Month: April 2010

More Strings Make Beautiful Music

Several weeks ago the Spring 2010 issue of The Fretboard Journal showed up in my mailbox.  I was traveling a great deal at the time, so I popped in it my briefcase and caught up on all the news from the world of beautiful instruments in airplanes and hotel rooms. Ricky Skaggs, the young acoustic band Bearfoot (which I caught at last year’s Merlefest), and Bedford County, Virginia luthier James Jones are all featured in this issue.  But my eye was immediately taken to an article on harp guitars. I had never seen a harp guitar until I attended the Shenandoah Valley’s Oak Grove Music Festival one year and Stephen Bennett pulled out the strangest instrument imaginable.  But then he began playing the most beautiful music, and I was transfixed.  I’ve since met Stephen through my friends the Pearsons and Harringtons, and I’m always amazed at how someone can play such lovely music on such an awkward looking guitar. Stephen Bennett and Gregg Miner (whose guitar photo from harpguitars.net leads off this post) are featured …

Dale Chihuly: Works in Seattle and Tacoma

Recent travels have taken me to both Seattle and Tacoma, Washington – described by writer Margery Aronson in the book Fire as “the new ‘Center of the Universe’ for the medium of glass, a shift in no small part due to (Dale) Chihuly’s decision to return to the Northwest to live, work, and continue his early commitment to education.” Glass artist Dale Chihuly has been back in his home region since 1971, making amazing sculpture, seaforms, chandeliers, towers, and more.  He’s been in my consciousness for about the past 12 years, as I’ve come across more and more of his work in my travels. So it was great to spend time recently in Chihuly’s  hometown of Tacoma and his current city of Seattle, viewing works both very public and more private. We began in Tacoma, where the 2002 Chihuly Bridge of Glass offers much for the eye.  As a welcoming gateway to downtown Tacoma, the Bridge of Glass has two rising crystal towers, a seaform ceiling that is beautiful in any light, and a Venetian …

Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend

We’ve been blessed with two recent books about the greatest baseball player of all time – Willie Mays.  I wrote about the first, Willie’s Boys, in a post in January.  I’ve just finished the second, Willie Mays:  The Life, The Legend, and found it is as satisfying as a well-played game on a warm summer evening.  (Although at 556 pages it takes a bit longer to complete.) Author James Hirsch, who never saw Mays play live, has nonetheless captured the essence of a deeply private, and in many ways unknowable, larger-than-life legend.   Mays is one of those people who touched so many people in so many ways.  As Hirsch notes, “If you write a book that allows you to talk to Bill Clinton, Woody Allen, Hank Aaron, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Sandy Koufax, and Tom Seaver, you’ve probably got a pretty good subject.”  Bill Clinton says that Willie Mays, “…lives his life with more than talent – he has the mind and heart of a champion.”  Woody Allen, in the movie Manhattan, said Willie Mays was one …

Mohonk Mountain House…A Place Like No Other

Mohonk Mountain House is one of those special places on this planet that nurtures the soul. If you don’t believe me then take the word of The Nature Conservancy, which has designated the thousands of unspoiled acres surrounding Mohonk as one of its Last Great Places on earth. I’ve been here for the past two days for a series of meetings with colleagues and partners from the Northeast.  Together we’ve discussed, among other topics, the role historic preservation plays in environmental sustainability.  Last night when my friend Nina Smiley told the group of the wonderful history of Mohonk Mountain House, it was clear that few places showcase the relationship between nature, sustainability, and unique historic places better than Mohonk. Nina gave a wonderful talk, full of tales of twin Quaker brothers establishing this hotel, but naming it the Mohonk Mountain House to avoid the unsavory reputation hotels and inns held in their day.  Over 141 years of ownership by the Smiley family, Mohonk has remained “the same…only better” to use Nina’s words.  As the website …

A View from Home Plate

I’ve been to countless Major League Baseball games in my life, beginning with Wrigley Field in 1964 to see the Cubs vs. the Cardinals.  But I’ve never seen a game in the front row behind home plate. Until last night. Thanks to a local friend and colleague, who heard of my plan to visit all the MLB ballparks, a group of 12 – in town for today’s launch of Partners in Preservation and a National Trust Council meeting – headed out to Seattle’s  Safeco Field last evening to see the hometown Mariners take on the Oakland A’s.  Kevin told us the seats were great.  He wasn’t kidding. On a beautiful cool evening we saw the Mariners top the A’s 4-2.  And when I say we saw it, we took it all in from the first few rows behind home plate.  You know the seats…the ones you see every night on television when the pitcher glares in on the batter.  I started out four rows back on the first base side, only a few bat-lengths away …

55 is the New 25…Or How Facebook has Reconnected Me to People I Haven’t Seen in 30 Years

I didn’t think turning 55 last month would be such a big deal, having already dealt with those milestone birthdays of 40 and 50. Everyone knows (and pollsters bear this out) that Boomers always undercount their age by 7-10 years in any event.  I may be 55, but I believe I’m really only 45.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask any Baby Boomer how old he/she feels and you’ll soon get the sense that we’re all this way (i.e., delusional). But this year has been very different and a little – well – just different.  And it is all because of Facebook. First, a little back story.  I was not an early adopter for Social Media, as I had a wife, two teenagers, a demanding job, a guitar and mandolin sitting in the corner and other interests to fill my days.  But part of my job was to provide vision and direction to all parts of our online communications efforts at work.  It soon became clear that it was going to be difficult to do that …

Iron Work for a Tennessee Farm

My younger brother Joe recently posted photos on his blog of the iron work on a barn project he just completed in Middle Tennessee. This horse barn and the accompanying 19th century farmhouse near Pulaski were graced with Joe’s simple yet beautiful ironwork on the gates and in the tack room.  The owner and Joe agreed to an Iris theme that adds a little unexpected touch to the utility of the gates. Check out the Joe Brown, Artist Blacksmith blog to see all the pictures and some of the other projects Joe has in the works.  And for those in Middle Tennessee, note that Joe usually participates in the Art Studio Tour as well as a few major shows throughout the year. More to come… DJB