2013 February at John Mackey's Blog



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  • How I Spent My Teen Years
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  • February 27, 2013

    Sheltering Sky with the US Air Force Band

    In December at The Midwest Clinic, the United States Air Force Band performed my piece, “Sheltering Sky,” guest conducted by Tim Lautzenheiser. The performance was just breathtaking, and I’m so happy to be able to finally share this recording. Thank you to Dr. Tim and all of the players.


    February 10, 2013

    Blizzihurristormpalooza Nemo

    It snowed here on Friday — quite a bit, actually.  This is our second winter in Boston, and it’d probably snowed three times in our 18 months here, and no snow was more than 3″ or so.  I’ve spent much of my life trying to convince people that “3 inches is more than big enough,” but when it comes to snow, it’s a dusting.  Boston decided to show us a real snowfall on Friday by delivering 26″ of snow at our house in Cambridge — enough to qualify this as one of the top five biggest snowstorms in Boston’s history.

    In preparation, we stocked up on necessities.

    (Anybody want that bottle of King’s Ginger? It is not what I expected.  I was hoping for “very good ginger liquor” but instead got “expensive whisky with a hint of ginger.”)

    The snow started early on Friday, and by midnight, we had a pretty good amount on our street, and the really heavy accumulation wouldn’t come until a few hours later.

    This was Loki’s first time seeing snow in person. He was not convinced.

    I opened our side door around 1am and took this picture.

    12 hours later.

    Our front porch.

    Snow bunny!

    My car is under there somewhere.

    Fortunately, there’s a crew of guys that maintain the outside of our house. They do a great job. Here comes the plow up the driveway.

    Loki enjoyed the show.

    A plowed driveway!

    After they shoveled the porch and stairs, I headed out for a walk. This is Massachusetts Avenue – normally the busiest street in Cambridge. (Non-essential driving was banned for 24 hours. We’re all walking on the street.)


    Let’s go grocery shopping! Let me just pick up some milk… Hmm.

    Oh wait! In that entire row of dairy cases, there’s one thing left! It’s… Soy latte. Not nom.


    How’s the bread aisle?

    In the grocery store parking lot, people made the most of the massive piles of snow.

    Walking south on Mass Ave.

    Somebody had made these snowmen — in the Mass Ave median.

    A much cuter snowman at Cambridge Common.

    Who wants a hug??? (The answer: this guy.)

    Harvard Yard. Where is everybody?!

    Oh – they’re sledding down the library stairs (many of them on dining trays).

    The Harvard philosophy building.

    This poor fellow is looking for his dignity.

    The John Harvard statue — after being pelted with snowballs.

    The Harvard campus is really quite lovely in the snow.

    Most of it, anyway. The Harvard law building is a huge ugly monstrosity regardless of weather.

    Walking back home, heading north on Mass Ave. It was 4pm by this time, and the light was getting prettier.

    This old church is about two blocks from my house.

    The driving ban lifted, people dug their cars out of the snow.

    All that’s left to do is get the snow off of my car. Where did I leave that snow brush? Oh right. In the back seat. Sigh.


    February 8, 2013

    Norway part 1: Oslo

    In January, I made my first trip to Europe, thanks to an invitation from the Norwegian Band Federation and Musikkforeningen Nidarholm (based in Trondheim). I’d heard recordings of Musikkforeningen Nidarholm – their live recording of “Asphalt Cocktail” is my reference recording for the piece – and I was excited when they offered to bring me and AEJ to Norway. Here’s a video of the group’s “Asphalt Cocktail” performance. Watch this and you’ll know why I wanted to work with them.

    We flew IcelandAir.

    I’d never been to Iceland, and since I never left the airport, I still don’t really think I’ve been to Iceland. But the airport’s architecture was pretty cool — modern Scandinavian.

    We’d been warned that things in Norway were going to be very expensive, but I was shocked. Our taxi ride from the airport to our hotel in Oslo cost about 1150 Norwegian krone (NOK). Don’t want to do the math? I’ll just tell you. That’s about $200 — for a 25 minute cab ride. Ouch. Also, a Gray Goose & tonic in the hotel bar: 225 NOK. That’s $40. FORTY DOLLARS. Norway, by the way, is Europe’s wealthiest (full-sized*) country.

    * not counting Liechtenstein or Luxembourg — but who counts them? I mean, come on. Liechtenstein is smaller than most American shopping malls, or some high schools in Texas.

    But screw it. You’ve got to spend money to make money, right?! (Just keep repeating that to yourself with every transaction, and you’ll feel better, I told myself.) On to the pictures.

    We stayed at the Grand Hotel in Oslo. This is where the winners of the Nobel Prize also stay, and it’s where they host the Nobel Peace Prize banquet every year. It was… damn nice. Our room was the fourth floor center room with the balcony.

    It was our five-year wedding anniversary, and we were only ever going to be in Oslo for one night, so we stayed in a junior suite. (“Spend money to make money… spend money to make money…”) It was a stunning room.

    Another shot of the room.

    One of several orchids in the room.

    And one more shot of the room, looking towards the french doors leading out to the balcony overlooking Karl Johans Gate (“gate” basically means “street,” and this is the main drag in Oslo).

    AEJ steps out onto our terrace.

    Looking towards the Royal Palace (the yellow building at the end of the street).

    Let’s go sightseeing! Across from our hotel: the Norwegian parliament building – with kitty statues!

    Two blocks away: the Norwegian National Theater – with another statue. They like statues in Norway.

    Next stop: the Royal Palace.


    When you’re this far north, the days are short, and even at noon, the shadows are long.

    And cold. Bundle up, AEJ.

    The changing-of-the-guard ceremony at the palace.

    Hey! A trumpet!

    I rented the Canon 35mm f/1.4 L lens for this trip. It’s a nice lens.

    Here’s the Nobel Peace Center. Yay, peace!

    The harbor.

    The light and sky are amazing this time of year and this time of day (around 2pm).

    This may be one of my favorite pictures that I’ve ever taken. Isn’t Oslo beautiful?!

    Like I said: they like statues. And that light! With only about 6.5 hours of daylight, it means that about four hours of the day is “magic hour.”

    I mentioned that it was cold, right? WHY DIDN’T I BUY THIS??? I would look awesome in this (and my whole body would have fit in a single leg of this thing).

    Back at the room, and the sun was starting to set.

    TV time! They run a lot of American shows on TV in Norway, but much of it is crap. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air? Okay, I guess. But King of Queens? Seriously? Like, for three episodes a day? The shows are all subtitled, not dubbed, which has to contribute to the amazing English-speaking skills of Norwegians. Every single person we met spoke absolutely perfect English — in spite of the American shows they were watching. (This probably explains why instead of “goodbye,” they all say, “yo homes, smell ya later.”) I assume they were also skilled at solving mysteries, since there was no shortage of episodes of “Murder, She Wrote.”

    And the sun has set.

    We had dinner at the hotel restaurant, the Grand Café, where Henrik Ibsen used to eat every day.

    One thing that’s not easy to do in Norway: follow a vegetarian diet. More on that in the next post. This was the one vegetarian offering on the menu. They called it vegetable lasagna, and it wasn’t so much a lasagna, but it was delicious.

    My dinner was a local fish — but I was too sleepy to remember what kind. It, too, was tasty.

    AEJ’s dessert, which was one scoop shy of looking completely phallic. I’m going to choose to believe it was intentional.

    My dessert was a Norwegian traditional milk pudding dessert. I don’t remember the specific name, so I’m calling it “dessert face.”

    We’d been told that breakfast buffet at the hotel was delicious. The next morning we learned that this was true.

    AEJ started with a selection of pastries and an egg.

    There were plenty of pastries.

    And fruit.

    And meats and fish.

    Fresh-squeezed juice. It was great, but I had to wonder where they found such good oranges — in January. In Norway.

    More sightseeing! I loved all of the areas for only pedestrians.

    Don’t worry: we didn’t eat at McDonald’s, but it was worth photographing. I didn’t realize this when I took the picture, but a McWrap is 79 NOK. Um, that’s $14. FOR A WRAP AT MCDONALD’S.

    That money goes to good use, though. This is what the furniture looks like at a McDonald’s in Norway. It’s… nice.

    Fifty Shades of Grey was a pretty hot book, but it couldn’t touch Fifty Shades of Fanget.

    We next visited the Oslo Cathedral – a church dating back to 1694.

    Here’s the beautiful iron door.

    The cathedral’s ceiling.

    The very simple, clean interior.

    Is that edible gold on Jesus’s head? (Turns out: no.)

    I like this dude.

    Walking around more stores near the cathedral, I saw this sign on a shop door. This is kind of my schedule, too.

    I couldn’t decide whether I’d rather buy this guy…

    … or this one, so I bought neither.

    TUBA! TUBA! Bla.

    When I grow up, I want to be like these fur-coated ladies.

    Need a sweater? Knit it your own damn self.

    So that was Oslo.

    Next stop: Trondheim, a 45-minute flight to the north!