Filed under, “I learned something new today,”: How to Peel and Pit an avocado. I realize that at 42 this shouldn’t have been such a mystery but the reality is that I hate avocados. Hate is a strong word that some people do not allow their children to use. I use it when I hate something as much as avocados. There is just something about the texture and earthy taste that tickles my gag reflex in a most unpleasant way. So yes, I hate them.
Why, you ask, would I need to know how to peel and pit an avocado if I truly hate them?
It isn’t because my husband loves avocado and my teenager devours guacamole. Well, actually it is. I decided to make this delicious Mexi-salad with fresh guacamole for lunch today and normally I would ditch the green stuff but I saw avocados on sale at Sprouts this morning and my hubby and I are doing the Whole 30 Program and the man needs some good filling fat to take his mind off of beer and sugar. So, there you have it.
I’ve butchered many an avocado in my time but today I only butchered one out of four so you can teach an old dog new tricks. After reading instruction here, I decided I needed to see a human actually peel and pit an avocado and end up with something that did not resemble green silly putty in the shape of an egg. Ditch all the other methods; the video above is quick and brilliant and will change your life. You are welcome.
There ‘s enough “he said, she said” happening this week between Mark O’Connor and the Suzuki Association to give a gal whiplash!
At the end of this week the Suzuki Association released a response to O’Connor who reprinted the entire response with his responses to the response on his blog Parting Shots.
Read it. I find all of it very interesting.
Even more interesting is witnessing all of the hubub through the eyes of my non-music friends who have children taking violin, piano, flute, guitar, and probably other instruments using the Suzuki method.
They are very confused. Even the band folk are confused, I know this because when you play the violin and something about the violin pops up in the news everyone you know who doesn’t play an instrument comes to you for the scoop. Especially when it’s drama trauma like this.
Their perspective is different. They don’t necessarily associate the method their kid’s teacher is using to learn an instrument with the person who brought it into existence. They also don’t really care that much. They want their kid to learn to play an instrument because science has proven it’s good for them.
For those who grew up learning Suzuki method in the “olden days”, as my daughter likes to say, Dr/Mr Suzuki was a more tangible person. Our teachers were going to Japan to “study” with Suzuki and the ones who went made sure we knew all about it and if they brought a student with them you never heard the end of it. If I compare this to some of the method books my boys use for trumpet (brass) and clarinet I can’t say that there is as much of a connection or preoccupation with the life of the person who wrote their method books. Perhaps it is because those folks never jumped on a marketing train to wallpaper the world with their book – it stands and continues to stand on it’s own because pedagogues respect it and pass it down through generations of students. We have the Arban bible in our house and the ditties in that book are played religiously every day. I’ve never caught myself humming chromatic brass exercises in the shower… often.
I admit that in some ways what I’m suggesting is a comparison of apples to oranges because Suzuki’s method is more life encompassing than a simple method book but I think it is important to recognize that many of the parents of Suzuki students don’t really have the time to care about who Suzuki was. What they are hearing and seeing is a bunch of violinists arguing about a dead man while all they care about is their kid having a teacher they like, respect, and learn from.
On the other hand, quality pedagogical training is extremely important and there are generations of incredibly effective pedagogues who can be traced back through time and in the inner circles of music this lineage is important and people do care about it.
This is where I see Mark O’Connor missing the boat. There are tons of teachers in the US and around the world that teach using the best of everything they’ve learned. They teach and they teach well. Dismissing the value of these pedagogues is a mistake.
Violinist, and pedagogue, Mary Beth Rhodes Woodruff has this to say:
Mr. O’Connor should note the focus when it comes to the issue of Suzuki’s credibilities. To focus on him is to miss the point. Shinichi Suzuki is referred to as ‘Dr. Suzuki’ yet only honorary doctorates seem to have been issued. This is a bit questionable and feeds into the cult-mentality of which many take issue when it comes to Suzuki. If he was largely self-taught, great, but what right does the Suzuki association have to question the rest of us who are self-taught in its closed system of teacher directories and highly expensive teacher certification training programs?
What should be gleaned and learned from this is that no one system of pedagogy should dominate music education. Many of us that have chosen to be ‘non Suzuki certified’ but possess graduate degrees in music education and/or performance consider it an affront that the first page of every Suzuki book delivers an admonition to parents about checking their teacher’s Suzuki credibility. This is as transparent as it comes and shows that this system is guilty, as is the case with so many ‘systems’ of being tainted by monetary gain.
It needs to be clear that the ‘Suzuki Industry’ is a multi-million dollar one. O’Connor’s system is probably just as guilty if not more. There are fantastic pedagogues who are both Suzuki and non-Suzuki certified/accredited and if the Suzuki association is going to ask parents to question their teacher’s ‘pay in’ to the Suzuki system, it shouldn’t be out of bounds to actually investigate Mr. Suzuki’s credentials themselves. It is only fair play if they are asking parents to do this on the first page of all Suzuki repertoire books. Yet, it doesn’t need to be done with malice. It should be done with pure, gentle logic.
I admire so many things about the Suzuki method, yet a monopoly of pedagogy is not a good thing any more than Walmart’s taking over all small local businesses is a good thing. I only wish for more respect given from the Suzuki Association to those of us outside of their system who may possess graduate degrees, positions in symphony orchestras or who have trained under some of the best pedagogues in the world. Mine include Julia Bushkova, Andres Cardenes, James Buswell, and Ronald Copes – none of whom are Suzuki trained or certified.”
Earlier this week my violin teacher posted a link to an article that declares Dr. Shinichi Suzuki a fraud for padding his resume and lying about a number of other things. Apparently this is old news but for some reason we are all talking about it and the news outlets are now picking up on it. Anyway, I clicked on the link and read the article and was bored until I read the following:
I think it is one of the biggest frauds in music history,” said Mark O’Connor, a violin teacher and professional fiddler who has spent years delving into Dr Suzuki’s past. “I don’t believe anybody has properly checked his past.
Uh. Say what? This is the same Mark O’Connor I encountered as an undergrad at Vanderbilt and admired for his tenacity and drive, who helped legitimize the partaking of non-(uptight)-classical music for those of us “serious” music snobs? The MOC of the O’Connor Method that so many of my Suzuki teacher friends and my own children’s (non-strict) Suzuki teacher have incorporated into their teaching? Wow, is he really biting the hand that feeds him?
Wait. Is he trying to discredit Suzuki so that people jump ship and teach only his method?
Yes, he is. And at the same time he is inadvertently creating a diversion of epic proportions.
So, Mr/Dr Suzuki was an entrepreneur marketing his method to the masses (sound familiar?) and because he didn’t have the pedigree folks expected he took liberty with his bio. If he were alive we could fire him and crucify him and make him pay for his sins.
Too bad he’s dead.
His teaching method, however, is not dead and like it or not there are a lot of very talented and passionate musicians and educators that have and are using his method (or variations of it) to inspire young string players.
The crisis is not whether Mr/Dr Suzuki falsified his resume, whether the method is “cult-like” (it sorta is… I was chastised at the Beaver Creek Suzuki Institute during a parent meeting for letting one of my boys take a year off when he was 9 and hated the violin and everything about it and barfed on the teacher’s front lawn before every lesson for three weeks straight), or whether you should make sure your teacher is Suzuki certified, or, as MOC told me today on Twitter, “Suzuki helped strings to be less and less relevant in our culture – “violin lesson” becoming a negative term”. OH? Where was I when that happened? I didn’t get the memo. I plowed on through and was stupid enough to enjoy the whole dang thing!
I propose that the crisis here is not one of fraud (or who has the better method) but of how the heck we are going to work together to get string education back into our schools.
For years Americans have been cutting school music programs and now that research has proven music education is a valuable and important endeavor many communities are actively pouring money back into music education programs. Where is all that money going? To bands. My own community had money to fund a string orchestra at the middle school level but because there is no feeder program in the elementary schools it died out when there were only 6 kids in the orchestra (who, by the way, were all privately taught Suzuki students). Our middle school band director teaches 7 periods of band EVERY DAY and we happily fund it. Almost all 5th grade students in Redondo Beach, CA take a band instrument and continue into middle school. This is awesome but statistically my head tells me that we have untapped potential string players in this demographic. This scenario is played out in many many communities around the country.
People say there are no string programs because the bands play at football half time and I say shut up or put up because there are plenty of kids who would have chosen a stringed instrument given the chance and if they wanted to fiddle on the field many a school has sunk thousands into the perfect amplification system for them to stroll and play. There are no excuses good enough for why string programs are non-existent. Put simply, string educators must UNITE, find a voice, and make it happen.
I was feeling chatty this morning and took to Twitter and ironically the only person to engage with me was Mark O’Connor (or whoever he has tweeting for him-hopefully it was him). Here is my dialogue with him from today. Are you as fluxommed as I was?
I wondered why someone with such a powerful platform would waste it on bashing and alienating an entire segment of string educators no matter how much he disagreed with their methods. Why not summit? Why not unite? Why not negotiate and go forth with strength in numbers? If the goal is truly to get string education back into our schools, why not work together to make it happen? The thread speaks for itself – it was very disappointing.
This discussion needs to be happening with representatives of El Sisteme, Suzuki, O’connor and other stake-holders in music education
I also believe that the more important issue is not about what Mark O’Connor says or the Suzuki method or “fraud” or whose method trumps whose method. MOC is not the only dawg in this fight but he is admittedly positioned well to do some serious good for the future of string education. Sadly, it’s hard to move mountains when you don’t want to work with others and people don’t like you very much.
UPDATE: I reference the link to the Suzuki Association response and O’connor’s response to their response HERE
You should not take up music unless you would rather die than not do so. – Nadia Boulanger
I completed my undergraduate music studies in 1990. It was very clear at the time that the days of public funding for art and arts education were coming to an end. I recall a very disappointing conversation/debate with a friend (who happened to be heading to Washington after graduation) where I realized that my career path was not just one that would never make me rich, it was one that would require me to become a fierce advocate and fundraiser. Not surprisingly, shortly after I received my Master of Music degree and began actually working as a musician and teacher, I found myself burnt out and incredibly disenchanted with everything associated with the artsy fartsy world I’d been immersed in throughout most of my life. I hated that I never had time to practice anymore because now I was paying my own way and I worked hours opposite of my husband so we rarely saw each other. I hated that the union didn’t allow curtain calls for fantastic performances that went over time and that they disrupted rehearsals when a break was due. Everyone around me was tired and grumpy. Being spit out of the young artist’s bubble into the real world sucked and the future looked bleak so I quit.
(I’m a much better advocate and marketer of the arts than I ever was a violinist so it all worked out for the best.)
My quitting wasn’t much different from what San Diego Opera board did earlier this year when they decided to shut down the company. Not really, but personalizing and drawing comparisons is what bloggers do so there you have it. The difference here is that the people behind the mess, the board and more precisely the general and music director, Ian Campbell, not only quit something they had no business quitting but I’m willing to bet we will find that there’s been some unethical financial hanky-panky happening in the background.
Today’s news that Ian Campbell was being put on indefinite paid leave seemed laughable to me. Paying someone $500k a year to do nothing has to be painful. Certainly there are contracted terms under which this was necessary but there in lies the problem. Campbell has a pretty sweet contract for someone who is unable and unwilling to lead his organization through a predicted rough patch. If after 31 years you can no longer provide the value your job or jobs require you should retire or be fired and if your board is either unable or unwilling to do so then you are a poorly run organization in dire need of an overhaul. Arts organizations need fearless and creative leaders and the more I read about Ian Campbell the less respect I have for him. I think it is a shame that nobody ever questioned the business practices of this board and that the board never made a move to find someone to lead them through the journey to remain viable.
There’s been quite a soap opera playing out in San Diego and I’m certain it is only getting started. I hope the board finds someone gutsy, passionate and honorable to lead the company through the mess they have created. Donors want to trust that the organizations they support are organized and well-run and that their funds are being used appropriately. There are many questions to be answered in San Diego and I truly hope that this is just a case of stagnant and incompetent leadership and not something more sordid. I have to wonder how much damage this debacle has caused to those of us pounding the pavement to raise money for our own organizations.
Regardless, I don’t intend to quit this time 😉
Last night we arrived home after a week of lazy awesome fun at my mom’s house in Florida. When we crawled into bed around midnight (3am EST) both hubs and I sighed at exactly the same time and turned to look at each other grinning with our eyes half open. I know exactly what he was thinking. The sigh was heavy with happy vacation feelings and relief that the day of travel was over but mostly it was because there is NOTHING like being home in your own bed. No matter how great a vacation is, no matter how good a mattress we sleep on while away, we always miss our Tempurpedic – it’s probably about 10 years old and it is by far the best splurge we ever made.
We have always slept on a queen-sized bed but we talk about going King all the time because after 18 years of marriage we love a good snuggle but sleep is precious and a queen-sized bed is no palatial estate.
So, why haven’t we made the switch?
To purchase a comparable Tempurpedic mattress today, we’d be forking over roughly $5,000, plus the up-sell of the foundation and let’s not forget a fabulous bed frame, let’s just call it $8-10K.
If I had to do it over again I would have purchased a king-sized mattress to begin with. It would have meant having a bed that took up the entire bedroom in our tiny little Denver home and we probably would have had to install a larger front door upon delivery but at the time there was less vying to be on our financial list of priorities and it would have been so worth it.
With three kiddos ages 8-13 we could not possibly justify dumping our queen in favor of a king. In my head this is the conversation I imagine:
ME: So sorry you can’t go to college dears but look how happy Dad and I are in our king-sized sleep world!
Kid: That’s OK, you are the best parents ever!
I would rather sleep on my tiny little rectangle of space than lay sleepless on an oversized cheaper mattress so life in the queen lane will have to suffice. Life in a king-sized bed seems so nice, though….
The Ameriprise commercial with Tommy Lee Jones where they ask “Will you outlive your money?” haunts me. I am quite certain that we have already outlived our money.
Yesterday, as I sat on the beach in Marco Island, FL admiring the sweet older couples walking the beach hand in hand, the conversation in my head went something like this:
“This would be a great place to retire to. The people are active and there’s plenty going on. I’d like to retire once the kids are all through college and out on their own. How long is that? *mental math moment* Probably about 15 years or so.”
This conversation in my head then progressed to a mostly controlled panic attack and mental conversation about how we would pay for college and still be able to retire. All things Mr B and I have discussed in detail over the past 18 plus years. Still. This is scary stuff.
Last summer I turned 41. I’m probably at least if not more than half way through my life. In my late twenties and early thirties I thought I had it all figured out but I never accounted for the shit storms life would send our way. I should say that “we” had it figured out because I am part of a team, after all. In our early thirties when we started having babies we had impressive savings, owned a home, and had a spreadsheet that planned out a comfortable life with retirement at 60.
We had plans for everything – even our 3 children fell neatly onto a timeline and spreadsheet. Somewhere along the way a failed business, economic downturn, and crazy unexpected life expenses (including our son’s emergency brain surgery followed by two more brain surgeries that were covered by insurance but tapped us financially, nonetheless) brought us to a place where that damn spreadsheet is in a major state of chaos.
Growing up is hard, yo and that stupid spreadsheet even had emergency back up plans built into it.
There is no such thing as the perfect plan.
I believe that flexibility is a gift and so rather than allow the deviation from our Perfect Life Plan to panic me I shall embrace flexibility.
This is the gift I will give myself and the theme for my forties shall henceforth be: Flexibility