Archive for June, 2012

you can read my June newsletter here.

here are my performances at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival

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my scrabble tourney pep talk


I used to be an expert scrabble player. Until this month I hadn’t played in a tournament in 4 years. I stopped going to tournaments out-of-town in 2005. I studied the game. I memorized a lot of words. I knew all of the 8 letter words with no high point tiles and had 3 vowels. I knew these words in order starting with aaa: saladang, galangal, astragal… I also knew all of the 7 and 8 letter words with no high point tiles that had 4 vowels: galatea, anatase, gastraea… I knew a lot of mnemonics (study aids for letters you could add to a 7 letter word to make an 8) and even wrote a bunch. I knew all of the unusual short words, and every single word that contained a J, X, Q or Z. I studied strategy and read about the game. I highly recommend this book by Joel Wapnick. Then I stopped studying, got too busy and eventually stopped playing.

This year I realized that I kind of missed the game, so I started attending the Toronto Scrabble Club on Wednesday evenings if I wasn’t playing music or had a big concert I was preparing for. I remembered why I enjoyed the game and the friendly competition at the club. I decided that I would need to study, but I’ve confined myself to just casual anagramming (although recently I found my old folder with the mnemonics.) I enjoy anagramming. I use karatasi.  I’ve abandoned memorizing.

Yesterday I played in a one day 8 game tournament in Mississauga. On the way over there I gave myself a pep talk:

1. drink lots of water

2. stay away from heavy carbs

3. count your score before putting the tiles on the board. Let your opponent check it on their time

4. pay attention to adrenalin rushes. remember to breath through them if you want to have energy for the next game

5. always double-check before hitting the clock

6. try not to be too fixated on one spot

7. when you find something good, look for something better

8. better to pass some tiles than spend more than 5 minutes looking for a low scoring play

9.  be sure to save time for the end game

10. did I mention the water?

11. get up between games. walk around.

12. try not to pay attention to coffee housing before the game. if it happens during the game, warn them and then call a director

13. bring fresh fruit and dark chocolate

14. always consider rack leave

15. in addition to hot spots look for extensions and hidden plays

16. track on their time, and make a small mark next to the word to remind yourself where you are

17. don’t get attached to the score. big turnarounds can happen very late in the game

18. look for 9’s. sometimes they just magically appear

19. don’t be afraid to open anything if you can score well

20. keep the board open unless you’re really ahead. then shut it down

21. coffee first thing in the morning, then stay away from it during the day

22. try also to stay away from sugar – unless it’s dark chocolate

23. be gracious. let them know if you think they played well

24. don’t try to get away with anything even if you think your opponent doesn’t play as well as you do. never underestimate anyone

25. don’t get discouraged about the tiles.

26. always double-check your opponent’s score and once in a while verify your overall scores (on your time)

27. it’s polite to correct them if they’ve underscored, but you actually don’t have to if it happens a lot. However, just know on a close game there could be a recount

(note: I have just been corrected about the rules on this point. It is considered cheating to allow an opponent’s incorrect score to go unchallenged)

28. on a close game, if you’ve lost, always ask for a recount

29. take a minute to check words between games. serendipity really happens

30. stay relaxed and focused and don’t take it too seriously

31. have fun and enjoy the camaraderie

32. have I mentioned water? (and healthy noshing)

In the end I won a class prize, a word prize and stood 4th. I even got to play SAVELOYS and IGUANIAN. I really did have fun.

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I decided to wear pants – for the mosquitos. sandals for the drive, but low boots just in case the bugs were out in full force. A choice of two sweaters to protect my arms from bites, only because I didn’t relish the idea of industrial strength deep woods off for sportsmen for ever on my favorite one. My wool felt Busterish looking pork pie hat, just in case I felt like being Buster at the outset.

I didn’t think about the wind.

I didn’t think about the cold.

I ended up wearing the boots, both sweaters, the hat plus a borrowed coat ten sizes too big.

The brave Barrie folk brought chairs, hot drinks, coats, hats and blankets. They knew it was going to be a blustery night for Buster.

You start with a large patch of green by the water. Heritage Park. Is that a great name for a park by the water? (are you listening, Toronto?) Stakes were driven solidly into the ground to tether the screen in place. It took six people to get the screen up. A giant balloon in the shape of a movie screen – kind of like those plastic jumping castles turned on its side, being filled with air to keep its shape.



The wind won the first round. But with one hour before screening, the stakes were unstaked and restaked in a more sheltered area, sound system in place, lap top, dvd (for back-up), blue ray and projector set up on the table and keyboard ready to go! Bravo to Robin Munroe of the Barrie Jazz and Blues Festival and to Claudine Benoit and John Arruda of the Barrie Film Festival!!

During that hour I sat in my car memorizing as much of my score as I could. No stand clips were going to hold any music in place. (not that I had remembered to bring them, d’oh!) I was loving the idea of improvising.

We even had popcorn!

It was a beautiful blustery bitingly chilly night, I was dressed ridiculously, my fingers were chilled to the bone, and I loved every minute of it!

Thank you, Barrie Jazz and Blues Festival and Barrie Film Festival!


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The movement of the singers, stage hands and scenery was like watching the frames of a film. It reminded me of a Tai Chi class I once took. Moving as though space itself had body, weight, density, matter. We move through it frame by frame.

Nothing is harder than the repetition of one note. or a phrase. matching the tone, weight, balance, timbre. and then slightly changing the phrase one strand of hair at a time.

Music is architectural. It builds on itself. now 4-4; 4-5; 5-5; 5-6; 6-6. but what are numbers? 123123123123…they’re all 3’s and 2’s. the building blocks of time.

It’s not about the individual, though there were some who stood out – the vocal soloists, violin, tenor saxophone. It was about the whole, and taken from the perspective of the mezzanine balcony with lots of space around me was a transformative experience. It just wasn’t the same when I moved down to the orchestra for an hour. The distractions were too exhausting: people walking in and out, focussing on the individuals on the stage. It’s a different kind of theatre; one that could take in everything at once, building phrase by phrase, movement by movement, note by note.

atom by atom.

Einstein on the Beach.




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