Nov 042011

I am a musician and have often been drafted into service. Even though I have one year in high school choir vocal experience, I have been the choir director at church off and on for eleven years. When I saw this TED talk on the Virtual Choir, I got very excited. And choked up. I love what Eric Whitacre has created.

In short, he found a way to put together a host of individual performances into a choir. He published the music on the Internet with a video of him directing. Each person who desired to participate had to video themselves singing their specific part. Whitacre then stitched the thousands of videos and voices together to make the world’s largest choir that had never met each other. Bravo! It is worth the time to listen. Listen here.

Oct 312011

Now I sit me down to write,
Unknown readers I hope delight.
Yet, when prime motives I define,
It is my own soul to refine.

Last Friday, I attended an offsite training session for my work. I had forgotten to tell the organizers of my diet, so when lunch showed up, as usual, I was at a loss of what to eat. We were offered fantastic sandwiches, chips and a selection of enticing pastries and sweets for dessert. Times like these make it difficult to stay on a diet. Little that can be done inconspicuously in a group setting. I took a sandwich and pulled it apart to eat the turkey, lettuce and tomato, discarding the fragrant, tempting focaccia bread. This practice sparked a discussion around the table on diets, exercise and how we all wish we could stay on them.

One question asked by a colleague stopped me dead in my tracks. As he polished off a large chocolate chip cookie and a rich-looking chocolate eclair, he asked what is my motivation for staying on the diet. I stuttered and stammered over a response. I couldn’t explain it. I wasn’t even sure myself. That question has bothered me for the past two days.

The easy answer is I want to lose weight. However, I have wanted to lose weight on previous attempts, too. Those attempts always ended in failure. There is more to the answer than dropping a few pounds. What about the exercise? I have stuck closer to a regular regimen of running than at any time previously. I had a goal of running 5k, and I made it. It would have been easy to give up so many times. When I started, I thought I wanted to run in a race and get a cool T-shirt. Now that I can make it over 3 miles without gasping like a fish out of water, I have no desire to run the race. I prefer to run alone in the dark, early morning.

When I lived in Boise, I decided I was going to ride my bike to work instead of drive. I bought a bike, cool biker clothes and did it. I rode two or three times each week for over a year. Sure, I wanted to be healthy and save money over driving, but those weren’t the prime motivations, either.

Why have I persevered on writing this blog for nearly a year? Why, even when I have taken a few days or weeks off, have I come back and continued to write? Originally, I thought perhaps I could make some money doing it, but have since learned very few people make money blogging. What is the attraction?

I mulled the question of motivation this weekend, finally pulling it apart enough to come to an answer. Anyone remember the first topic I took up in January as I started? Discipline. I have struggled with discipline my whole life. From a child, I was told I was undisciplined. I spent money as quickly as I earned it. I wouldn’t practice my French horn regularly. I got good grades but wouldn’t study. I couldn’t keep my room clean to save my mother’s sanity.

My adult life seemed just as undisciplined to me. I watched too much television. I started hobbies and didn’t follow through. I drifted on a career path, not knowing what I wanted or having any set goals. I allowed life’s currents to take me where they would.

The turning point, I believe, was going back to school to finish my bachelor degree. My motivation began as a requirement from my boss – get it or else. However, as I discovered the joy of learning, my motivation changed. This was something difficult that I could do for myself. I could do difficult things. In this case, I could take one or two classes while working full time and still being a good parent.

After finishing college, I took on learning the piano. I took up hobbies and developed talent people respected. I began turning pens, not because I could make money doing it, but because it was something no one else was doing and I could make something admired.

It has been the striving to be disciplined that has kept me on my diet, writing the blog and running. It is a drive to do something special that keeps me coming back, day after day. The only way I can prove it to myself is by adding one more link to the chain. I hope to prove to myself someday that I am disciplined and can do great things. This blog is therapy for sorting out my feelings, thinking them through and putting them into concrete form. The diet demonstrates I can stay on something every day, without fail until a goal is reached. The running helps me fight against the demons of procrastination. Sometimes I lose, sometimes I win. Each win is a triumph that leaves me glowing the rest of the day.

This has been a winning year. I am making the progress toward discipline I hoped for back in January. I appreciate the question from my friend. I hadn’t thought this through enough to know what I have been chasing all these years. Now that it has a name, perhaps I will figure out how to declare victory.

Thank you for indulging me in a little introspection. Do you feel you are disciplined? If so, how did you develop it? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Jul 062011

I love music, especially soundtracks – music from movies. Of my entire collection, I would bet music from movies makes up well over 25% or more. I love how the composer can paint the mood, landscape, even action through music. Emotions are much stronger with the music backing them up. Once I have paired the performance to the music, I can get the entire feeling and mood back again each time I listen to the song.

Naturally, many of my Pandora stations are for favorite composers – Rachel Portman, Jerry Goldsmith, Kurt Bestor, Danny Elfman and Joe Hisaishi, to nam a few. For a number of weeks, one song kept coming up on my Jerry Goldsmith channel, “The Ring” from the movie “Legend“.

The haunting melody intrigued me. Noble horns spoke more story into my mind and so soon I become more and more interested in this movie I had never seen. Or heard of, for that matter. Yet, I found myself humming the melody. I began to concoct the tale in my mind based on the album cover and Goldsmith’s score.

Finally, curiosity got the best of me. I looked it up on IMDB. Released in 1985, that explains why I hadn’t hear of it. I was in Japan at the time. Starred Tom Cruise? Really, in a fantasy film? Oay, I guess that could work. A peek at the trivia informed me the director originally scrapped Goldsmith’s score for one by Tangerine Dream, in an attempt to appeal to a younger audience. Well, that annoyed me. How could someone not like that score? But it didn’t fill in much in the way of plot line.

A couple weeks later, I added it to my Netflix queue. It came in the mail late last week. Saturday night, I settled into the couch to enjoy the movie I had already put together in my head. My daughter and son joined me. Within the first three minutes, we sent my son from the room because he was already making snide remarks about it being cheesy. That didn’t surprise me, as it is one of his hobbies to make these kinds of remarks. My daughter and I persevered for another 15 minutes. Then the remarks started flowing.

“Whose idea was it to not let Tom Cruse wear pants? Bad idea!”
“This world is an allergy suffer’s nightmare. The air is so think with floating things, we can’t see the actors.”
“Plot? What plot? Did they just make it up as they went?”
“Why do the unicorns sound like whales?” (I found out later they actually used humpbacks)
“Someone should have hired a writer. Or two. Perhaps three!”

We started fast forwarding. At the climax, I finally heard the music I had loved so much. Until now. The movie was so bad, it ruined it for me. I hear it now and all I can see is Tom Cruise hopping around in a short tunic, acting like he is 10. At least now I know where he got the moves he laid on Oprah’s couch.

Usually a movie will reinforce the music, but this one decimated it for me. I am sorry I ever watched it. I imagine Tom Cruise wouldn’t mind if no one dredged it up either. It is visually beautiful and Mia Sara did a pretty good job, but it couldn’t rescue it. My son’s comment? “Told you so. What took you so long?”

So we turned on “The Dark Knight“, where the movie and the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, another favorite, mesh perfectly. That got the bad taste rinsed out of my mouth.

Want more about my taste in music? Read Music to Discipline By.