick see America? How do the “kneelers” see America? How do you see America?

I don’t deny that there is work to be done. There always will be, so long as human beings are running the show. It seems there will always be plenty of reminders of our flaws, but is this the right place and time to be reminded? Does this protest draw us together to address a real problem, or does it mainly serve to divide, foster resentment, and make people dislike the messenger(s)?

Certainly, one of the things that makes America great is our right to differ. I tend to lean toward seeing the glass as always half full. I don’t deny the empty part; I just think it’s more productive to count our blessings and recognize those who enabled us to have the “water” in this glass that is America, in the first place.

To that end, I happen to believe, strongly, in standing at attention and saluting our flag; in singing along with the Star Spangled Banner and saying the pledge, because these are ways to say “thank you” to the patriots who have given so much so that I can live here, today, in this time, in this America. These are actions I am inspired to do. To my way of thinking, these are the things I can do. These are the things I should do.

Whatever Happened to Customer Service? The Sequel

Back in March of 2008, I wrote an article for Alive entitled Whatever Happened to Customer Service? After years of dealing with rude, arrogant, selfish, distracted and hopelessly ambivalent front line employees, I decided to voice my displeasure to corporate America. Like many of my friends, I was so tired of feeling unimportant, unappreciated and invisible to those who were taking my money that I spoke out for the masses. The masses may be a bit of an overstatement; maybe just a few friends, my sister, and a second cousin on my dad’s side.

 As a self-proclaimed connoisseur of “Customer Service,” I am constantly rating my “CS” experiences at restaurants, financial institutions and retail stores. My wife and kids will tell you that I’ve been known to rate the customer service I get from our spa service technician, my dentist and the people who work at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum/Arena. Just for the record, I love my dentist! (A big shout-out to Melanie Koehler, DDS, and her staff, in Danville.) I’m also known to regularly assess the service I get from the various airlines, rent-a-car agencies and hotels when I travel.I’m one of those old school guys (because I’m old) who believes if I’m spending my hard earned money to pay for a good, service or experience, then I should be treated well by the employees working for my business, unless I’m being a tool, which I try not to be, for whatever that’s worth. However, that brings up a good point. Let’s face it, the customer is not always right. There are more than a fair share of malcontents, scammers and “Grifters” out there trying to get over on unsuspecting businesses. Additionally, we live in a very litigious society. Therefore, while there should always be a high priority placed on customer service, I’ll understand if there’s a “once burned twice shy” underlying edict at work. I would just hate to see anything undermine a company’s CS based corporate culture.

While I was beginning to feel that customer service was becoming a lost art when my original article came out nine years ago, I’m here to tell you that I’m encouraged by the resurgence in customer care and the fine art of servicing your customers with respect and appreciation. Somewhere (Alive Magazine – March 2008), the word got out that the buying public was sick of being ignored, shunned and minimalized and the time was right to turn that ship around. In this Millennial “Me Generation” it’s good to see the more sophisticated executive management teams from a good number of companies are prioritizing customer service again.

Customer Service is something that I feel should be addressed at every level of an organization. If I ran a company such as Copeland Tech, Copeland’s Pet Emporium or McCopeland’s Irish Pub, once I hired a new employee I would enroll him or her in our Customer Service University (Go CSU). Before they could interact with my customers, they would have to complete their degree. Promotions would require an advanced degree. On day one, phrases such as “Hello, we’ll be with you in just a minute,” “Thank you for waiting,” “We appreciate your business,” and, “Please come again’” would be built into the culture. We would likely also add, “If you like us on FB or post a positive review on YELP you’ll receive a discount coupon for your next visit.”

I would periodically send in shills to rate their customer experience so that I could weed out the flunkies. Every organization has its share of flunkies or non conformers and they need to be purged. Not from the planet, just from a front line position of working with customers.

Ownership encourages us to think of our customers as guests. Our goal is to ensure our guests are treated like family. At the start of every season, part of our staff development is to instill trust in each other and trust from our guests.” Johanna Wilson, Guest Relations Director – Bridge Bay at Shasta Lake

In my original article, being so much younger and impetuous, I had no reservations about throwing a company under the bus if their employees displayed poor or non- existent customer service habits. That included Circuit City, AT&T, Abercrombie & Fitch and American Express. While some of those companies are still in business, other’s that disappointed me, such as Sports Authority, Washington Mutual Bank, Macaroni Grill and Radio Shack seem to have had trouble surviving. Is there any direct correlation? Me doeth think so. Don’t even get me started on the DMV or US Postal Service.

In that article, I also complimented numerous large companies that had placed an emphasis on training their employees to treat the customer with respect and gratitude. That included Safeway, Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, San Francisco Giants/AT&T Park and Wells Fargo Bank. This was obviously before Wells opened millions of fake accounts for their unsuspecting customers. That’s “No Bueno” in the customer service world.

Needless to say, an emphasis on serving the customer starts at the top. Every successful CEO knows the importance of maintaining customer loyalty through exemplary customer service. Titans of industry such as Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Tim Cook may not have returned any of my calls for this article, but that doesn’t mean they don’t recognize that need for their front-line employees to be nice to me and make me feel appreciated and smart and special. Virgin, Tesla and Apple all do a wonderful job of training their personnel and my experiences have been great with these companies, although to date all I’ve done at Tesla is waste their sales peoples time, but (fingers crossed) one of these days I’ll be an actual buyer.

Recognition goes out to the following local companies/people who make customer service a priority everyday. Greg Meier of Diablo Motors and his staff go out of the way to make a prospective car buyer feel important and appreciated. Kurt Chambliss at TMC Financing and Matt Cheeseman at City National Bank should both win awards for how well they interface withclientsand how they lead by example with their respective teams.Both Greg Vella at Alpine Awards and Karen Cordeiro of Danville Bakery are to be commended for their willingness to go above and beyond at every turn and their commitment to the community. Finally, Jennifer Burton at Interior Motions(a workplace workspace company) could teach a graduate class in customer service at CS University. She may be the best I’ve ever seen at showing appreciation and taking care of her clients. Finally, Gotta Eat a Pita, AutoTech and Dublin Jewelers have all shown that they know the meaning of good customer service.

If we go with the basic definition of customer service, that being that it is the art of taking care of the customer’s needs by providing and delivering professional, helpful, high quality service and assistance before, during, and after the customer’s requirements are met, then I’m happy to report that apparently it’s an additional core value that’s been added to a lot more company’s mission statements and that makes this customer feels like he was heard, “way back when.”

ALIVE & Lookin’ Good In Danville

When I go into The Rouge Cosmetics in Danville I think, “effortless beauty.” They not only have superior nutrient based anti-aging skin care, but they have amazing cosmetics and custom foundations that perfectly match one’s skin tones with the most beautiful second skin coverage. I love it and I love their make-up collection by Fleur Visage; it’s so nice and trendy keeping up with the latest fashion trends.

The staff updates my look every season with colors that work for me while I still look like myself, which is great for me because I don’t have time to go looking for what’s in or out in make-up. They know. While I’ve been getting my eyebrows shaped and updated by them, I can proudly say, “I’ve been using their wonderful skin care and cosmetics for years.” 

The girls are professional and know their stuff. They all know color balance and how to make the most out of my own features, following a secret knowledge of what colors look right on me. The fact that I look healthy and not over-done; more youthful and younger than my years, is all due to the color choices and skin care they suggested for me to follow—and it’s so easy! 

They can make you look fresh, modern or years younger just by using the right color combinations, all while also updating you on the latest trends but keeping it real to your own look. It’s so great! I don’t waste time or money anymore on products that don’t work.

Theresa, the founder of The Rouge Cosmetics says, “Make-up is a spiritual journey. When you start wearing make-up in your teens you start picking up tips from every make-up artist, blogger and celebrity you can get your hands on, and you try everything. When you’re in your 20s, things start to heat up as you get into fake lashes, contouring, and smoky eye looks. Basically you want to look older. When you reach your 30s you start a good skin care program and sometimes you tone everything down when applying make-up, wearing a more sophisticated, minimalist look. In your 40s you want the best in skin care, adding serums and anti-aging creams. Some want to experiment more with make-up colors, wearing highlighters and skin shimmers, adding a little more eye make-up to balance their own individuality and to look more youthful. When you are in your 50s you love concealer and you are addicted to foundation and eyebrow pencils. You use serums religiously and you use superior skin care with nutrients, to take care of your precious, timeless skin.”  She went on to say, “When you reach age 60 and into your 70s, 80s, and beyond, you pick colors in cosmetics that brighten your face and colors to make you look ageless.”

With that said, The Rouge is the one-stop-shop for everyone and anyone who needs a beauty lift or a modern update of beauty necessities from your teens and beyond.

They definitely have you covered. Literally!

     

 

An Evening of Music and Laughter: The Fourth Annual Anti-Bullying Fundraiser

On Thursday, October 26, 2017 at the Village Theatre in Danville, Danville’s own Mike Copeland will be chairing and hosting An Evening of Music and Laughter, a fundraising show benefiting Discovery Counseling Center’s anti bullying project. This year’s show features co-headliners STUNG, the preeminent Police Tribute Band, and, from Last Comic Standing, the very funny and talented comedian, Bryan Kellen.

When he’s not putting top notch shows together, Mike is the Managing Director of Cushman & Wakefield in Pleasanton and a contributing writer for ALIVE Magazine.

Mike, who is on the Board of Directors at DCC, says “Bullying is widespread and perhaps the most underreported safety problem on American school campuses. Contrary to popular belief, bullying occurs more often at school than on the way to and from there.” Once thought of as simply a rite of passage or relatively harmless behavior that helps build young people’s character, bullying is now known to have long-lasting harmful effects, for both the victim and the bully. Bullying is often mistakenly viewed as a narrow range of anti-social behavior confined to elementary school recess yards. Perhaps more than any other school safety problem, bullying affects students’ sense of security.

Past shows have included many of Copeland’s friends and such talented performers as Nashville country artist Paul Jefferson, singer-songwriters Jeff Campbell and Courtney Randall, Rocker David Victor (formerly of the band Boston) and the incredibly versatile a cappella group from Vanderbilt University, The Meledors. Additionally, the show has featured the comedic talents of Tony Camin, David Vanavermaete and Anthony Hill.

Copeland says this year’s event has secured their largest response yet from corporate sponsors including; MetCon T.I., Links for Life Foundation, Colliers International, Tommy T’s Comedy Club, Millie Severson General Contractors, Cushman & Wakefield, Ware Malcomb Architecture, Sunset Development/Bishop Ranch, Juno Rocket, ALIVE Magazine, Interior Motions, Cuenin Orthodontics, Paragon Real Estate Group, Banducci Associates Architecture, Pension Dynamics, JLL, Farmers Insurance/Herzog Insurance Agency, Studio Blue Reprographics, Cardinal Consulting and ID Architecture.

Discovery Counseling Center of San Ramon Valley offers comprehensive and affordable assistance to school age kids in times of crises, emotional need, and life transitions. Tickets for the show are $40.00 General Admission and $75.00 for Reserved VIP seating. There will be a complimentary wine and dessert reception prior to the show again this year. Kathy Chiverton, Executive Director at Discovery, say funds from this event will help Discovery Counseling Center to expand their highly-regarded anti-bullying program to more schools in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District. Every dollar raised at the anti-bullying fundraiser goes directly to the cause. With a successful event, over 2,000 4th and 5th graders will be able to participate in Discovery’s powerful and effective anti-bullying course.

Tickets can be purchased by calling Discovery Counseling Center at (925) 837-0505 or you can purchase on-line at the Discovery website www.discoveryctr.net/eventsandnewsfallfundraiser.html. This event will likely sell out again so buy your tickets early. Copeland says he is so proud of what this annual event has become and yet it wouldn’t happen without the help of Zach Haller, Nicole Fornaci, Mary Bvers, Mark Heavey, Michael Taylor, Dave Jones and others.

 

Beyond Perseverance; A Veteran’s Journey

This year, we observed the 16th anniversary of the September 11 attack on our nation and remembered the people who lost their lives that day—a tragedy that changed our world. I will always remember where we were and what we were doing the day we heard the news. As I watched the television reports, I remember saying to my wife, “I think we’re going to see our two Army sons involved in a war very soon.”  That day certainly changed the life of young Navy hospital corpsman, Derek McGinnis, who would also be involved in the Iraq War.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek McGinnis, US Navy

An Iraq combat Veteran and a graduate of the Sentinels of Freedom (SOF) program, Derek served in the Navy for eleven years. In 2004, he was wounded in Fallujah, Iraq; a suicide bomber attacked the ambulance that he was driving, blowing it to pieces. Derek lost his left leg above the knee, sustained multiple shrapnel wounds, and suffered a traumatic brain injury that caused intense pain long into his recovery.

At the annual Exchange Club 9/11 Remembrance Event in Danville, our community was honored to hear Derek share his story as the keynote speaker. Derek spoke about love of country, duty, sacrifice, resilience, and faith. It was deeply emotional and inspiring to see someone who has faced such a difficult and long recovery speak eloquently about service above self, and serving our nation.

While Derek’s transition to civilian life has been filled with obstacles, he has always found a way to push through: by having a supportive network, participating in athletic events, seeking care for physical and mental injuries, and sharing his experiences with others. In finding healing and peace of mind, Derek has taken back control of his life.

Through Sentinels of Freedom’s assistance, Derek gained confidence and resources for his journey. One of the services we provide is mentoring—pairing Sentinels with an individual to assist with their personal and professional development. I have had the privilege of serving as Derek’s mentor, and his drive and motivation to help others is inspiring.

A successful college graduate with a master’s degree in social work, Derek now serves other Veterans as a licensed clinical social worker for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. He is a national speaker and advocate of new pain management techniques and protocols for Veterans and their families. Derek is also the author of the book, Exit Wounds, which narrates the details of his experiences of being wounded and learning to thrive.

Derek says, “I’m grateful for all the things that I have, and proud of all I’ve accomplished. In the end though, I don’t measure how far I’ve come by goals achieved, or academic degrees earned, or running trophies won. For me, what counts is that pain no longer rules my life.” And that is what Derek wants to help other wounded Veterans to learn— they are still in control of their life.

Derek’s journey, like the journeys of countless other wounded Veterans, is far from over. With his commitment to his community, he epitomizes a slogan that I often use: “Veterans Never Stop Serving.” His perseverance inspires others in their struggles, reminding them there is a new life to be envisioned and experienced. 

We owe a deep amount of gratitude, respect, and support to our Veterans and to those currently serving in our military; without them, we would not enjoy the freedom and quality of life we have come to know. I encourage you to take the time this upcoming Veterans Day to show your gratitude for these brave individuals.

To learn more and to contribute to our effort in making a difference in the lives of Veterans like Derek, visit www.sentinelsoffreedom.org.

Classics

What makes a car a “classic?” Does it have to be a certain age? How many cars have you owned in your lifetime? How about your parents? Do recall certain cars they owned that you wish you had today?

My first car was a 1968, red, VW Beetle. My older half-brother had purchased the car new from a dealer. It had a sticker price of about $1,700. He sold the car to our dad who let me drive it until the engine blew. He told me that if I rebuilt the engine, the car would be mine. So I bought the then-famous How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, by John Muir (no, not that one), and set about de-constructing and re-constructing the car’s engine in our backyard. Halfway through, the scene looked like one of those “exploded diagrams,” with parts strewn in every direction, everywhere on our back patio.

Somehow, I managed to get it all back together (with new parts of course) and was soon back on the road, “Cruisin’ the Creek” (that was driving up and down Main Street in Walnut Creek on Friday night), along with several hundred other hormone-fueled male and female “cruisers,” all hoping for at least a second glance by some—any—member of the opposite sex!

Looking online today, I see listings for my old “Bug” with price tags ranging from about $7,000 up to $18,000. Maybe that’s about the same price as the original MSRP, adjusted for inflation. I don’t really know, but I think old VWs are moving into, or are already within, “classic” territory. I suppose it isn’t and won’t ever be a “classy” classic, like an older Ferrari or a Corvette, because it wasn’t and never will be as “sexy.” But hey, I can tell you, the girls thought it was “cute!” It got the job done.

Speaking of sexy and classic cars, my parents had a number of cars I really do wish I owned today. How about a brown and white, 4-door, 1956 Chevy Bel Air? Or a pink and white Buick Coupe of the same vintage. They had some good ones! I recall a nice metallic blue GTO, and a pretty unusual red, 1961 Triumph Herald—a convertible with a leather top that my little brother managed to fall through while trying to get away from me when I was chasing him across the ceiling rafters in our garage. We even had a white, 62 Corvair Station Wagon—now, quite rare. Prior to my VW, I even took the driving test for my first license (1970) in my parents’ 1962 Cadillac Fleetwood.  

Americans have a love affair with cars, to be sure. So much of our culture is really anchored by them. What would American Graffiti have been without the cars? And what would America be without Route 66 and everything connected to that iconic Highway?

Lots of great cars with lots of terrific memories—I suppose that is what makes any car a real classic.  

 

          

 

The English Horn & French Horn

Two of the most interesting and yet disparate, members of the symphony orchestra, are indisputably the English horn and the French horn. Some people may think they are somehow related and from the same family of instruments – not!

About the only thing they have in common is, they are both aerophones, meaning they both produce sound by the vibration of air. In truth, they are different as night and day. The English horn is a woodwind instrument and the French horn is a brass instrument.

English Horn

The English horn has a rather disputed history. The name itself is a misnomer as the instrument is not of English origin, nor is it a horn in the strictest sense. In French the instrument is known as Cor anglais, a corruption of Cor angle, meaning bent horn. The early English horns were bent in the middle. Later they were made straight, like their cousin the oboe. The present-day straight horn was made by Frenchman, Henri Brod in 1839. Actually the English horn is an alto oboe or lower pitched oboe.

Musicologists are unsure why it is called English horn. By the 1830’s the English horn was an accepted member of the orchestra. There are generally three oboe players in an orchestra and one of the three usually plays English horn.

The English horn is made of wood with a slightly conical bore and a pear-shaped bell on the end. It is longer than the oboe, hence it has a lower pitch. It is played with a double reed – two thin cane blades tightly bound together by a string. The reed is on a bent metal, small hollow tube, attached to the top of the instrument. In the double reed instruments the reed is the mouthpiece. The fingering and key work is similar to the oboe.

The English horn is a transposing instrument that sounds a fifth lower than written. It is customarily written as a solo instrument; its tone is rather soft, somewhat melancholy with an expressive timbre (quality of sound). It can express music of sorrow, sadness and solitude very well.

Famous English horn passages in the following works are:  Dvorak, Symphony in E Minor from The New World Symphony; Franck, Symphony in D Minor; Wagner, Tristan and Isolde Shepherds Tune; Sibelias, Swan of Tuonela; Berlioz, Roman Carnival Overture and Vaughan-Williams, London Symphony.

English horn parts are also written for concert band scores.

French Horn

This noble sounding horn has the distinction of being referred to by musicians as “The Horn.”  It is a lip-vibrating wind instrument belonging to the brass family.       The horn is a beautiful and expressive instrument when well played. It has a very wide range, the widest of any brass instrument, with a rich, warm elegant sound that composers have exploited over the years.      

The ancient ancestors of this instrument were actually made of animal horns with their characteristically curved shape. Other materials used were tusks; wood; bamboo; ivory and metal. Early forms of the modern instrument were hunting horns. Long before its admittance into the orchestra it was used for calls to the hunt. Hunting horns had no valves or crooks (brass tubing of a given length). The French called them Cor-de-chasse (horn of the chase). The horn was also commonly used in the military for signaling and other calls to battle. Ceremonial use was also one of its functions.

Modern style horns before Beethoven’s time were termed natural horns. This means the horns had a given length of tubing and consequently had one harmonic series possible. A harmonic series is a series of notes or overtones that vibrate above a fundamental note or pedal tone. Different lengths of tubing have a different harmonic series therefore the early natural horns had different lengths of tubing to produce different sets of harmonics. This was obviously a restriction on the composer and the player. If the key of a piece changed the player would have to change horns to accommodate the new key. This all changed when it was possible to add length to the instrument by changing the length of the tubing or pipe. By 1718 it was possible to do this by adding a crook to the natural horn. This was a huge step forward and much more practical for the player. It was much easier to change crooks than to change horns.

Construction of modern-day horns have a narrow conical bore that is wound into a spiral ending in a large flaring bell. It has a funnel-shaped mouthpiece. An important invention that revolutionized both horn playing and composers writing was the work of Bluhnel in Silesia (Prussia) and Stolzel in Berlin (Germany). They invented the valve around 1815.

Valves open sections of tubing that change the length of pipe both singly and in combination. There are three valves on the French horn. This enables the horn to execute a complete chromatic scale forever freeing it from the confines of a single harmonic series. Prior to 1750, horns had a rather coarse and sometimes vulgar tone, somewhat like early trumpets. After 1750 they had a more mellow timbre.

The horn is a transposing instrument that is written a fifth higher than it sounds. Playing technique includes a method of placing the hand in the bell, called stopping. Experienced players use this technique to not only change the pitch, usually by a semitone (half step) but also change the timbre of the tone produced.

The modern orchestra has four horns, sometimes five, the fifth is an assistant first horn. Composers write four parts from high to low. Interestingly, the higher parts are played by first and third horns and lower parts are played by second and fourth horns.  They dovetail.

Some famous horn passages occur in Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, the Andante movement;  Mendelssohn’s Nocturne from Midsummer’s Night Dream; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, Trio of the Third Movement and Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, Prelude to Act III.

Both the English horn and the French horn, although not related, are valuable members of bands and orchestras and are not to be treated lightly. If you are considering learning to play either instrument be aware that they are expensive and require patience and long hours of practice.

Of the wind instruments the French horn is probably the hardest to play well. One needs to have a keen ear for pitch as there are many notes available with each fingering. Many horn players start on trumpet and then transfer to horn.

Rarely does one start out on the English horn as players almost always begin on the oboe. After learning it well, they then add the English horn. Because it becomes very costly to buy two expensive instruments; the player needs to be very dedicated and serious about investing in an oboe and an English horn.

Choosing these instruments will always put you in demand for most bands and orchestras. The satisfaction gained from mastering these elegant instruments will provide lifelong pleasure and pride for the musician.

Bob Williams, French horn player in the Danville Community Band and Director of the Pleasanton Community Concert Band, kindly contributed to this article.     

 Please submit your questions and comments to banddirector01@comcast.net Visit our website at www.danvilleband.org for up-to-date information about the Danville Community Band.

 

Shapiro Speaks at Berkeley

A crowd of students, faculty, and parents from all across the political spectrum cheer and applaud as Bradley Devlin, the secretary of Berkeley College Republicans, finishes his regards and Ben Shapiro takes the stage.

For a brief moment the crowd falls silent and if you listen, you can hear the resonance of ANTIFA’s screams from behind the barriers that line the perimeter of campus. Then it begins “Thank you. If only the administration had allowed us to fill the rest of these seats,” says Ben Shapiro, our featured speaker. This is the third time I’ve heard Ben Shapiro speak and his witty sense of humor never fails to entertain. Ben’s unmatched ability to craft arguments against mainstream leftist views is what we all come to the event for, but the humor is what makes us remember it.

Rewind to a few hours before the event; I just got out of class and headed down to Lower Sproul Plaza to pick up my volunteer pass. Lower Sproul was marked with derogatory statements that oversimplify the ideals of the American Right such as “Nazis go home,” “We won’t stand for fascism,” and a large sign in the Multicultural Center window that reads, “We say no to your white supremacist bullshit.” Shapiro commented on this in his speech stating, “Thank you, because I also say no to white supremacist bull shit. If you stick around long enough in this speech you will hear exactly that. The problem you have with me is that I also say no to your identity politics bullshit.”

I’m satisfied with the fact that he addressed the sign in a positive way; however, the meaning of that sign was to associate Shapiro’s speech with white supremacy. I was taken aback by the fact that the administration would allow comments that slander the nature of this event in a space dedicated to promoting diversity. Regardless, from the moment I walked through Lower Sproul Plaza that morning I realized how serious this event was and had genuinely no idea what to expect in terms of opposition later that night. I was at the venue early enough that I didn’t see the protesters speaking out against the event first hand and before the official start of the event, it was recommended I remain inside the venue for my own safety.

Then the speech began. As someone who has studied conservative politics for years, I was just as anxious and excited to hear Shapiro speak as I was the previous two times. For specifics on his speech I recommend everyone watch it—the live stream was public and is now posted on many sites.

I am of course writing from a conservative viewpoint which has inherent biases, as Shapiro is a conservative speaker, and therefore encourage people to watch the speech first hand and draw their own conclusions.

Shapiro, as passionately as ever, began by denouncing the notion that he is a fascist and/or a white supremacist, citing the fact that he has “been spending his entire career standing up against fascism and the idea of an overreaching government that uses the power of a gun in order to compel people to do what they want.”

Also, I think it’s relatively self-evident that Shapiro is not a white supremacist as he is an Orthodox-Jew, one of the primary targets of said white supremacists. Which is why “In 2016,” according to the Anti Defamation League, “Shapiro was the number recipient of anti-Semitism on the internet.”

Moving forward, Shapiro discussed the fact that the violent actions taken by groups such as ANTIFA and the Alt-Right is absolutely unacceptable. He then thanked people on the left who have condemned the actions of ANTIFA, such as Nancy Pelosi, who Shapiro disagrees with on virtually everything else. Shapiro discussed numerous other topics such as income inequality, institutional racism, intersectionality, and microaggression. He also took questions and actively engaged in discussion with people he disagreed with after the speech.

The main thing that resonated with me was that responding to an individual’s opinion with violence or censorship is absolutely unacceptable. The actions of ANTIFA and the Alt-Right are driving forces of political polarization. Our priority, above all else, is the preservation of free speech and the ability to have intellectually-driven political discussion.

As somebody who always has been and will be outspoken about their political views, my parents were genuinely concerned about my safety in not only attending this event but attending U.C. Berkeley in general. Students in a place of higher education should NEVER have a genuine fear that their beliefs will be met with violence.

As a proud new member of the Berkeley College Republicans, the intent of this event was to ensure free speech remains intact as an institution and that a wide range of opinions remain a part of that institution.

 

 

 

Scare Up a Taste of Summer

Following September’s brutal heat wave, I am ready for fall. I’m ready for a tower of pumpkins on the porch; a wreath on the front door;  a roaring fire in the fireplace and flickering candles throughout the living room; a pot of soup simmering on the stove; and a fluffy down comforter in the bedroom.

But maybe not so fast. The farmers’ market still features a few delicious remnants of summer that merit our attention. When long-simmered to silky perfection, end-of-season vine-ripened tomatoes, firm and shiny eggplant, crisp bell peppers, and pungent garlic conjure up the flavors of summer without sacrificing the essence of autumn.

The French celebrate the dwindling harvest with ratatouille, a summer vegetable stew; but Sicilians make caponata, a masterful example of agrodolce—an addictive blend of sweet and sour flavors. So popular is the latter, ersatz versions can be purchased in jars and tins; and many a Sicilian mama cans her own to be enjoyed throughout the coming months. In a pinch you can always make it from scratch year ‘round—using canned tomato products—but it will be little more than a poor imitation of the following recipe.

Eggplant caponata is rustic by nature, so there are no fancy knife cuts to master or veggies to peel or seed. Relish the aromas as it simmers, then refrigerate for a while to develop the flavors. (It will keep several days in the refrigerator, and is actually best if made a day or two in advance.)If you’re looking for a little added crunch, top with a shower of toasted pine nuts just before serving.

Serve caponata at cool room temperature as a dip or spread, with celery sticks, California endive, crackers, or pita bread. (Crostini topped with a generous smear of California goat cheese and a spoonful of caponata is life-changing.) It can also be served as a condiment alongside plain grilled chicken or fish; as a zesty topping for a simple pasta dish; or as an unforgettable sandwich spread.

Caponata makes a bewitching snack for adults to nibble between trick-or-treaters on Halloween, as the garlic will surely keep the vampires at bay. Give this concoction a bloody name if you must—just be sure to eat, drink, and be scary!

Farmers’ Market Caponata

1 onion, chopped

1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red chili flakes, or more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

California olive oil

3 or 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 large eggplant (about 1 1/4 pounds), chopped

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 large celery rib, finely chopped

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

4 very ripe medium tomatoes (about 12 ounces total), coarsely chopped, juices reserved

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pitted olives, such as black Kalamata or green cerignolas, or a combination

2 tablespoons drained capers

1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, marjoram or oregano, and basil

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

Toasted pine nuts (optional)

Lemon wedges for serving

 

  1. Place a 12- to 14-inch skillet or saute pan* over medium heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, swirling to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onion, red pepper flakes, and 5 or 6 grindings of black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened but not browned, 3 to 5 minutes.

 

  1. Stir in the garlic and cook just until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

 

  1. Add the eggplant, bell pepper, and celery and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes. If the mixture starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, add a tablespoon or two of water to loosen things up.

 

  1. Stir in the tomatoes, olives, capers, and herbs. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is very soft, 15 to 20 minutes.

 

  1. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Taste, adding more salt, pepper, and lemon juice as needed. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 days. Freeze for longer storage.

 

  1. To serve, let return to cool room temperature for an hour or so. Taste again, adjusting the seasonings if needed. Mound the caponata onto a plate, drizzle liberally with olive oil, and sprinkle with pine nuts, if desired. Surround with lemon wedges, for guests to squeeze. Makes about 4 cups.

*A shallow pan, like a skillet or saute pan, speeds the cooking process by allowing the cooking juices to reduce quickly. Lacking such a pan, go ahead and use a Dutch oven or other similar pan. It will just take a bit longer to cook.

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad & Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM, or visit their web site at www.pcfma.org. This market is made possible through the generous support of the Town of Danville. Please show your appreciation by patronizing the many fine shops and restaurants located in downtown Danville. Buy fresh. Buy local. Live well.