Friday, July 25, 2014

Brockton Symphony sponsors "Musical Odyssey" on WVBF AM 1530.

Here is my latest promo for the Brockton Symphony Orchestra, now sponsoring the "Musical Odyssey" classical music show on WVBF AM 1530. For the first time in years of producing and recording such recordings, I am satisfied with the audio quality.

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Here is the text of the promo:
The Brockton Symphony Orchestra proudly sponsors “Musical Odyssey,” your weekly source for classical music, as we prepare for our 67th season. Maestro James M. Orent leads “The Voyage Home” from a three-year Symphonic Journey with soul-stirring music from Germany, Scandinavia, and the British Isles. We launch a “Rhine Journey” on November 2nd with a Weber overture, a symphony by Bruch and Haydn’s Cello Concerto. “Viva Scandinavia!” on March 1st features 7 composers from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, including Grieg, Svendsen, Jaernefeld and Sibelius’ Finlandia! “Rule Britannia” on May 3rd includes a Walton march; Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave, a Parry Symphony and Vaughan Williams’ Tuba Concerto and his Suite for the movie Far and Away. Our Holiday Pops and Chamber Music concerts complement these orchestral extravaganzas. For concert details visit The Brockton Symphony Orchestra – a Greater Brockton Treasure.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Dear Friend Honored for a Lifetime of Service - Marty

I posted this on Facebook on July 11th, and decided that I want it to be part of my own website/blog.

I couldn't link the story from "Telegram Towns" so I scanned it. Marty's lifetime of service goes far beyond the environment. He has helped many people in profound ways, without any fanfare. He is also our dear friend, Best Man at Jody's and my wedding, often found spreading the word that "Life is good!"

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

EDIT, or Maybe DELETE. Do not hit "Send" right away!

[Spoiler alert] This is the final line in the Boston Globe article below: "Edit thyself. Few of us are so smart or clever that we always get it right the first time." [Second spoiler alert] The following sentence includes a cuss word that I normally would not use, but that is crucial to the quote. In "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life," Anne Lamott encourages us to write "Shitty First Drafts." This "nasty" prose will never see the light of day, but gives the author a starting point - prose to be edited OR DELETED. When you are outraged or indignant, feel free to hurl invective and expletives ON YOUR OWN SCREEN but avoid the "SEND" button until you count to ten (or more) and then edit, or maybe delete!

The stupid stuff we say
By Tom Keane | GLOBE COLUMNIST JULY 15, 2014

[Picture caption] Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert excoriated LeBron James’s decision to sign with the Heat. Now, James is back in Cleveland.

IN 2010, Dan Gilbert excoriated basketball player LeBron James’s decision to sign with the Miami Heat, calling it “cowardly,” “narcissistic,” and a “shameful display of selfishness and betrayal.” Gilbert was not merely an aggrieved fan, however. He was the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team James was leaving.

Four years later Gilbert is still the owner, and James is now back. The two profess the past is behind them but still, those are thoughts Gilbert has made clear he wishes he’d never expressed. If Gilbert can take any solace in his boneheadedness, though, it’s that he’s not alone. People who should know better — people of power, wealth, and fame — say the stupidest things. They’re helping to give new life to an old cottage industry: the art of the apology. But better, however, would be never to say these things in the first place.

A few days ago, Malaysian politician Bung Moktar Radin congratulated Germany on its recent World Cup win: “Well done … bravo … long live Hitler,” he tweeted. Last month the US Department of Education posted a photo of actor Kristen Wiig, looking obviously intoxicated in a scene from “Bridesmaids,” with a caption saying, “Help me, I’m poor.” “If this is you,” warned the department, “then you better (apply for financial aid).” Also last month, TV viewers saw horse owner Steve Coburn let loose, saying owners who didn’t enter their horses in the first two races of the Triple Crown had taken “the coward’s way out.”

The month before, a Miami Dolphins running back tweeted “OMG,” “horrible” upon hearing the St. Louis Rams had signed Michael Sam, pro football’s first openly gay player. A few days earlier, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts proclaimed “Sexual assault is always avoidable,” ostensibly to mark May as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. And in January, MSNBC expressed its approval of a cute Cheerios ad featuring a biracial family, saying, “Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go awww.”

Predictable outrage, of course, greeted each remark. So did predictable apologies.

After a rebuke from his country’s prime minister, the Malaysian pol somewhat non-grammatically apologized: “I unintentionally said something that hurt d feeling of d ppl in Germany.” “We’re very sorry,” said the US Department of Education, regretting its “insensitivity.” I’m “very ashamed of myself,” a chastened Coburn said two days after ripping into the horse-racing industry.

The Miami Dolphins player, meanwhile, waxed broadly in his well-scripted apology, expressing remorse not only to Sam but to pretty much everyone else as well, promising in the future to “represent the values of the Miami Dolphins organization.”

“Dumb mistake,” said Bay State Governor Deval Patrick, making clear his administration would never blame sexual assault victims.

“I personally apologize,” said the president of MSNBC, terming the anti-conservative gibe “outrageous and unacceptable.”

All well and good, I suppose. But still, the offending comments were made. Some — such as the Department of Education post — were just inadvertent or lame jokes. Others — such as MSNBC’s tweet — were likely more deeply felt. Either way, what once would have been boorish thoughts heard or seen by just a few, are now, with stunning rapidity, spread worldwide as stories, tweets, posts, or emails passed on from one user to the next. That’s what happened to public relations rep Justine Sacco, who last December tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” immediately before boarding an 11-hour flight to Cape Town. By the time she landed, her tweet had become a worldwide obsession and her job had been lost.

Dan Gilbert wrote and posted his screed in the heat of the moment following LeBron’s much anticipated “Decision.” Coburn the horseman faced the cameras emotionally distraught from his loss. Competing for ever more followers and influence, Twitter and other social media encourage users’ desperate efforts to be distinctive or outrageous.

There’s much to like about instantaneous communication, but not, perhaps, about thoughts instantly expressed. An old piece of advice runs through my head every time I see these now-familiar routines of offending statements and heartfelt apologies: Sleep on it. That notion runs counter to the immediate-response ethos of social media, but it’s worth reviving. Edit thyself. Few of us are so smart or clever that we always get it right the first time.

Tom Keane can be reached at

A Political Challenge for Publishers - Politicians as Authors

Even when books by politicians sell, "relatively few people seem to be actually reading them... Most readers got only 2 percent into [Hillary] Clinton’s book. They got 14 percent of the way through [Elizabeth] Warren’s book." This Boston Globe article adds, "only in recent years have more, shall we say, pedestrian politicians attempted to hit the bestseller lists."

Politicians keep writing — but who’s reading?
By Matt Viser | GLOBE STAFF | JULY 10, 2014

[picture caption:] It’s a market that is as vast as the appetite for it is small: books written by politicians.

WASHINGTON — Mike Huckabee wrote a Christmas tale about a boy named Mike who opened his presents early before learning the lesson of patience. Newt Gingrich has authored more than two dozen books, including a historical novel that reimagines the aftermath of World War II.

It’s a market that is as vast as the appetite for it is small: books written by politicians.

They fill the shelves at bookstores, they dominate the news coverage, and they pad the paychecks of politicians. But sales are often disappointing — and relatively few people seem to be actually reading them.

Political blockbusters are possible, to be sure, and Senator Elizabeth Warren’s new book, “A Fighting Chance,” is selling remarkably well compared with most other politicians’ works. The book has sold 65,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, a service that tracks 85 percent of the US book industry.

Warren’s book, in fact, sold more copies than the combined sales for works by Deval Patrick, Scott Brown, and John Kerry. She’s also sold more than Joe Biden’s 2007 campaign book, “Promises to Keep,” (49,000 copies), and former Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner’s recent book, “Stress Test,” (38,000).

Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign book, “No Apology,” sold 128,000 copies while the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s “True Compass” sold 613,000 copies, according to the data, which don’t include electronic book sales.

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new book, “Hard Choices,” has sold 160,000 copies so far, a tally that has been considered a disappointment given the amount of buzz around the book and what was likely a hefty advance.

But the bumper crop of books by politicians has led to a drought in books that prove memorable beyond the latest news cycle. And while fans may collect them like baseball cards, to display the book of their favored politician on the shelf, few actually read the prose.

The Washington Post recently examined how far readers actually made it into politicians’ books, based on where material was highlighted while reading on a Kindle.

The result? Most readers got only 2 percent into Clinton’s book. They got 14 percent of the way through Warren’s book.

Still, publishers seem to crave books written by up-and-coming politicians. Former senator Scott Brown was paid at least $1 million for his 2011 memoir, “Against All Odds,” while Governor Deval Patrick received $1.35 million for his 2011 book, “A Reason to Believe.”

Neither book fared that well in bookstores. Brown’s book sold 27,000 copies, while Patrick’s sold only 11,000, according to the Nielsen BookScan data.

It’s a far cry from true bestsellers, like Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” which has sold 728,000 copies, or Malcolm Gladwell’s “David and Goliath,” which has sold 587,000.

“It’s always a gamble with a big advance,” said Jim Milliot, editorial director of Publishers Weekly. “But if these books continually flopped and they lost money hand over fist, they wouldn’t keep doing them.”

“I wouldn’t discount the idea that publishers do deal in the likelihood of the politician becomes famous one way or another — running for president, or getting arrested,” Milliot added. “It really is all about name recognition, free media attention.”

Presidents and national leaders have often written memoirs after leaving office. Ulysses S. Grant wrote his personal memoirs, for example, shortly before his death in 1885. But only in recent years have more, shall we say, pedestrian politicians attempted to hit the bestseller lists.

It has become as important on the presidential campaign checklist as eating pork on a stick at the Iowa State Fair or attending dozens of town meetings in New Hampshire. During the 2008 campaign, almost every candidate had a book (from Republican nominee John McCain’s “Why Courage Matters” to Libertarian candidate Bob Barr’s “The Meaning of Is”).

One-third of the US Senate are now published authors, collectively writing 65 different books.

Some are deep policy papers (such as Senator Ed Markey’s 1982 book, “Nuclear Peril: The Politics of Proliferation”) while others are one part politicking, one part travelogue (Senator Angus King wrote about traveling the country in an RV with his family in a book called “Governor’s Travels: How I Left Politics, Learned to Back Up a Bus, and Found America”).

Senator Al Franken may be the only political author who was intentionally funny. His book resume includes the 1992 volume “I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me! Affirmations by Stuart Smalley.”

One draw for publishers is that the books can become investments, with potential boomlets as a politician’s career rises. No one illustrates this better than Barack Obama, whose 1995 book, “Dreams from My Father,” became a huge bestseller.

Another reason political books can be good business is that politicians will buy a huge number of the books themselves — something that is not available to the average author.

“You have to have a book where the author can get publicity,” Milliot said. “And politicians are good at getting publicity.”

Matt Viser can be reached at

Friday, July 11, 2014

An Inspiring "Hero," a long life well lived.

One of the great pleasures of my tenure as Director of the Thomas Crane Public Library was getting to know "Abe" Cohen, who attended nearly every lecture and cultural program we offered. He sat up front, interacted with presenters, and was friendly and approachable to everyone he encountered. I had to learn from others that he had helped found the South Shore Coalition for Human Rights, and spent a life of activism, seeking to make the world a better place. He was far too humble for self-promotion, but never hesitated to take a tough, and if necessary an unpopular, stand when people's rights were at stake. I am grateful for the inspiring example of Abraham Cohen. Thanks to The Boston Globe for publishing this uplifting story.

Abraham Cohen, 97, of Quincy; veteran was social justice advocate
By Jacqueline Tempera | GLOBE CORRESPONDENT | JULY 11, 2014

Picture caption: The FBI monitored Mr. Cohen because of his activism.

A few weeks before the Nazis surrendered in World War II, Abraham Cohen took a rowboat across the Neckar River on the outskirts of Heidelberg, Germany, to tend to a badly injured US soldier on the other side of the enemy line.

A US Army first lieutenant and an assistant battalion surgeon, Mr. Cohen found a German building flying a Red Cross flag. Inside was an American “in very bad shape,” he recalled for a website of Quincy veterans’ memories. “He was having breathing problems, and they had rigged up a gadget that kept his mouth open and his tongue immobilized.”

When German officers found him with the US soldier, Mr. Cohen talked his way out of danger, even after a German major took his identification information and read aloud his Jewish name. Because Mr. Cohen was a medical officer and a noncombatant, the major sent him back to the river blindfolded.

“This was the kind of man he was,” said his daughter Nancy of Chicago. “You did what you had to do. If someone was hurt and you could help, you went to find them.”

Mr. Cohen, a socialist and a lifelong advocate for social justice, died of colon cancer June 22 in hospice care in Greenfield. He was 97 and lived most of his life in Quincy, before moving to Greenfield recently to live with his son, David.

For his daring actions in Heidelberg on March 30, 1945, Mr. Cohen was awarded a Bronze Star for meritorious service. “The courage and determination displayed by Lieutenant Cohen reflect credit upon himself and upon the Armed Forces of the United States,” the citation read.

That was the second Bronze Star awarded to Mr. Cohen. He was also honored for meritorious service when he treated and evacuated the injured in France and Germany from late December 1944 until early May 1945. “He worked untiringly and under the most hazardous conditions to see that all wounded men were attended,” the citation read.

Mr. Cohen put himself on the line just as passionately as a political activist at home. As a 10-year-old, he distributed leaflets protesting the scheduled execution in 1927 of anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, who had been convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of two men during an armed robbery in Braintree.

“He wanted to reach people with his social issues, even when he was a child,” his daughter said. “He was so influenced by this experience. He carried it with him.”

Years later, Mr. Cohen and his wife, Madeline, helped found the South Shore Coalition for Human Rights. They were also among the advocates fighting against discrimination in Quincy public housing.

During the anti-Communist era of the early 1950s, the Cohens were monitored by the FBI because of their progressive activism, their daughter said.

Mr. Cohen refused to testify in 1955 when the Massachusetts Commission on Communism wanted to question his political affiliation.

Named as a member of the Communist Party in a commission report, Mr. Cohen told the Globe in 1958: “They say I became a member of the party in 1944. I was in the Army in 1944. That’s the way a lot of their evidence runs.”

The older of two brothers, Mr. Cohen was born in Malden; the family moved to Quincy when he was 6. His Russian immigrant parents were outspoken socialists and union activists, and his father was a typesetter who often printed political literature.

As a teenager, Mr. Cohen was a camp counselor when he met Madeline Sivachek.

“It’s a story he only told me a few months ago,” their daughter said. “He was working at this camp, and she was a cook there. When he saw her, he said, ‘This is the woman I am going to marry.’ ”

The two kept in touch through letters as Mr. Cohen graduated from Quincy High School and the Massachusetts College of Optometry. He practiced for a few years before being drafted.

“He wanted to go to war, because he understood what was going on in the bigger picture,” his daughter said. “He had this incredible belief in democracy, and he wanted to save it.”

A week after returning to Quincy, he proposed to Madeline on New Year’s Eve.

Encountering difficulties finding optometry patients, he opened United Granite Co. at the end of the 1940s and produced headstones, working for the business until he was in his 80s.

Over the years, Mr. Cohen served as president of the South Shore Coalition for Human Rights. He was also involved with fair housing advocacy and the area’s Jewish community.

“He was deeply committed to his principles for his whole life,” said his son, David of Greenfield. “He really focused on inequality and the evils of racism.”

During years when racial tensions were high in Boston and Quincy, Mr. Cohen and his wife rented an apartment to a black family.

“He was ahead of his time,” his daughter said. “Even if you disagreed with him on issues like politics and the war, you would still respect him for the integrity of his views.”

For most of his life, Mr. Cohen worked seven days a week, but he always made time for his family. The Cohens ate every meal together and used the time to catch up. There were no excuses for missing a meal, Nancy said.

“He genuinely loved being a father,” she said. “On his birthday, he would give us presents because he was just so happy to be our dad.”

Mr. Cohen’s wife died of liver cancer in 1987.

Mr. Cohen continued to live on his own after retiring in his 80s, volunteering at the library, listening to lectures, and going for long walks.

“He would tell me: ‘I have to walk to the supermarket. If I get a ride from somebody, that means I’m getting lazy,’ ” Nancy said.

Mr. Cohen kept close ties to his family and corresponded with his only granddaughter, Mandyof Los Angeles, through letters written in Yiddish, which she was studying.

“It was like their own secret language,” Nancy said. “He was like that with a lot of people. He had very special relationships.”

A service has been held.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Loving My Own Company - Arrogance or Serenity?

Is it arrogance or serenity and gratitude that lead me to say "Preposterous!"? The article claims that "Eleven separate experiments showed that we find our own thoughts painfully dull."

I have always found myself to be good company, and my train of thoughts (even "Monkey Mind") to be fascinating. Is it because as a Gemini I am never truly alone?

Walking in stores, or on the street, many seem allergic to just being, without "communicating." Their (side of the) conversation seems mind-numbingly dull, but they seem to be the majority.

I would be interested in hearing how you (my reader) react to this report from yesterday's Boston Globe. There are links in the article to related stories about meditation and health.

People prefer electric shocks to time alone with thoughts
By Carolyn Y. Johnson | GLOBE STAFF | JULY 03, 2014

In the rush of everyday life, many people say they crave a moment of solitude, but a startling new study finds that people don’t really enjoy spending even 10 minutes alone with their thoughts.

In fact, we find our own musings so unsatisfying that, in research done at the University of Virginia, many people chose to administer painful electric shocks to themselves rather than sit in quiet contemplation, researchers from that university and Harvard reported Thursday.

“I was surprised that people find themselves such bad company,” said Jonathan Schooler, a psychology professor from the University of California, Santa Barbara, who was not involved in the research. “It seems that the average person doesn’t seem to be capable of generating a sufficiently interesting train of thought to prevent them from being miserable with themselves.”

The study, published in the journal Science, adds a perplexing result to the field of mind-wandering. Eleven separate experiments showed that we find our own thoughts painfully dull.

The researchers first tried giving participants in a psychology laboratory anywhere from 6 to 15 minutes alone to think. They weren’t allowed to fall asleep, and they weren’t allowed to check their cellphones. Overall, people rated this idle time as not very enjoyable — a 5 on a scale of 0 to 9.

The researchers wondered whether the artificial laboratory environment was the problem and instead gave people the same task in the comfort of their own homes. Their enjoyment was even lower at home than in the laboratory. Nearly a third of people admitted they cheated by checking their phones or listening to music.

Then, the researchers either allowed people to sit alone and think, or do an activity such as reading a book or using the Internet — although they weren’t allowed to communicate with others. The people doing activities that distracted them from their own thoughts were much happier.

Timothy Wilson, a University of Virginia psychology professor who led the work, was discussing the weird results in the living room of his Harvard collaborator, psychology professor Daniel Gilbert, and they began brainstorming another experiment. If people found it so unpleasant to be alone with their thoughts, what lengths might they go to in order to escape themselves?

To answer this question, they started by exposing volunteers to positive and negative stimuli, including beautiful photographs and mildly painful electric shocks. They asked the people how much they would pay to avoid the shock experience if they had $5 to spend. Then, the researchers told the 55 participants to sit in a room and think for 15 minutes. If they wanted, they also had the option to shock themselves by pressing a button, feeling a jolt resembling a severe static shock on their ankle.

“I have to tell you, with my other co-authors, there was a lot of debate: ‘Why are we going to do this? No one is going to shock themselves,’?” Wilson said.

To their surprise, of the 42 people who said they would pay to avoid the shock, two-thirds of men chose to shock themselves, and a quarter of women did. One person pressed the button 190 times.

The researchers were stunned. People were choosing an unpleasant sensation instead of freely cogitating on whatever they wanted.

Despite a fair amount of searching, researchers did not find a single subset of people for whom ruminating on their own was clearly enjoyable.

One of the experiments recruited people ranging from 18 to 77 years old from a church and a farmer’s market. Regardless of age, education, income, gender, or smartphone or social media use, people basically found being alone with themselves not very fun and kind of boring.

That sheds new light on previous mind-wandering studies, such as one by Harvard researchers in 2010 that showed people were not happy when their attention wandered. It seemed reasonable to think that they were less happy because the distraction was inconvenient.

“We’re trying to get our tax returns done, but our minds keep drifting away to an upcoming vacation, and as a result, we spend the whole weekend reading and re-reading the stupid 1040 form,” Harvard’s Gilbert, a co-author of the new paper, wrote in an e-mail. “Well, if that’s true, then mind-wandering should be an annoyance when we’re trying to get something else done, but it should be a delight when we have nothing else to do.”

Quite the opposite, the new study suggests.

So, are we just kidding ourselves when we say we love spending time alone with our own thoughts?

Wilson wants to study the phenomenon further; he wonders whether people who regularly meditate will rate the experience differently. Schooler said the study suggests that steps could be taken to help people enjoy spending time alone.

But maybe there’s a larger message, too, about the handwringing that routinely happens about the attention-consuming devices that have become almost like an extra digital limb. Maybe the problem isn’t our smartphones; the problem is human nature. We are in a mutually enabling relationship with technology.

“I think this could be why, for many of us, external activities are so appealing, even at the level of the ubiquitous cellphone that so many of us keep consulting,” Wilson said. “The mind is so prone to want to engage with the world, it will take any opportunity to do so.”

Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @carolynyjohnson.