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Showing posts from March, 2007

Blog Your Blessings: Today is Enough

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Fresh air and the sweet smell of emerging life through the mud shifting under our feet as we made our way around Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, Connecticut, yesterday filled the day with sunlit joy. Lyman Orchards offered an apple, rather than an egg, hunt for kids, hayrides, the opportunity to pet bunnies, to color, to pose for a photo with the Easter bunny, to eat cider doughnuts and kettle-cooked popcorn, to watch the geese alight on the pond. We did these things with Adella today, and it was great to just plain be a kid with her and enjoy it. (Click here to see what I mean.)

Lyman Orchards gives away 18,000 apples, plus random prizes, to the kids who participate. Della worked on her upper-body strength and collected a good ten pounds of apples. The place was packed with every shape and size of kid munching on gigantic apples. It felt good, too, to climb back into the magically warm car after a few hours in the crisp March air.

Afterwards, we made our way down Route 17 to New Haven s…

Paris, Britney, Lindsay, Anna Nicole: Grinches All

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There's a great site called Dropping Knowledge that is gathering thinkers from around the world to consider the big questions--global warming, the most dangerous keepers of nuclear weapons, organized religion as the root of evil--that invites your participation. It's a great place to go to lift your mind from the muck and mire of Hollywood gossip, Dubya's antics, and the like.

Before going there, though, here's a thought about Paris, Britney, Lindsay, Anna Nicole. Today I feel for them. The girls have been Grinched. In fact, they are Grinches. They are our sun-dried, bleached-out, bald-headed, eating-disordered, drug-abusing, who-needs-undies repositories of every bad day the rest of us ever had. We love to hate them, to judge them, to diagnose their maladies, to shudder at the sight of their commodified bods--and then we leer. We ogle. We want it, and we look as long as we can at these rich girls while we wait to unload our groceries onto the conveyor belt.

They're…

I am Ugly, Illegal, and Unwanted

These photos are from walls near Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York. Passersby who saw me taking photos were happy to tell me where I'd find more quality graffiti in the neighborhood. The manager of Carousel Collision, an autobody shop on Neptune Avenue, stopped what he was doing so he could explain the memorial painted on the side of his wall. The 9/11 images also come from that wall. It makes sense that creators or supporters of unsanctioned art are also open to sharing information. Art is a gift and a conversation. More on the Strange Attractions page.

[Try New York Nitty-Gritty for some Manhattan graffiti and for some gorgeous images of the city.]

Motherhood: a Message from Elise's Mom

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Elise's mom Laurie sent this to me today. I hope it goes straight to your heart. I am grateful for this reminder the cherish everything about motherhood.

We are sitting at lunch one day when my daughter casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of "starting a family." "We're taking a survey," she says half-joking. "Do you think I should have a baby?"

"It will change your life," I say, carefully keeping my tone neutral.

"I know," she says, "no more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations." But that is not what I meant at all. I look at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her.

I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes.I want to tell her that the physical wounds of child bearing will heal, but becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable.

I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without …

The Golden Egg Book: Parable of Friendship

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If The Velveteen Rabbit had a prequel, it would surely be Margaret Wise Brown's classic story that appears every year at Easter time, The Golden Egg Book. This is a little story about the miraculous accident we call friendship--which is to say it as about the miracle that emerges when we accept each other. That acceptance comes despite the hurt we often unwittingly, or selfishly, inflict on each other.

The story begins: Once there was a bunny. He was all alone. One day he found an egg. He could hear something moving inside the egg. What was it?
The bunny is determined to find out what's in the egg, and he jumps on it, rolls it down the hill, throws a rock at it.... His effort wears him out and he falls asleep, during which time the duck inside the egg hatches, sees the bunny and wonders at the sleeping bunny curled up alongside his shell.
The duck, in its turn, pokes and prods the bunny until the long-eared one awakens.
The two critters marvel at each other and what circumstance…

Give Poor Farmers a Fighting Chance

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From the Oxfam America online newsletter: This year, Congress will debate a new Farm Bill, which for five years will set policies that could either help small farmers at home and abroad-or keep them struggling.

The current Farm Bill represents a broken promise to America's farmers and rural communities, and it falls short of meeting its obligations to families that depend on food stamps and conservation programs that protect rivers and streams. To make matters worse, the current Farm Bill actually hurts poor farmers in developing countries. Click
here to tell Congress today to create a Farm Bill that reduces misguided subsidies and shifts those resources to support the programs that really need the money. To learn more about Oxfam's work on the Farm Bill, click here.

The Art and Soul of Life Itself for Republicans in Northern Ireland

A crisis can become the catalyst of creativity or destruction or both simultaneously. It's a deliberate, and sometimes very difficult, choice. When it goes well, the results are magnificent. (This mural from the 1980s is the work of Gerry Kelly and the people of Ballymurphy, West Belfast. It is based on a design by Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick.)

Graffiti's Medieval Antecedents

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When graffiti writers talk about tagging up, they are talking about a physical process that requires lugging paint, finding the right place, being there--in a subway tunnel, on a highway flyover, in an alley, wherever--whatever the weather conditions, cleaning the walls, and drawing letters that require full sweeps of their arms as well as small, controlled amounts of pressure on the nozzle.

The art of the letter form is thus very physical. Translating the fantastic image in the mind--the graffiti piece--into a larger than life mural requires physical, emotional, and spiritual acumen. It is marvelous to watch a symbol--already an abstraction--become further abstracted and then linked to yet another abstracted symbol, made to look three dimensional, and then filled with shapes or images or colors or more stories in pictures.

Graffiti writers at work--play--are like eurythmists who reveal to the eye through movement what language and music bring to the ear, according to British eurythmy i…

The Death Penalty for Hooking Up? Of course.

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As my little girl makes plans to go to a movie at school with two classmates, I find myself reflecting on the newest show of interest in hook-ups, or gang dating. Though my daughter is only eight--and smart, confident, independent, and loved--I wonder if the mob mentality might ever get the best of her.

Now, instead of girls and boys pairing off Barbie-and-Ken (mom-and-dad?) style, they're going out in packs. Awful things are happening. Reporter and author Laura Sessions Stepp has this to say about these things in her new book Unhooked:

Young people have virtually abandoned dating and replaced it with group ­get-­togethers and sexual behaviors that are detached from love or ­commitment—­and sometimes even from liking. High school and college teachers ­I’ve talked to, as well as researchers, remark on this: Relationships have been replaced by the casual sexual encounters known as hookups. Love, while desired by some, is being put on hold or seen as impossible; sex is becoming the pr…

Tigger in the House of D

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One day its Webkinz, the next it's Tigger causing nothing but trouble. The latest Educator Control Issue: 14-year-old Toni Kay Scott wore socks sporting the image of Winnie-the-Pooh's orange bouncy buddy to a middle school the dress code of which specifies solid colors only. No logos only. No pictures only.
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Violation of this policy at Redwood Middle School in the Napa Valley Unified School District of California wins you detention in a program call Students with Attitude Problems.

The problem as I see it from my side of this crazy continent is the vision problems pervading our educators nationwide. They can't focus, keep their perspective, or see what's important and what's not. They're micromanaging underwear choices, for crying out loud.

Webkinz: the Newest Next Thing to not Worry About

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Imagine a school system's investing time and effort into banning a specific brand of stuffed animal from its schools because the carnival-prize-quality plush critters' presence violates an anti-bullying policy.

I want to go to this school. I want to see this kiddie Shangri-la where the tough guys are made of polyester. Then, from a safe distance, I want to see the adults who kick the fuzz balls to the kerb because they are interfering with scholastic law and order. This has happened in Easton, Massachusetts, as well as Colchester and Mansfield, Connecticut, so far. Why?

WBZTV reports:
In recent years, schools throughout Connecticut and nationwide have tried to minimize distractions by prohibiting everything from Pokemon cards to Beanie Babies, Tamagotchi cyberpets and "Captain Underpants" books. The 44 different Webkinz stuffed toys reflect characters in an online game of the same name. Colchester school administrators say several students have tried to play the game on…

Waiting for Death at Age 4: Tay Sachs

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There is a grandmother who will not take vacation or go on extended trips this year. She will stay close to home and be available to her family. She keeps a very special vigil. She is the grandmother to a four-year-old angel who suffers from Tay-Sachs Disease and who will likely die this year.

Elise is a beautiful, beloved child whose family has cared for her in every way possible. Tay-Sachs has rendered her unresponsive. Surrounded by love, she nevertheless is alone. This child is subsists on a feeding tube. Hers is a difficult, demanding life the challenge of which her family has responded to with tremendous heart. Her mom Laurie says:

"Being a mother to Elise has been the most rewarding experience of my life so far. As Elise's mom, I have been given the opportunity to explore the depth of my love, character, abilities, and patience. I do have the endurance to go on when I feel I can't anymore. She has taught me to pursue things further and work harder than I ever would h…

The Story of Birdnest Girl

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This little story began in a conversation between me and Adella today when we discussed the state of her hair. We began the narrative by drawing the picture together. Then she started with the first sentence, gave it to me for the second, and on and on around the room until we had this collaboration between four adults and an 8-year-old girl. Della is responsible for resolving the seeds of anger problem.

Once, there was a girl with very messy hair. She was a lovely girl who was always very busy being happy. She went out to the bird feeder, and the birds were happy that they could land on her, though she did not at first even realize that they did so. Though they were unaware of each other, they were happy together.

The birds got busy and began making a nest in her hair. She still didn't notice them, though. She was always very busy playing outside.

There were no worms in her hair, so the mama bird brought brought back seeds from her travels. Unfortunately, they were the seeds of ange…

Stranger than Fiction

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New all-purpose response for questions without immediate answers: consult your narrator.

That's because life very often is stranger than fiction. Life--time itself--sometimes insists on transcending itself and becoming something interesting, challenging, meaningful, and rich in love--a work of art.

This is what happens in the 2006 movie Stranger than Fiction about IRS auditor Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) who finds himself to be the main character of acclaimed author Kay Eiffel's (Emma Thompson) draft novel. He's living a 9-to-5 life as The Taxman until love steps into his sense of time in the living form of bohemian cookie-baker restaurateur Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhall). Ana has not been playing by the tax rules, and Crick is her auditor.

Suddenly, thoughts of Ana interrupt the quotidian for Crick. He finds himself pursuing his dream of playing the guitar, he throws that silly necktie away, and worries not at all about the requisite number of brush strokes he applies to his …

Blessing on St. Patrick's Day

The Kingdom Here, Now, and Some Other Time

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God’s Kingdom is less a place or an idea than it is a total commitment to love one another, for it is through our love of one another that we become the agents of God willing to work to bring about God’s Kingdom on the earth in the present time. That Kingdom is a union of free human beings united to God and to each other; it is the fullest manifestation of the transcendent holiness and incarnate wholeness of Being. The Kingdom is already here, yet is still to come, and it will come by God’s grace with the free cooperation of the human race. (The Rev. Bill Stroop)

YouTube: Gutenberg or Graffiti? Both?

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In his book The Blog Ahead, T. Scott Hall talks about the the Web as the greatest paradigm shift in communication since the Gutenberg printing press. Just as the printing press had a hand in democratizing information by putting it in the hands of more and more people as a printed medium, so the Web puts just about every kind of information in the world at your fingertips.

Not only is it easy to get to but also it is easy to create.

Bloggers are making and breaking news stories, reputations, political careers. The key to survival in the future will be a matter of accepting rather than fighting this paradigm shift. Microsoft and Chrysler are two examples of companies who have done this and turned online consumer unrest into a marketing tool via blogs.

Further, Google is the paragon of putting the Web in the public's hands and then selling any and everything it can through that medium. I think it's a fair trade.

I think this because the freedom of blogging is genuine. Just now I uplo…

Shooting Stars are out of This World

Here's the final game of the Shooting Stars of Woodbury, Connecticut. They're playing their moms and dads and their coaches. I stayed behind the camera, from which vantage point I couldn't destroy the game for the grown-ups! We've got some great kids in this little town who, like their parents, play to win.

A Holy Man Lies Drunk Under a Tree

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I'm a Christian apologist, which is to say I've taken to apologizing for being a Christian. Among so many non-Christians, the name of Christian is the name of bigot, judgmental fool, intellectually simple but politically dangerous bore. The perception is with merit considering the way so many highly visible Christians use and abuse the Bible. These thoughts are behind this post.

"When the student is ready, the teacher arrives," Lao Tzu said. Five hundred years later, Jesus said, "Let you who have ears to hear, hear; let you who have eyes to see, see."

When you're ready to learn, you will. When that moment comes, all the earth will become your guru--from the rocks to the trees to the birds within them to the tired drunk sleeping at its base to the learned scholar walking by with his head in the clouds to the millionaire driving by in his fancy car. What you learn and how depends completely on who you are, where, when, why, how....It's wholly about who …

Get Real

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"Must then a Christ perish in torment in every age to save those who have no imagination?" (from the epilogue scene of St. Joan by G.B. Shaw)

More and more persons who celebrate Easter are taking time to experience the Stations of the Cross--a tradition some scholars believe was started by the first Christians in the years after Jesus' death--that is largely associated with the Roman Catholic,Orthodox Christian, and Episcopalian traditions. It is a good thing for all who believe in the power of love to recall that such power is realized only by actually living it.

It is a walking devotion with 14 stops, or stations, at which the pilgrim or journey maker pauses to recall a phase of Jesus' dying as recalled in the Bible or from tradition. From his condemnation to death, carrying his cross, falling, meeting his mother, meeting the women of Jerusalem, being stripped and nailed, dying, and being taken down and being entombed, the stations are inescapably about physical expe…

Baseball Prayer

The Bridge to Terabithia

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Put the soul on a protein diet of rich imagination, and you can change your world. This is the message brought to you by Disney's latest offering, The Bridge to Terabithia. Based on Katherine Paterson's 1978 Newbery Award-winning novel of the same name, Terabithia bears the hallmarks of a Disney movie: main character Jess Aaron (Josh Hutcheron) is stripped of his source of security--best friend Leslie Burke (Annasophia Robb) dies suddenly--and has to negotiate the world on his own.

If Disney grants mom and dad a stay of execution this time around, it's because they're essentially absent from this junior-high-school kid's life anyway.

Leslie's drowning as she tries to cross a river via rope to visit the fantasy land of Terabithia that she and Jess have created of the forest outside their rural town comes as suddenly as the movie as it might in real life. The event brings some long overdue family attention too Jess, but the challenge he faces is his alone.
Just as Le…

I am a Fag

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Not a day after I abandon the idea of a blog deconstructing cruel, ugly language do I find out that the arch-conservative poster child for all things cruel and ugly in America today, Ann Coulter, is way ahead of me.

She who has called former VP Al Gore a "total fag" and presidential candidate John Edwards a "faggot" had this to say on the show Fox news show "Hannity & Colmes": "The word I used has nothing to do with sexual preference...and unless you're going to announce here on national TV that John Edwards, married father of many children, is gay, it clearly had nothing to do with that."

Translation: Just because you think I said I think he's gay doesn't mean I think he's gay or even that I said that just because I said faggot; maybe you think I think he's gay because you think he's gay even though faggot does not mean gay and anyway I am part of the right-wing establishment that can grease its way through any tight s…

Right Back at you, Baby

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I woke up around three this morning thinking again about my daughter's situation on the basketball court on Wednesday night. The question came to mind, "What kind of story is this?"

This is the dumb question I ask of my college English classes whenever we start a new work.

"It's a coming of age story," many students often safely say about everything and would likely say about my daughter's story. "It's about loss of innocence," others predictably offer from within their bunker of the cliches they learned in high school English class.

The killer: "It's autobiographical. It's really about the writer--says so on the back cover."

Because nobody knows literature or even how to write a good sentence, the language of critical discussion dissolves into a banal discussion of the lurid details of the author's life. Being morons with nothing to say, we shall now leer through the back window and talk about what we see there. We'…

Talkin' Trash in the Berry Patch

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Adella played a beautiful game of basketball yesterday. She, as my neighbor who knows all sports puts it, is a great "ball handler." She can dribble that thing any way you want it and get it the hoop so a teammate with upper-body strength can shoot the thing. She's a fast-moving and coordinated 48-pound third-grader.

So why was she crying into her pillow an hour after the game?

Because No. 5 from the Middlebury Pink Ladies team told her she hated her for guarding her and taunted her every time they were near each other on the court. The "I hate you" did in a little girl who seldom hears those words and never before has heard them directed at her.

Dad to the rescue: "That's trash talk, and it's unsportsmanlike. You give her a trash talk smile and let it go." Men are smart, practical, and in the moment. When the moment's gone, so is the problem. Oh, to be a man....

The tears continue; so does dad: "Players do that to get inside your head be…

Poured out for you

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Some do it standing
At the window,
Gaze fixed on the horizon,
Fists pressed tightly to thighs,
Skin raised against the cold
Lining of a nylon work shirt because

The cold from the window gets in.

I can't do it that way.

I need my bed,
The warmth of a night's sleep
All over me and inside the robe
I keep on because

The cold from the window gets in

Otherwise.

It is better to do it in the bed
And let the warmth of your body
Combine with the warmth of it

To melt the cold of the window
And the morning beyond until it reaches
The warmth of the lovely white sun

That pours itself onto the sky for you
And comes like a dollop of cream
Into the coffee cup you hold
Like a tribute to more gods than you can name
In your warm bed.

Truth into Soil

Strange Attractions, Exploring Graffiti Talk to me

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Strange Attractions, Exploring Graffitiis about done. I expect to sew it together at the end of this month. Are there any graffiti writers out there who can contribute some new material from the Danbury area or who are willing to participate in an audio or video interview just to bring the thing up to date? Please contact me if you can. (Here's a great piece by Archaic.)

If you Could Read my Mind, Love

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"If you could read my mind, love, what a tale my thoughts would tell/Just like an old time movie 'bout a ghost in a wishing well...And when you reach the part where the heartache comes/The hero would be me..."

That old Gordon Lightfoot number reminds me of my dad. I remember as a fourth-grader hearing that song in an old diner in Norwalk, Connecticut, on a Saturday morning and admiring a package of butter rum LifeSavers in the cashier counter window. Dad had just bought our breakfast, and he managed the to read my mind and buy me the candy, too.

My dad was a telephone installer at the time, and he had taken my work so I could see what he did. I spent the morning in the front passenger seat watching him climb poles, work his magic, come back to me, and move us along. My father is an epic man in every way. He curses loud, talks in big pictures, lives well, enjoys a drink, and means every goddam thing he says. He also means well, though you're better off if you don't …

Mama Can't Dance

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This mama can't dance. In fact, until about five years ago, the sound of dance music, the prospect of a four-hour stint in a catering hall full of boozed-up, dressed-up and sprayed-down electric sliders, the hoky poky, the macarena, the chicken polka...would make me sweat. Then, my neighbor and friend Georgina introduced me to her husband Jim's "policy" (Jim's word) on dancing. "What's your policy, Jim?" she asked him one day while he studied the Yankees on the big screen. He didn't look up but said: "I'm against it."

"See how simple it is?" Georgina said to me.

Yes. It's that simple. Nobody has to dance. Simply, dance is not my thing. I can sit through the annual rendition of The Nutcracker, but that's about it.
Which is a clue to my ignorance about ballet today. The Nutcracker it ain't--not everywhere and all the time. Tonight, we took in a performance of The American Repertory Ballet at the Warner Theatre in…

All About Eve: The Ice Lady Keeps Coming

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"I know this woman," I thought with a mix of horror and comfort--horror that there are so many like her that she is a Type and comfort that others, like me, have been down the road with cloying, parasitic lurkers who take everything they can for themselves for no clear better reason than that's their MO.

The woman? Eve Harrington, the central character of the 1950 20th Century Fox prizewinner All About Eve. Starring Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holme, and George Sanders, is a movie about a cold bitch who uses everybody for her own gain. She is a lurker who takes on the personality of Margot Channing (Davis) and sweeps past her on the road to fame on the New York stage. Eve is everyone's darling until they realize they've been used and abused by a fraud, a cat woman who watches everyone she finds useful that she might learn their soft spots and weaknesses and work them and their strengths that she might mimic them.

In the end, the group of friends she exploits …

Just Have to Laugh Sometimes

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I've come across this list in a number of places, and it cracks me up every time. I hope you enjoy it, too!

1. At lunch time, sit in your parked car with sunglasses on and point a hairdryer at passing cars. See if they slow down.
2. Page yourself over the intercom. Do not disguise your voice.
3. Every time someone asks you to do something, ask if they want fries with that.
4. Put your garbage can on your desk and label it "In."
5. Put decaf in the coffee maker for three weeks. Once everyone has gotten over his addiction to caffeine, switch to espresso.
6. In the memo field of all your checks, write, "for smuggling diamonds."
7. Finish all your sentences with, "in accordance with the prophecy."
8. Don't use any punctuation.
9. As often as possible, skip rather than walk.
10. Order a diet water whenever you go out to eat.
11. Specify that your drive-through order is "to go."
12. Sing along at the opera.
13. Go to a poetry recital and ask why the poems…

This one is for Mr and Mrs. I and Their Children

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Copernicus got it wrong. Seems the sun is not the center of operations; I am. I am the average American college student raised in the cult of self-serving ideals; standards that rise and fall with my abilities, moods, and sad stories of my childhood and my current woes; and the sure belief that how I feel today is everything to everybody--and that's the way it ought to be.

There is a narcissism epidemic raging among university students, according to a comprehensive study by five researchers led by Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. Twenge and her colleagues examined the responses of 16,475 US college students who completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006.
Two thirds of the students had above average scores, 30 percent more than in 1982. Who are these narcissists? Persons who lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism and favor self-promotion over helping others. According to the study, narcissists "are more…

Master Percussionist John Marshall

I filmed this on Saturday, January 13. Here is a charismatic guy who knows his stuff and loves it. What an experience to watch this drum workshop. The still photos are the work of Sr. Jo-Ann Iannotti. See John Marhsall's websitefor more about him.