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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Surprises of California: Birds of Paradise

Moving to a new climate always brings surprises and delights.

Having this bird of paradise plant on the next block from our home, along our daily dog-walking trail, is one of them!

When I first arrived last March, this was in full bloom, and it remained so until the heat and drought of summer.

Then, with the coming of fall and the falling of the deciduous leaves--who knew that those trees' leaves would change color and drop here also?--this bush began to bloom again!

It looked to me like two blooming seasons in one calendar year...but the longer I think about it, I think it is just one blooming season that begins in Nov-Dec and continues until the heat and dry of summer.

But the Jan-Dec calendar bisects that season, making it appear to be two.

(Whohoo!  I got to use a math word today!)

But isn't that often true?

We draw conclusions from all of the evidence we can gather...but it is our point of view, or our framework that outlines the boundaries of our conclusions...and our conclusions are often misleading, or worse...simply false.

So, I stand corrected.

And I am grateful that I can make this confession and move on...wondering what else I am going to unlearn today?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Whale Watching

Since hearing John McCutcheon's Leviathan years ago, written after his first whale watching experience, the desire to see them for myself was planted.

This summer, after finishing my two month cross-country music tour, my spouse and I signed up for a whale watching tour off the coast of Monterey Bay because the humpback whales were feeding.  The night before we packed and headed south for our day trip, I sat down at my hammered dulcimer and did my best to play some of the themes that McCutcheon had written, to get into the mood.

Driving down highway 1 from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz, we had our first sighting--right from the coast!  A big plume of mist from the exhalation of the creature's blowhole, followed by its large flukes before it dove.  Because I was driving, Connie saw more clearly than I but both of us were excited and fulfilled, even if that would have been all of the whales we had seen for the day.

But, were we in for an amazing experience!

Once we got out of the harbor and the bay, just off the point of Pacific Grove, we saw some other boats and as we drew hearer, all of a sudden the gulls started gathering and wheeling and diving.  Then the water began to foam with writhing bodies of sea lions, then!  the curving dark backs of the whales began to appear, with fountains of misted air, then the uniquely colored and notched flukes of their large tails gracefully curved up out of the water and then disappeared beneath the waves as they dove and the surface became relatively calm again.

Video from our Whale Watching Tour

The naturalist on board the ship was very impressed and with each new appearance of this pod, she took note of the mother and calf who seemed to arrive on their own, but then the group seemed to have 12-15 whales, who were all cooperating in this uncharacteristic group hunt.  (At least, uncharacteristic in terms of human observation!)  They began to use the boat as part of their hunting scheme.  The naturalist described the symbiosis of the whales, sea lions and gulls and the feeding on the fish that would keep them throughout the winter before they headed out for their breeding grounds.

Before we headed back in to the harbor, the whales began swimming right along side and beneath our craft, to our delight and sense of anxiety--these beasts are HUGE!  But, thankfully, they were gentle with us.

I was and continue to be in awe of Leviathan, the creature of the deep, who, according to the Psalmist, was made by the creator, "for the sport of it!"

(Watch and listen to John's composition below:  let me tell you...his composition, and rendition, certainly echo my experience!)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Learn to Play Guitar for the best possible rate!

I've been teaching guitar in my private studio for many years.

     In 2006 I was approached by JamPlay to become their first guitar instructor for a new way of teaching guitar: on the internet! I know, this is crazy, but it actually works!

     At first we just filmed lessons and people watched them at their convenience, with the ability to pause and replay, and print out supplemental material, to progress at their own rate. Then, Jeff and Kevin and Chris at JamPlay decided to try an interactive chatroom, which was hosted by the instructors, to give student/subscribers a chance to ask their questions of the teachers in real-time. The teacher was able to answer and demonstrate. However, the students often had a difficult time describing their issue.

My friend & fellow-instructor, Jim Deeming,
teaching Chet Atkins' "Windy and Warm"
     So JamPlay decided to upgrade the functionality of the chat and made it possible for students to use their own webcam and microphone to demonstrate to the teacher (and the rest of the chatroom) what they were wrestling with, or demonstrate how they had mastered that skill or song.

     The result is a powerful, interactive and supportive community of instructors with student-learners/teachers which is active most of the hours of every week.

     Since the chat has begun I've been a part of the roster of live instructors. At one time, I hosted 5 (3)-hour sessions every morning, which helped me to leave my fruitless attempts to teach music full-time in the public school system, in favor of working daily with people who were finally being successful at developing their musical skills in playing guitar.

     Now here is the reason I'm writing today.  The current annual price for an all-access subscription is $139.95  (38¢ a day, or $2.69 a week).

     After  December 28, 2014, the price is going up to $179.95, which is still reasonable, considering that there are more than 75 teachers with more than 4,500 lessons in High Definition video, available when you need it.

     Here's a link to one of my free beginner lessons, and one of my fingerstyle lessons, one of my bluegrass lessons, one of my celtic lessons, and one of my gospel lessons.

But here is the kicker:  JamPlay is offering a sale, starting TODAY with a full-year for less than $100!  

Yep, for only $99.95, you can have access to everything I teach, but even better, everything that everybody else teaches as well!  I don't want you to miss this opportunity before the price goes up.  

Click here to sign up now.

You'll be glad you did!

If this isn't your kettle of fish, but you still want to learn to play, or just have some support while you teach yourself (which is how I learned, by the way), contact me about setting up live, one-to-one lessons via SKYPE.  Or visit this link on my website for more details.

[If you want to watch my introductory video, you can do that here]

Friday, December 19, 2014

Tension: the New vs. the Familiar

I’ve heard it at CD tables, after (and during!) live music concerts, at festivals and weeklong music educational events.

People pick up a CD and say, “I don’t know any of these songs.”  

They pick up another one and say, “I know these songs, but I already have 10 recordings of those songs.  Why do I need this one?”

One concert attender leans over to another and gives a review:  “these are just the same songs they always play!”  

Or they opine, “I wanted to hear the stuff I know (which I like!) and all they played was their new stuff.  It was unfamiliar.  I didn’t like it.”

They take a class and complain:  “The instructor only taught us things that I didn’t know.”  

Or they return from another workshop and report, “it was all the same old stuff everybody does.”

Humans are an interesting, loyal and simultaneously fickle lot.  “Familiarity breeds contempt,” the adage acknowledges.  “You can’t get too much of a good thing,” we stomp and declare just before we feel the inevitable discomfort from eating too many potato chips or ice cream, illustrating the economic principle of diminishing marginal utility.

At war within us are the poles between the novel and the threadbare; the strange and the comfortable; the unique and the familiar.  And bouncing between these poles like iron filings between the poles of an electro-magnet is our attention and our loyalty.

When we are tired of the commonplace, we crave newness.  When our lives are destabilized, we latch on to the comfort of the familiar.

There is nothing groundbreaking here.  We can observe this several times a day in ourselves and in others.  

What can get us stuck is assigning ultimate value to either pole by seeking to resolve the inherent tension into the good of either one.

And we artists?  We seek to give voice and witness to the whole of life, but in specific and concrete ways that help us both to notice and enhance the tension, then offering resolution, only to set up more tension that leads to more resolution.  

Thus, the dance of life continues in its eternal way.

(And it would be nice if folks would buy the CD, enjoy the concert, learn in the class no matter what!)
©2014 Steven B. Eulberg

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Free Christmas Compilation includes Steve's Music!

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen is the 1st track in this Christmas compilation by Magnatune which was just released today (12/17/14).

You can enjoy the entire list as I did below:

A Christmas with Magnatune by Magnatune Compilation

You can share this with your friends as a gift from me to you to them!

This tune is from my 2003 CD 'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime which is available on iTunes, at, on several streaming sites and also here:

This collection is a crisp walk under a bright winter moon.