Conspiracy Theory

I’m not often one to subscribe to conspiracy theories regardless of how rational or irrational they sound. There seem to be hundreds of them floating around, usually based on a government’s action. Even if you agree with me about doubting them, you’ve got to admit they are fun to speculate on. Often wonder how they get started and who embellishes them as they are passed along.

How about you and I starting one? Ok – here goes. About four or five years ago a confidential conference was called in Geneva, Switzerland. Attending were all of the companies in the world that made shoes. It was organized by the large manufacturers who specialized in tennis shoes (sneakers if you prefer.) Now you know their names and probably can identify their trade marks. Maybe Adidas, Nike, or New Balance, to name a few. But more conventional leather goods firms such as Ecco, Birkenstock, and Nunn Bush were also attendingGettyImages_166291763 copy.

The group sat down to a Power Point presentation that focused in on the fact that the world was nearly saturated with plain old white or black tennies. Something needed to be done to increase sales. The agreed-upon solution was to introduce shoes in any and all imaginative colors, a wide variety of materials, and a bunch of new shapes. It was agreed to be a joint venture where all participated, and believe me it has worked. Worked extraordinarily well!! The colors were then assigned to different countries and aimed at different ages. The new materials were introduced worldwide.

A few months ago I spent a number of weeks over in Europe. It was a pleasant, relaxing trip including France, The Low Countries, and Germany. Several times during this visit I found myself sitting alone on a bench watching people stream by. Barb was shopping, and my tolerance for wandering through stores loaded with local items (some imported from China) is very short. While sitting there on the bench I became aware of the shoes people were wearing. I’m easily entertained as you can see. Nonetheless let me share a few of my observations with you.

Older, more mature women with longer, box skirts and proper jackets wear brown medium-heeled comfortable shoes. They often carry bags with expensive store logos. A hat or kerchief may be included.

Men in business suits wear lace-up shoes of shiny leather, usually quite well polished. The younger these men are, the more pointed the shoe becomes. Either their toes are more pointed than ones I know about, or there exists a large space between foot end and shoe end.

Younger, more casually-dressed people, invariably wear tennis shoes. (I’ll get to the Uggs and boots later.) Now these shoes are extremely colorful. Orange stripes or sections are the most predominant, but an iridescent blue comes in a close second. One can be sure the brand is identified as it stands out in some bold statement or color on the side of each shoe. The actual sole may be white or black but is hardly visible. Colorful shoe laces that may or may not match are also part of the ensemble. They appear comfortable so I guess they work.

A group of Eastern Europeans paraded by following a younger lady holding an umbrella aloft. They all wore beat-up looking black oxfords which to some degree matched the dour look on their faces. I tried a smile at them, but I was dismissed out of hand –or ignored, as the case may be. The shoe revolution has not reached these countries yet.

Perhaps the happiest of all groups was a gaggle of school kids about twelve years old. They laughed, pushed, hit one another, and overall seemed to be enjoying themselves. They all wore those brightly colored tennies I mentioned earlier, so perhaps the color works.

There was one pair of clean white tennies that zoomed by. They were on the feet of an older American lady who was passing everyone else. Maybe looking for a w.c.

Another tour group, which I would judge came from Southern Germany or maybe Switzerland wore very comfortable looking hiking boots. The sole left a design on the pavement as they passed. Their determination and general robust size gave their nationality away. They all seemed comfortable – content with their lot in life.

I did notice a fair number of boots. Mostly on ladies. The height of the boot seemed comparable to the length of the skirt. The higher the boot, the shorter the skirt.

There are also those feet things that look like bowling shoes used to look. They are low to the ground with very thin soles. They have funny lacing going almost to the toes, and they too come in all the colors of the rainbow.

I can hardly wait to get back to the United States and test out my new theory. We’ll go into San Francisco and see if the conspiracy theory which matches colored shoes with the personality of the wearers is valid there as well.

Oh – here comes Barbara. Time to move on.

Flick Nation Review: The Wrecking Crew

As I am clearly a passionate music guy (just talk to me for 30 seconds and it becomes obvious), I am frequently asked who my favorite band is. As The Beatles would be my somewhat clichéd but true answer, I often confound by answering, “The Wrecking Crew.” After I get that long stare, as they try to determine if they are forgetting some underground punk band or the early name of someone like The Velvet Underground, I let them off the hook and explain who the Crew were, but not before suggesting that they are also the favorite band of millions who have also never heard their name. Because everyone knows their music, and I guarantee you do as well.WreckingCrewLogo

The Wrecking Crew is a loose moniker describing a group of approximately two-dozen “first call” studio musicians in Los Angeles in the 1960s and early 1970s. They began as Phil Spector’s legendary “Wall of Sound” ensemble, eventually playing on hundreds of hit songs for many of the biggest stars of the era, such as: the Beach Boys, the Byrds, the Righteous Brothers, the Tijuana Brass, Nancy Sinatra, Ricky Nelson, Johnny Rivers, the Monkees, the Association, the Mamas and the Papas, Sonny & Cher, The 5th Dimension, The Carpenters, and Simon & Garfunkel. They were also frequently used by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole, Dean Martin, and Elvis Presley.

Their roots were in Big Band and Swing, and by the late 50’s they were gigging in jazz combos around LA, playing on sessions for film scores and novelty hits, and backing popular vocalists on the road. In the early 60’s they jelled as a unit through their work with Spector, and quickly became the preferred players for dozens of top producers, songwriters, and record labels. They became a veritable hit factory, a group of virtuoso musicians who could capture any groove at will, prop up any instrumentally-challenged band or teen sensation, and, if the song had potential, hit it out of the park every time. Celebrated songwriter Jimmy Webb (“By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Up, Up, and Away,” “MacArthur Park”) described the Crew as the “stone-cold professionals.”

Many might concur that the artistic peak of the Crew’s output occurred in 1966-67, specifically with their work on the Beach Boy’s groundbreaking Pet Sounds and the (until recently) unreleased SMiLE—the sessions of which produced the psychedelic pocket symphony “Good Vibrations,” a global smash and still one of the most innovative recordings in history. Brian Wilson was by this time only using the other Beach Boys for vocals; his sonic vision had expanded to the point where he was not only booking dates at separate studios for their unique ambience and production qualities, he was incorporating the specific techniques and flavors of the Wrecking Crew players into the compositions of the songs themselves. He was playing the Crew like a multifaceted instrument capable of mimicking any style or genre.wreckingcrewharrisonosborne

Several members of the Crew went on to huge success as solo artists. Glen Campbell, after countless recording sessions as part of the Crew, became one of the biggest stars of the late 60s and 70s. The moving documentary, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, which explores Campbell’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease while on his final concert tour, ends with him recording one last song with his old Crew-mates, at a time when he no longer recognized them. It is a poignant and heart breaking moment. The track they cut together, “I’m Not Going to Miss You,” was nominated for Best Song at the 2015 Academy Awards.

As well, Leon Russell, piano-master for the Crew, found noteworthy success as a solo artist and became quite recognizable as a solo-Beatle sideman (Concert for Bangladesh), while drummer Jim Gordon went on to become a member of Eric Clapton’s highly respected band Derek and the Dominoes, for whom he composed the piano coda for the classic “Layla.”

The other stalwart members of the Crew—drummers Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer; bassists Carol Kaye, Ray Pohlman, and Joe Osborne; keyboardists Larry Knechtel, Mike Melvoin, and Don Randi; guitarists James Burton, Barney Kessel, Jerry Cole, and Billy Strange; and sax players Plas Johnson, Steve Douglas, and Jim Horn—are not well known outside of the industry, but that looks to finally change with the release of the long-awaited documentary The Wrecking Crew, coming to theaters March 2015.

The film is the product of a nearly twenty year labor of love. Director Denny Tedseco began shooting the movie in 1996 when his father, “first-chair” Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco, was diagnosed with cancer. The senior Tedesco’s guitar work is ubiquitous in American culture. In addition to playing on many of the classic pop hits of the era, his guitar work can be heard on more than 1,000 television themes and film/TV soundtracks, including Batman, Green Acres, Mission Impossible, and Three’s Company.

Denny Tedseco has crafted a moving and extremely informative film that chronicles the history of the Crew, with commentary by many of the artists they supported (Brian Wilson, Cher, Mickey Dolenz), and of course memories provided by the surviving members themselves. On the heels of recent successful music docs in the same vein—Standing in the Shadows of Motown, 20 Feet from Stardom, and Muscle Shoals—The Wrecking Crew looks to set the record straight with one of the most incredible and interesting narratives of the classic rock era. For any true music lover, this is not one to miss.

I’ll close with an easy joke, guaranteed to score points next time you are with your music-fan-pals: What do “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” “God Only Knows,” “Strangers in the Night,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “These Boots are Made for Walkin’,” “California Dreaming,” “I’m a Believer,” “I Got You, Babe,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Age of Aquarius: Let the Sun Shine In,” “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” all have in common?

I think we all know the punch-line to that one by now.

Boldly Go: My Journey in Stem Cell Therapy

I am living proof! I admit to being a little bit of a risk-taker, but it has always served me well. I had Radial Keratotomy performed when I knew no one who had. It has been so long ago that unless you’re my age you probably haven’t even heard of it. RK was the precursor to Laser Eye Surgery. I talked a friend into having it done the same day, so I wouldn’t be alone. What can I say, a few minutes in surgery and I was 20/20. So, here I am again, living proof.GettyImages_538722335

It’s funny how fearful we can be of the unknown, yet all around us limits are being stretched. I live with my IPhone in one hand and my IPad in the other. I read on Facebook about drones and rifles that shoot around corners. My “real” camera sits on the shelf gathering dust. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t jump out of perfectly good airplanes or ski off mountains that I can’t get to without a helicopter but that may be because I’m a little old for that kind of stuff.

My age brought me to why I’m writing this story. A few months ago I had Stem Cell Therapy to rebuild the cartilage in my knee, but let me back up a little. Five years ago I had a Total Knee Replacement done on my right knee. I was scheduled to have my left knee replaced within a few months as well. I know that everyone has a little different outcome to Total Knee Replacements but mine was tough—tough enough that I immediately cancelled my second surgery and started looking for an alternative.

That’s probably where this story should have begun. I looked and I looked, but to no avail. The Orthopedic world was working on it but to me it felt like more of the same. I talked to everyone that would talk to me. Almost everyone I spoke with was desperately trying to affirm their decision for having the surgery, but if you caught them in an honest moment, many had issues. As I look back, I truly don’t remember any of the doctors explaining the literal brutality of the surgery. If they did, it would probably dramatically diminish the number of surgeries they perform. They don’t talk much about the fact that it is virtually impossible to kneel on a metal knee. I never realized how much I would miss that simple act.

About four years into my quest for an alternative, a friend of mine mentioned someone she knew who had gone the stem cell route. Afterwards, I couldn’t even remember who told me but Google Search became my best friend. My research kept me awake until the wee hours of the morning many nights. I was learning about the amazing world of stem cells.

There were articles from around the world and right in my own backyard. There were high profile people who had seen amazing results. Governor Rick Perry had a stem cell procedure done on his back while campaigning for President. Professional athletes were back on the field in record time after procedures on knees, backs and shoulders. Stem cell therapy is one of the best kept secrets in the medical arena.

You may wonder why you haven’t heard more about it. Number one is that at this point, it is not FDA approved. Right now you may be thinking…whoa! Don’t stop reading, not just this article but if you or someone you love needs this, read everything you can get your hands on.

Because it is not FDA approved yet, most insurance companies don’t cover the procedure. Keep reading. In most cases this is not a deal breaker. Later in this article I am going to go through the old Ben Franklin decision making formula of Pros and Cons with you.

Let me tell you how my procedure worked. I located a clinic in San Rafael that appeared to be what I was looking for. I researched Health Link Medical Centers and found out everything I possibly could about them. We are so fortunate in the Bay Area to have a facility nearby. This group has been doing this type of procedure for ten years. I called and made an appointment with Dr. Paul Handleman, D. O. Yes, he is an Orthopedic Doctor who specializes in Regenerative Interventional Orthopedics.

They asked if I had a MRI and if so, to bring it with me. My personal physician had ordered one for me so I was on my way. Dr. Handleman put my MRI up on a large screen and while we looked at it together, he told me about the procedure and answered my questions. He then did an ultrasound on my knee pointing out issues that couldn’t be seen on my MRI. After I left, I had a few more questions that he willingly answered over the phone. I had made up my mind. Since I was a candidate, it was the answer to my search.

Let me share a few of the things I learned about Stem Cell Therapy. Number one, from what I’ve read it is a bit of a political hot potato. In my opinion, the medical lobbyists have done a great job keeping it at bay. The average Total Knee Replacement will have a cost of $75,000-$100,000. This includes everything from hospital stays to operating rooms, to the various medical professionals involved to after-care and rehabilitation. Then you have drugs, crutches, walkers (oh my!) Let me just say, it is BIG Business.

My Stem Cell Therapy was a total of four visits to the doctor. The first visit was my consultation. The actual procedure is a three visit process over a period of approximately a week.iii0

The first of the three visits was very quick. The doctor answered my last minute questions and then did something I thought rather unusual. He anesthesized my knee and put several shots of what amounted to “sugar water” in the places I needed to grow back the cartilage. The purpose of this is to literally make these areas “angry” so when the stem cells are injected they know where to go.

The second of the visits was two days later. I was nervous. I had heard stories from people who had donated stem cells and I’m not sure if mine was different or the people that had shared had embellished but it was enough to create the nervousness. They first drew blood. They used the platelets from the blood for what is called Plasma Rich Platelets or PRP. The PRP’s by themselves were some of the early stem cells used for procedures. The Doctor then numbed my lower back to extract the Stem Cells from my Iliac Crest. This has proven to be the absolute best Stem Cells in our bodies.

This process actually turned out to be pretty funny. I credit a little white pill given to be by the doctor and a system that is pretty clean (other than my borderline sugar addiction) for the humor in that day. It seems that I was “feeling no pain” when the doctor did the extraction. My son, who was sitting in the waiting room, could hear me singing my heart out all during the procedure. He told me later when I asked, that probably everyone in the eight story building could have heard me singing and laughing.

After a nice lunch with my son, I returned to the actual stem cell injections into my knee. While we were having lunch the medical team was concentrating those cells in a lab. Regenexx SD is the process. I left that day on crutches with a couple of pain pills, just in case. There was some pain involved with the procedure but I had been getting Cortisone shots every three months directly into my knee. I was hoping to never have to get another one! I was instructed to not do a lot of walking for a couple of days. I had scheduled my procedure over a long weekend. Dr. Handleman had given me his cell phone number and told me to not hesitate to call. nnn0

I went back for my third and last appointment a few days later. The doctor drew some more blood and gave me booster shots in my knee of the stem cells. I was done. I went back to work. My knee has gradually (it’s growing) gotten better and better. They had told me that the growth is at least a year -long process. It has now been nine months.

It is a little strange how you qualify the recovery. I haven’t had a cortisone shot in a year. When I had them before I would be great for two to three weeks and by the time I could get another one, I would hardly be walking. I used to schedule my injections around events or travel where I knew I would need to walk a lot.

Now it just gets easier and easier. I love going to church but the congregation stands while they sing. This is sometimes 30 minutes. I just couldn’t do that before. Now, I stand for the whole time and don’t even think about it. I also belong to a group who collects donations for our troops every month. I can now stand for the whole two hour shift. Everywhere I turn there is living proof that my body is healing itself.

Let’s go back to Ben Franklin. On the Pro Side I had…non-surgical, little or no recovery time, less pain, no prolonged time away from work or commitments resulting in less loss of income, very little help needed, no aftereffects, can have it done more than once to get a better result over time, and traditional surgery is still an option if it doesn’t work.

The Con Side is shorter. Will it work? Private Pay. Fear of the unknown. Process takes a year.
Even after I decided, I thought long and hard about the private pay aspect. I began actually running the numbers. I called my insurance company to see what my total co-pays would be for the traditional surgery. That’s when I found out what the Total Knee Replacement cost was. With Obamacare now in place the numbers seemed to get higher and higher and no one seemed to be able to give me a clear picture.

The Health Link Medical Center group gave me clear numbers. It would cost me approximately $5,700. The co-pays on the traditional procedure weren’t that far off and with the Stem Cell procedure I was back to work much faster not interrupting my income flow.

If you are going to opt for the Stem Cell Procedure, I would highly recommend getting on a high grade nutritional supplement as soon as possible. I have been taking great supplements for several years and rarely get sick. Little did I know that my supplements would warrant me the nickname at the clinic of “Stem Cell Queen”? It seems that the extra nutrition plus good hydration before the procedure provided over a billion stem cells in the extraction! GettyImages_474902697 [Converted]

This is in the “just so you know” category. The Federal government requires that the stem cells that are extracted from your body have to be put back in the same day if they are to be used. Health LinkMedical Centers has a facility in the Grand Caymans (British). They do the procedure a little differently. They extract your Stem Cells and culture them for approximately a month. You can go home or work on your tan. After that time, they put the cultured cells back in your body. The growth process is faster with the cultured cells, but it is also more expensive. Celebrities and athletes tend to go the Grand Cayman route.

I am told the same doctors are rotated through that facility as their facilities here in the States. Logically, if you have your livelihood on the line, the timing truly seems to make sense.

Even though I did my research and due diligence, I have intentionally not gone into the more scientific aspect of Stem Cell procedures. I am not a scientist, nor a doctor, just a very grateful patient. Between the Health Link and Regenexx websites and others (UC Davis has an amazing program) you can learn as much or as little as you like.

Now, BOLDLY GO!

Chamber Music and the String Quartet

To know chamber music is to revere it. To hear chamber music is to enjoy it.
– Homer Ulrich

Chamber music, the so called “music of friends,” is a satisfying and pleasurable form of music, not well known today in comparison to larger symphonic works played by symphony orchestras. It is music of a more intimate nature played by a small ensemble of performers playing only one on a part.177240214

Sharon Calonico, violinist with the Golden Gate String Quartet said, “It is a thrill to play in a large orchestra and help bring the conductor’s interpretation of a piece to life, but I play chamber music for my soul. In a string quartet, we work together in rehearsals to create a shared vision and interpretation of how a piece should be performed,” she explained. “I have the freedom to be expressive in a completely different way than when I play in an orchestra.”

The performance setting for a String Quartet is not large concert halls but smaller venues, like a small room or chamber. In the 18th century for example, the venue might be a room in a palace or a room in the court of a prince. One of the distinguishing characteristics of chamber music is it is played without the services of a conductor.

Although elements of chamber music existed long before the 18th century, it is a misguided effort to try to directly relate it to the modern string quartet from 1750 to the present. The earlier examples differ greatly in terms of form and style. Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) is known as the father of the string quartet.

The String Quartet
This became a favorite medium of chamber musicians as we know it today. After many changes of instrumentation it came into being circa 1745. The classic string quartet is made up of two violins – first and second, one viola and one cello. It has remained so to this day.

Quartets of the mature Haydn were written in four movements:

I. Slow introduction then fast,
II. Slow,
III. Minuet,
IV. Fast

His quartets are very similar to his symphonies. The viola and cello take on a new importance in terms of melodic possibilities, rather than just accompanying and providing harmonic support of the melody. Haydn believed each instrument should have equal musical interest. One part should not dominate the other parts.

In chamber music, the emphasis lies on the ensemble, not on the individual player. “There is nothing like the camaraderie and bonding that develops between the members of a chamber group,” Calonico said. Goethe described the string quartet as, “the serious conversation of four friends.” “No other music is at once so rich and yet as delicate as (Haydn’s) chamber music,” writes Thomasine McGehee in her book, People and Music. The string quartet gave Haydn the opportunity to express his true personal emotions.

The Instruments
The violin is the treble or soprano member of the string family. The first attempt at making a “new generation” of violins was credited to Casper Tieffenbrucker in the year 1500.GettyImages_95754115-1

Significantly improved instruments were developed by famous Italian craftsmen, Andrea Amati in the mid 1500’s, Nicola Amati (1596-1684), Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) and Giuseppe Guarneri (1698-1744). The instruments made by these masters are priceless today. The four strings of the violin are G, D, A, E.

The viola is the alto member of the family. It is larger than the violin thereby producing lower tones. To the untrained eye the violin and viola are similar in design. The viola is mainly used as an ensemble instrument rather than a solo instrument. The viola part is written in the alto clef. The strings of the viola are a 5th lower than the violin. C, G, D, A.

The violoncello or cello is the tenor/bass member of the string family. It is tuned one octave below the viola, C, G, D, A. The cello came into existence with the violin and viola. Some of the earliest examples were produced by Andréa Amanti in the middle 16th century. Its early appearance in orchestral scores were as an accompaniment, rather than as a solo instrument.

Homer Ulrich in his book, Chamber Music, wrote, “The string quartet is without a doubt, one of the greatest musical achievements of Western Civilization.”

Franz Joseph Haydn
He was a great innovator and experimenter who expanded and perfected the form and style of both the symphony and the string quartet. His compositions include over 100 symphonies, 83 string quartets and many operas, masses and oratorios. His phenomenal output of music was done mostly in the employ of the aristocratic Esterhazy family. It was here that Haydn gained his notoriety as the founder of the classical string quartet.

Quartets existed before Haydn but “He established the form and the high artistic level to which it has since adhered,” said Martin Bernstein in An Introduction to Music. Haydn brought the same excellence to the string quartet as he did his symphonies. His genius made him outstanding and set a high standard for others to follow.

The Danville Community Band presents its annual museum concert at the Blackhawk Automotive Museum, March, 29 at 2:00 p.m. Concert FREE with Museum entrance fee. 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.

The Spring Clean: House, Yard and Garage Beautification

Spring is in the air. Birdsare chirping, flowers are blooming and the Giants are at Spring Training in Arizona. Now that we’ve all given up on our New Year’s resolutions, or at least postponed them until after Easter, it’s time to think about Spring Cleaning: That traditional time of year when we plan a major clean up of our house, yard and the garage. This is no easy chore (or collection of chores). It takes preparation, conditioning and training. Back when I was a kid, my parents took great pleasure in participating in our annual springtime neighborhood beautification project. I can still remember my mother’s Spring Cleaning slogan of 1973, “Clean it and I mean it” or her 1979 catch phrase, “If it don’t fit, it ain’t legit” which I’m pretty sure was stolen by Johnny Cochran for his OJ defense years later. My all-time favorite was 1985’s “My louse of a spouse better clean this damn house.” I think my mom was mad at my dad that year. In most households, spring-cleaning still remains a necessary evil and the month of March is when most families begin to tackle this ritualistic effort.

The HouseGettyImages_78435998

In these days, where everyone needs the newest, fastest and coolest of everything; where nothing is built to last but everything is recyclable, a lot of us accumulate an excessive amount of junk around the house. Growing up, my parents insisted that during “S-C Week,” we would pack up our home like we were moving across country. This fun little task allowed us to throw-out, clean-up and organize the contents of our 1,800 square foot house after 11.75 months of hoarding, storing and ignoring the place. It was amazing what we would find around the house as we emptied out closets, rearranged furniture and unloaded cabinets and cupboards.Sadly, anything from a Santa suit to old Halloween candy to a petrified missing pet could potentially be uncovered.

Discoveries like these would inevitably bring up a few interesting questions, such as: Why did Santa leave his suit at our house, who’s the chocoholic hoarding Kit Kat bars and why did the hamster commit suicide? Room by room, the Copeland Clan would ascend on our targeted living space assignment with one goal: To beautificate the premises.

As parents, the term clean-up may be too simplistic a term when it comes to the thought of tackling the hard-hat excavation of our kid’s bedrooms and closets. I am always amazed at the amount of “stuff” kids of today can accumulate.

My daughters’ rooms often resemble a stinky secondhand thrift store! I like to think of Spring Cleaning the kid’s bedrooms as the great discard of accumulated, worthless junk; a purging of broken and obsolete electronics, and the general discarding of non-fitting or out-of-style clothing.

If memory serves me correctly, I didn’t have one tenth of the stuff my kids have lying around the house. I owned one pair of sneakers, not what seems like hundreds of running shoes, flip-flops, boots, slippers, flats and heels. Not that I wanted a pair of heels. I wasn’t a young Bruce Jenner.

The Yard

My landscape isn’t in any better shape than the house. Despite a lack of rain, I have weeds in my lawn, weeds in my shrubs, weeds in my rock beds and weeds in the cracks of my concrete/driveway. Even my beautiful, stone BBQ island has weeds. Not to mention, every plant-like green thing outside of my house is overgrown to the point that my backyard looks like the Amazon Rainforest or a Rainforest Café.

Back in the day, my Dad would rally his pre-pubescent children around him on a Saturday morning and begin by having us spray the yard with the strongest pre and post emergent chemicals sold (illegally) at black market flea markets. Once that was complete, he would give us access to the sharpest machete-type gardening tools in the shed for a hardy afternoon of pruning, trimming and weeding. Finally, after a refreshing ten-minute lunch break, he would point us in the direction of the riding mower.

But hey, except for an occasional tick or tremor, I turned out OK. Now those pesky OSHA restrictions and child labor laws limit our kids to raking leaves and using the hose. I can’t even get the little buggers to clean up the dog poop. If it weren’t against the HOA CC&Rs, this would be the perfect time of year to shape my agapanthus shrubs into the shape of various zoo animals. Truth be told, my yard just needs some mulch, a few flowers and a synthetic lawn to keep my neighbors from shaking their heads in disgust as they drive by the house and refuse to wave.

The GarageGettyImages_461923047

The garage is the biggest and most difficult of the three Spring Cleaning Triathlon events. It will take strength, endurance and steroids (use them if you’ve got them) to get the wife’s car back into its rightful spot. It is not uncommon to fill every square inch of my garage each year, much like a hoarder’s self-storage unit in Richmond. Last spring, I found my next-door neighbor’s ping-pong table, keg-er-ator and his mother-in-law living in my garage. I have no idea how any of those things got there, but I did return his ping-pong table and mother-in-law.

A proper garage Spring Cleaning can consume an entire weekend. First thing Saturday morning, I slip into my Haz-mat suit and Chuck Taylor high tops and begin removing every last item from the garage and placing it in alphabetical order on the front lawn and driveway. Just kidding, I just throw shi.. uh.. stuff anywhere. Once the garage is swept, power washed and deloused, there’s the job of storing everything to an orderly place, less the 70% of previous inventory that gets trashed, hauled, donated or sold at Sunday’s big Copeland Family White Trash Garage Sale. There will be price slashing specials all day long. If all goes we’ll, I can usually park the little woman’s car back in the garage for about a week or two before we start accumulating new junk and the garage becomes overrun again.

It’s been said that our home is our castle! Spring-cleaning is a great opportunity to spruce up the kingdom. For most of us, our house is our single largest investment and a little curb appeal wouldn’t hurt the value. There’s no denying that a cleaning triathlon is a lot of work, but the results will be rewarding and assuredly worth the effort. If you can get the kids creatively involved you’ll kill two birds with one stone. (I actually found two dead birds in my hall closet last year.)

Granted, I’ve already trademarked the term, The Spring Clean Triathlon, but for a small fee I would be happy to send you a Spring Cleaning kit to get you started. We even have Spring Clean2015 t-shirts in assorted colors and sizes. Think of the slogan possibilities, “Keep it Alive in 2-0-1-5, “Rad Dad and The #1 Clean Team,” or more to the point, “Damn Right I’m Mean – Now Quit Whining and Clean.”

My mom would be so proud.

Trusting “The Man”

I attended a family reunion recently and was happily re-connected with some relatives I hadn’t seen in years. As you might expect, conversations included the inevitable comparisons of life today versus in the past. Admonitions of politics aside, my nephew, who was celebrating his 50th birthday, remarked that when we were younger, a common watchword of the day was “never trust ‘the man’,” as we agreed that today it seems as though the pendulum has reached its opposing apex, where young people largely lack what we always considered a healthy distrust of government—either that or they are simply apathetic (perhaps because they are too busy texting).GettyImages_147413377

Whatever the case, the fact that the under 35 demographic overwhelming voted for Barrack Obama in 2008—a man forthright in his intention to “fundamentally transform America,” with a promise of programs and policies that, by design, enlarged the influence and power of the federal government—bears witness that the tables have turned a full 180 degrees. Distrust still exists amongst the younger generation, but instead of “the man” or “big brother” being the objects of skepticism, today it is other establishment groups—big business and corporations, the Republican party, or just about anything but the federal government.

From the so-called “green” (what was called environmental) and “climate change” movements, to healthcare and economics (think capitalism vs socialism) the under 35 group, by and large, appear to support a more influential federal government, as opposed to a smaller, less-intrusive one. The exception would be the segment of young Libertarians who supported Ron Paul—but again, proof by the numbers that a good many young people seem comfortable surrendering their liberties to “the man.”

And so it is that today that the who or what we trust is reversed; where ideas like net neutrality and universal healthcare are willingly placed in the care of appointed bureaucrats, by people too young to recall how economic conditions actually improved when the push was for smaller government—when the marketplace was trusted more than the Washington elite, and when the masses supported deregulation, not more of it.

If you are old enough to recall how the cost of phone calls dropped when the heavy hand of government was lifted, or how airline travel became within the reach of “common folk” when that industry was deregulated, you know what I’m talking about.

Academics, of course, argue about the efficacy of deregulation, but considering that the same flight that cost $1,442 in 1974 only costs $268 today, or that you no longer have to plan the day of the week or time of day to make a long distance phone call in order to be sure you could afford to pay for it, both speak of the power of letting the market, rather than “the man,” dictate outcomes.

I look forward to more conversations with my nephew at our next reunion and another again when today’s under 35 group have the benefit of more life experience. And if their phrase isn’t “never trust the man,” perhaps they will at least be familiar with this one: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

He Said/She Said with Robin and Shawn

Dear SSHS,
My daughter, who’s been living with her boyfriend for two years, has just announced their engagement. They are both in their upper 20s, been on their own since graduating college, and both make a very nice living. What are the new rules on who should pay for the wedding?
–Penny, Dublin

She Said:
The tradition of the parents of the bride footing the entire bill for the wedding is outdated and unnecessary. Women rarely go directly from their parents’ home to their husband’s home these days, so the idea that her parents should pay for everything because the man needs to support her once they’re married, is archaic. I recommend the parties from both sides sit down to discuss a reasonable budget for the affair, and then determine what sort of contribution everyone, including the couple, is able to make.

He Said:
I’ve never been a fan of outrageous weddings, but I know a lot of women have waited for the ‘big day’ their whole lives. While the ladies should be able to have their cake and eat it too, most guys don’t wait their whole lives for this one day. Plan to splurge on the necessities like great food, open bar, a seasoned photographer and a band or DJ that will bring the house down, and cut costs on areas that no one will be talking about the next day. I mention this first, because only after you plan to spend money wisely will it be easier to get the groom and/or his family to share the cost.

Dear HSSS,
I’m a junior in high school and am not sure I want to go to college. I’m good with my hands and think I’d be happier in life doing some kind of trade, but my mom says I need a college degree to get ahead in life. How can I convince her there are other alternatives?GettyImages_480799497
–Junior, Sunol

He Said:
Sounds like you think you’re too cool for school. Well, Junior, let me assure you that you’re not. Keep an open mind and instead of trying to convince your mother that you don’t need to go to college, ask her to convince you why you should and I’m sure she’ll easily come up with a dozen reasons. College is so much more than just books and classrooms. You’ll make great friends, have a lot of fun, and experience a whole lot more than someone who doesn’t go to college. And while you don’t always need a college degree to be successful, the education and life experience you get is priceless.

She Said:
Your mom just wants what’s best for you, and the idea of her son not getting a college degree scares her. So what you need to do is a little more research. Think about what you’d like to do with your life, then look into the education that will be required to achieve that goal. You’re probably going to need to go to some sort of trade school, so show her what that would look like in terms of time, cost, location, and what you can expect to earn once you’re certified. If mom can see you have a plan, she will feel a lot better about your alternative to college.

Robin Fahr is a public relations specialist and co-host with Shawn Shizzo on Conversations and He Said/She Said seen daily on Tri-Valley TV, Channel 30 and online at www.trivalleytv.org. Send your questions to www.AskHeSaidSheSaid.com.HeSaidSheSaidgraphic

The Sound of Music—50 Years and Counting

The hills are alive with the sound of music, la la la la la. If you have been to Salzburg, Austria you have probably taken one of the bus tours chauffeuring you through The Sound of Music experience. The problem is that the same soundtrack that is playing when you board the bus is still running when you get off the bus. The songs linger on in your brain for days, and days, and days! mzl.ncwivdld

The Sound of Music is still one of my very favorite movies. I can sing most of the songs, probably not well but for the shower, they’re perfect. While doing a little research I learned a lot, while at the same time just touching the tip of the iceberg.

It’s been fifty years since this amazing movie hit the screen in 1965. The hit Broadway play and then the movie were loosely based on the memoirs written by Maria Von Trapp in 1949 “The Story of the Von Trapp Family Singers.”

The story, known by most of the world, is about a heroic Captain in the Austrian Navy, Georg Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) who has been left with seven children to raise after his wife’s death. At sea a great deal of the time, he goes to the nearby convent to secure a governess.

Maria (Julie Andrews) is about to join the convent. A breath of fresh air in this holy place, the Mother Superior determines that it might serve Maria well to have a little more time before making a lifetime commitment, so she is sent to the Von Trapp family.

The Sound of Music was the romance of the decade. Maria was stunning in her wedding gown with the fourteen foot train; the finally happy Captain so handsome in his uniform. Singing coming from all around made every young girl dream of her handsome prince charming.

Viva la Rogers and Hammerstein! We all watched while the whole family headed off over the mountains to avoid Captain Von Trapp having to serve with the Nazi’s.

You’ve all seen the movie so I’ll write a little about the real plight of the Family Von Trapp. Firstly, they did leave Austria but they took a train to Italy where Georg was a citizen since he was born and raised in Croatia part of that empire. From Italy they went to London and then on to America where they settled and continued performing for several years. The day after they left, Hitler ordered the Austrian borders closed.

The almost unknown, Julie Andrews had just filmed Mary Poppins but it had not yet been released when she was cast as Maria. Two years before the musical hit Broadway, Paramount had bought the rights to the Von Trapp Family Singers Story but wanted Audrey Hepburn to star and she wouldn’t. Christopher Plummer hated working on the film which he often referred to as Sound of Mucus and likened Julie Andrews to “being hit over the head with a big Valentine’s Day card every day.” Nonetheless, he and Andrews have remained close friends ever since.

All said, you can’t argue with success! The movie budget was $8.2 million and it grossed over $163 million in the US alone. That means, adjusted for inflation, it’s the 3rd highest grossing movie of all time. When the video was released it stayed on the charts for 250 weeks—almost 5 years! Julie Andrews was paid only $225,000. Sound of Music won five Oscars and was nominated for three more. Throw in some Golden Globes and numerous others and you have a movie that people are still watching 50 years later.

Too much story, too little space so I’ll just say, watch it again, you’ll be singing for days! Great family fare.

As always, I love your comments at chastings@rockcliff.com.

Dana’s

I am a sucker for a good restaurant success story, especially those that happen on a slow burn over the duration of many years.

In 1991, Raj Jain opened Luna Loca in the Livery Mercantile, Danville, with a vision that would soon explode.

Raj was ahead of his time and saw the inherent value of the margarita and the marketable wiles that the concoction could provide. With this vision, he started the first ever “Margarita Committee.” Every full moon (the argument for the title of the restaurant is not unlike the chicken and the egg), Raj would gather his members up and taste a variety of tequilas and mixers. This led to an explosion of interest that would soon take over the bar, then the whole restaurant, until finally the entire parking lot, with live bands, portable bars and whole roasted pigs.restaurant

Sadly however, the town of Danville was not prepared for this onslaught of full-moon aficionados and soon shut down the operation.

Since that time, Raj has grown Luna Loca to a 2500-3000 patron-a-week business (50% of which come in more than once a week), with patrons that seldom look at a menu and simply get “the usual.”

Fast-forward to March 2015, and for the first time in 24 years, Raj is going to spread his wings and try to recreate the party… in the same parking lot!

Raj has acquired the property where currently Martini Sky is housed, and Patrick David’s before her (restaurants are always referred to as women to me and to be treated as such). He will open “Dana’s,” named after his “better half” –a place for good old-fashioned comfort food with a chef’s touch.

The menu will boast Stuffed Chicken, Scampi, Sole, Filet Mignon and a myriad of salad creations, all created by new Chef Luis, formerly of Marcellos then 17 years at Forlis in Alamo. Bottom line, and most important is that this man knows how to cook for our small town demographic and has kept people in their seats for many years with his creations. You can expect the same at Dana’s.

The décor will remain somewhat the same, as Martini Sky is relatively knew (at least by décor genres) and they certainly did it right! The high bar tables will come out and make way for the more intimate booths. Raj is laying down hardwood floors covered with a Persian rug motif to add warmth.

Raj’s son, Shekhar (Jake) Jain, will be the General Manager. They will keep the above bar TVs, and the lighting will remain elegant and low enough to provide privacy bubbles amidst the hustle.

As Danvillites, we have grown accustomed to getting to know our servers and them getting to know us. One of the largest concerns we have is when keys change hands and we’re starting over with names and faces. Not so at Dana’s. A couple of the key faces seem to come grandfathered in with the property and stem from the Patrick David’s era. Brian will remain behind the bar, and while the ink is yet to dry on this, Dori is expected to return on the floor.

The most excitement with this new venture is that Raj is going back into his bag-o-tricks and looking to breathe life back into his “committee” formula. Not unlike it’s predecessor, Raj will be looking to do a Wine Comittee, this time with the knowledge and cooperation from Danville, lest it spills past the perimeters of his modest patio.

Forty years ago, Raj came here from India and took a job in a restaurant. Like so many of us, he was infected and carries with him the same passion as he did then. We are lucky that he landed locally and continues to show us what proprietorship is supposed to look like.

416 Sycamore Valley Rd. W, Danville, CA 94526

Of Cabbages and Kings

“An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.” H.L. Mencken

Before immigrating to the United States in the 1920’s, my parents had never heard of eating corned beef with cabbage. Once here, they quickly adopted the American St. Patrick’s Day tradition expected of all good Irishmen… and not-so-Irish-men.cabbage slider

Unfortunately the one-pot-wonder-recipe my mother found in a newspaper involved boiling the life out of everything until the beef was fork-tender (a good thing), the potatoes had reduced to a watery pulp (not such a good thing), and the only thing holding the cabbage together was its overpowering stench. No wonder people drink green beer.

That was then and this is now. It’s time to give cabbage its due respect. High in fiber and low in cost and calories (a mere 22 for 1 cup of uncooked chopped cabbage!), there is good reason why it has been savored all over the world since ancient times. Braised, steamed, stir-fried, stuffed, or raw for slaw, this cruciferous vegetable contains a goodly amount of vitamin C as well as some vitamin A.

Colcannon is a classic Irish dish that showcases the less scary side of cabbage. To make it, simply stir cooked cabbage into buttery, freshly mashed potatoes. When entertaining, however, I often introduce cabbage to an old standby potato recipe that can be made a day or two in advance. (The addition of cream cheese, though barely perceptible, acts as a stabilizer to keep the spuds creamy.) I happen to prefer the texture of potatoes whipped with an electric mixer, but feel free to go old-school and mash them by hand.

This may not be the best choice for weight watchers, but St. Patrick’s Day comes but once a year.

Make-Ahead Colcannon

10 medium russet or Yukon Gold potatoes (about 3 1/2 pounds total), skins on, scrubbed clean
6 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing the baking dish, at room temperature
1 small head of cabbage (about 1 pound), cored and thinly sliced or chopped (to make 3 to 4 cups)
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream, half-and-half, or whole milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Paprika and/or chopped fresh chives or parsley for garnish

1. In a large pot, boil the potatoes in salted water until tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain in a colander. When cool enough to handle, peel if desired.

2. In the same pot, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Using an electric mixer, mix together the cream cheese, cream, and another 2 tablespoons of the butter until blended. Gradually add the hot potatoes, beating after each addition until smooth and soft. Stir in the cabbage. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Spoon the potato mixture into abuttered 2- to 2 1/2 quart baking dish or ovenproof casserole. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoonsof butter and drizzle over the top. (At this point, potatoes can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days; return to room temperature before reheating. Or, if potatoes are made only 2 hours before serving, refrigeration is unnecessary; leave in a cool spot, covered, at room temperature.)

5. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Bake, uncovered, until heated through and lightly browned on top, about 30 minutes. (Alternatively, reheat in the microwave.) Just before serving, dust lightly with paprika and sprinkle chives over the top. Serves 8 to 10, though—since this reheats beautifully—you will probably want leftovers for the next day.

Variations:
–Use an equal amount of thinly sliced kale instead of cabbage.
–Or, for a make-ahead version of another Irish classic called Champ (one of my dad’s favorites), substitute 1 bunch of thinly sliced green onions (scallions) for the cabbage.

Cabbage Trivia
–Cabbage varieties include the commonplace pale green (often bordering on white), red, crinkly Savoy, the elongated Chinese Napa cabbage, and bokchoy.

–A member of the mustard family, cabbage has a long list of relatives that includes broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, turnips, and rutabaga.

–The word cabbage is a derivation of the French word caboche, a common term for “head.”

–Just-picked cabbage does not deteriorate as quickly as many other vegetables, but does lose moisture when refrigerated. Many farmers’ market growers harvest their cabbage once or twice a week so it doesn’t remain too long in a cooler. Because of this, farmers’ market shoppers get a sweeter, crisper, juicier cabbage than they would find in a supermarket.

–Look for cabbages that are firm and feel heavy for their size.

–Store farm-fresh cabbage in an open plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

–Unadorned cabbage makes a great backdrop for other flavors. For variety when cooking, add bits of bacon, prosciutto, or pancetta; caraway or fennel seed; onion; garlic; or fresh herbs to enhance flavor. Dried fruit or freshly sliced apple are also nice additions; or simply toss cooked cabbage with freshly grated Parmesan cheese just before serving.

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad and 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.com. 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!