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THE NEW PALS CLUB WEB-LOG

THE NEW PALS CLUB WEB-LOG
improbable-looking limestone karsts in Guilin

Friday, July 06, 2018

Great Poems Limericked

In 2015, there was a brief craze of converting great poems into limericks. Over at Making Light (any of the date links will take you to it), I joined in for a couple of hours one night, and then added a little bit more to the pile the next morning. I realized today that I should put those here on my own web-log, for reasons.



Tichborne's Elegy [Tichborne] [monosyllabic redrafting 20180706]

My prime of youth’s no thing but cares,
And my corn field is choked up with tares.
Found my death in my womb.
All the earth is a tomb,
And my life’s but false hopes and mean snares.


My Last Duchess [Browning]

See? my wife’s portrait painter was skilled,
And with telling detail the work’s filled.
But her temper was such
That she smiled far too much,
So that’s why I had the dame killed.


Ariel’s Farewell [Shakespeare]

Our revels are ended. The score,
The towers, and globe, are no more.
We’re naught but the shade
Out of which dreams are made
And we round our wee lives with a snore.


Lessons of the War [Reed]

Nature’s bounty calls out to our hearts
With the lure of lewd beckoning tarts,
The Japonica twines…
But the carbine’s clip shines
For today we have naming of parts


Spoon River Anthology [Masters]

We’re the dead folk asleep on the hill,
Of our life's substance freely we spill.
Some were victims, some kind,
Some were evil defined.
All are grist for the moralist’s mill.


The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam [FitzGerald]

As the sun's rays light turrets at dawn
We’re fresh vessels, fired up to go on.
Freshly crafted and fine,
Filled with promise and wine,
Yet by night, we’re all drunk, and then gone.


To His Coy Mistress [Marvell]

Had we more time and space at our call,
I’d not mind your reluctance at all,
But you might die a maid,
And I’ll never get laid!
Best we drop this demureness and ball.


The Listeners [de la Mare]

The Traveler called out at the door
That his promise he’d kept, as he’d swore,
Till unanswered, bereft,
He grew weary and left
Just our silence behind him, no more.


Fire and Ice [Sandburg]

So some say earth will finish in ice,
While some others say fire’s just as nice.
What I know of desire
Makes me lean toward the fire,
Or perhaps some atomic device.


Jerusalem [Blake]

There once was a man who said, "Hark!
Did Jesus set foot in this park?
Did he once tread green hills
Where are now mostly mills
That are British, satanic, and dark?"


Edward [Anonymous ballad]

“O Edward, my son, do you bleed?”
“No, I just killed my hawk. …No, my steed.
Well, in truth, I killed Dad.”
“O my son! Why so bad?”
“You should know! Your damned words did I heed!”


Green Eggs and Ham [Geisel, aka Seuss]

“I am Sam! Have some green eggs and ham!”
“For your foodstuff, I don’t give a clam!
I’d not eat them here, there,
On the sea, ground, or air…
…Hm, no: wait. These are great! Thank you, Sam!”


Spam [Python]

Spam Spam Spam, Spam Spam Spam, Spam Spam Spam
Spam, Spam, Spam Spam Spam, wonderful Spam:
Spam Spam Spam, Spam Spam Spam
Spam Spam Glorious Spam, 
Spam Spam, Spam Spam Spam, Spam Spam Spam Spam!

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

-.-. --- -. -.-. . .-. -. . -..

[A series of tweets]

Dad once bought a pair of code keys for us. They were wired to each other, and they could click, buzz, or light up little bulbs. I was pretty excited, though I didn't learn Morse Code well enough then, or ever. I could send some, but no way could I receive.

Dad and his little brother, my uncle, had had a set something like them back in their kid days, in the 1930s. Each was proficient at sending “___ IS A SISSY (fill in the other’s name)” and “POOEY TO YOU FROM ME.”

I would think of those when I saw ads in comic books for what was virtually the same toy. The picture shows a kid’s room. Outside, a car accident has occurred! Inside, the kid taps away, looking concerned.

And I’d think: Who’s he sending to? Is the key in his brother’s room even on? Did the batteries already juice up like ours did? Is he just lighting up the bulb on his own unit while the victims of this car wreck are bleeding out?

It seems like a perfect metaphor for something. Probably for my online activity. Oh no! Bad thing has happened! I’d better start clicking the code key!

(Alas, the only thing I know how to send is “POOEY TO YOU FROM ME” anyway.)


Oh, well. Back to clicking, I guess.

-....- ...-- ----- -....-
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Thursday, June 07, 2018

An Unforgettable Concert

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A local orchestra in western Massachusetts had an enticing program of Gershwin—Rhapsody in Blue, the Concerto in F, and the string orchestra version of Lullaby (not the biggest draw in that guise, but not enough to keep me away). 

First up was the Lullaby, and I got a bad feeling. They were pioneering new intervals, the Major Unison and the Minor Unison. The First Viola was quite good, playing competently in tune. If I could have applauded just for him, I surely would have. The Concerto began. I should have left after the Lullaby, but was curious about the soloist. Well, he was no First Viola. He would start each section confidently, get in trouble halfway through, and hurriedly limp to its conclusion, confident that things would work out in the next. (Narrator voice: They didn't.) A couple of minutes from the end, orchestra and soloist were so far from one another that the conductor stopped the music. Unfortunately, he started it again, and I guess they were on the same page when they finished, so thank heaven for small favors. There was a standing ovation from what I presume was an audience of family members. I neither stood nor unlimbered my hands, which remained tucked under the opposite elbows. I slipped out and listened to a good performance of the concerto on my way home.

I skimmed the Springfield Republican with interest the next couple of days, looking for a review, and was rewarded with a brief account of the triumph of the musicians, which did, however, wag its finger briefly at Mr. Gershwin for certain infelicities of orchestration which, in the opinion of the writer, made the piece unnecessarily difficult for performers. Well. That settles that, eh? Everything was just fine, and it's the composer's fault it wasn't.
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Sunday, May 13, 2018

to the memory of an angel

I
Back in the 80s, I worked with Mike, who had strong opinions on classical music. He complained whenever Boccherini came on the radio: “The epitome of empty note spinning!” When a Tchaikovsky piece went into a long final inning, he’d yell at the radio, “Oh, finish it already!” He stood for high standards. He didn’t think Ravel would make it into the long-term classical canon, or Prokofiev, or Rachmaninoff, or Gershwin, or even Stravinsky (who he loved). I asked him, what 20th century piece would make it? He thought a moment.

And he told me about the Berg Violin Concerto.

II
Alban Berg (1885–1935), Viennese, fathered an illegitimate child in his teens as part of his first big romance, with a married woman named Marie, whose nickname was Mizzi. He attempted suicide, failed, then settled down after meeting the woman he would marry. A student of Schönberg, he wrote atonal and 12-tone music, including two operas (one unfinished). Unlike Schönberg, he wrote melodic music with a wide palette of emotional affect. The Nazis went after him as part of their “Degenerate Music” [Entartete Musik] pogrom, probably because of his association with Schönberg. 

In January of 1935, the Russian-American violinist Louis Krasner met Berg and asked him to write a violin concerto for him. Berg, who didn’t want to be bothered with a showpiece, resisted, but Krasner persisted, arguing that he could write a piece with beauty, “demolishing the antagonism of the ‘cerebral, no emotion’ cliché.” Berg finally agreed, though he went on working on his second opera, Lulu, paying little attention to his commission.

In April of 1935, Manon Gropius, daughter of Walter Gropius and Alma Mahler Gropius (and who was much loved by the artists and musicians who surrounded Alma) died of polio at the age of 18. Berg asked Alma if he could dedicate the piece “to the memory of an angel” (the score’s subtitle), and began composing in earnest, putting his opera aside.

He had finished the skeleton of the piece on July 15, and on August 12 had finished its orchestration. “I never worked harder in my life,” he said, having basically written this concerto in six weeks. 

III
A 12-tone piece, using a system based on Schönberg’s work in which the twelve notes of the chromatic scale are put into a specific order that forms the basis for thematic material as well as harmonic organization, the concerto is based upon a tone row that Berg created:


The twelve notes can be taken as four groups of three, and each group is made up of a major or minor triad. These are G minor, D major, A minor, and E major—G, D, A, and E are the open strings of a violin. The last four notes in the tone row make up the first four notes of a whole-tone scale. Berg uses all of this in his piece.

After a one-measure intro, the concerto opens with ‘open string’ arpeggios from the solo violin.


Berg seems to be calling attention to the instrument itself, but the piece doesn’t remain abstract for long. There are a number of developments, including a waltz and the quotation of a Carinthian folk song with the line “I would have overslept in Mizzi’s bed…”, making the piece partly autobiographical, in addition to being about Manon Gropius. The piece also seems autobiographical in the turbulence that develops, along with warlike drumbeats, as the world, especially Austria, went mad around Berg. About nineteen minutes into the piece, the clouds are dispelled and the music calms itself. Then comes a sort of miracle.


I remember Mike telling me: “Berg quotes a Bach chorale, and it fits right into his tone row.” The last four notes of the row, the whole-tone scale, are the first four notes of this almost unearthly (because of the four whole tones together) chorale melody by Bach. “Es ist genug. Herr, wenn es dir gefällt, so spanne mich doch aus.” “It is enough. Lord, when it pleases thee, then grant me release.” I stood before my classmates, presenting the artwork I based on this piece, trying not to choke up as I said these words.

The violin quotes the opening line, and wind instruments take up more of the chorale. The concerto goes on to finish with tranquil resignation, acceptance of fate and loss, and recaps the ‘open string’ figures from the start, with rising transpositions of the tone row, from bass to cello to viola to horn, and finally as the last statement from the solo violin, ending with a long, soft, high G that floats over the last notes of the orchestra like the first star of evening.


IV
Berg died in December, 1935, without hearing his concerto performed. His opera, Lulu, had been finished in piano-vocal score, and he had orchestrated two of the three acts. On April 19, 1936, the concerto was premiered in Paris with Krasner as soloist. Viennese composer Anton Webern had been scheduled to conduct, but at the last minute, he was too emotionally distraught to go through with it. On the 18th, organizers of the concert prevailed upon conductor Hermann Scherchen, who was there for the event, to step in. He was given the score at 11:00 the night before, and had thirty minutes the next day to go over the piece with the musicians. 

On May 1, 1936, Anton Webern and Louis Krasner played the British premiere of the piece with the BBC orchestra. A recording of the piece can be found at YouTube. I'm not sure why embedding doesn't work today, but the sound is very good, and this is as close to a definitive recording as I could imagine.

part 1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTYAm0BXkxs

part 2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKO-GKUgDXw

part 3
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3P7pz4aCNSk

part 4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O59hMmE98Jw


V
For my final project in my fourth and last semester of music theory with John Reef at Nazareth College, I chose to make a stained-glass window (in Photoshop) based upon this piece. The above sections are based on the presentation I made before the class to lead (not a pun) up to it. The colors came from stained glass photos on the web. I lettered the scroll by hand on a graphics tablet with a will of its own. I should rework that sun, as the detail has vanished from it. Tried to make it plausible as a piece of glass-and-lead craftsmanship, though the roots strain credulity—they'd have to be painted on, I guess, like the in-ground and in-flower detail is intended to suggest. I roughened the texture on purpose, if you're wondering.

kw Stained Glass Concerto

VI
An asteroid discovered in 1983 is now named Asteroid 4258 Berg, in honor of the composer.
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The star in the wind

FOR THE MOTHER
OF KATHRYN BARBARA

There’s a Star in the wind, and the wind winds high,
Blowing alight thru fog, thru night.
Thru cold, thru cold and the bitter alone…
There high in the wind rides a Star, my own…
And the Star is a word…of white, of white…
And the star in the wind is a Word.

Porkypine 1953
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Walt Kelly, creator of the comic strip Pogo and all it contained, married for the second time in 1951, to Stephanie Waggony, and on October 31 of 1952, they had their first child, Kathryn Barbara Kelly, who died shortly after. No date is known, but Kelly refers to her in the December 8, 1952 daily strip, and he worked about three weeks ahead of publication:


And again in the December 25, 1952 strip, as Porkypine shares that slice of cake with a sad Pogo:



I don’t have the reprints for the dailies (and Kelly tended to leave these strips out of the collections), but one of my sources says he returned every Halloween to the bug with the cake, looking for a child trying to have a birthday.

A commenter at one of the blogs where I found these strips quoted from the October 31, 1955 strip, where the cake bug says,

"I'se lookin' for somebody what tryin' hard to be a year old... Not everybody makes it. I got a cake here for he who do."

UPDATE: A kind soul sent me five more strips, bringing us to 1957, after which I believe he said the references stop.

1953:





1954:




1955:





1956:




1957:



(End Update. Back to original post.)

Anyway, it's Mother's Day, and that put me in mind of the poem, first spoken in the strip by Porkypine in 1953, and which stands as the dedication to UNCLE POGO'S SO-SO STORIES (1953). Till today, I didn't know about the annual cake strips.
Hug somebody.
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School Days

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In the early 70s, I had long hair which attracted the attention of the cowboy wannabees. One, in particular, harassed me in the locker room every day I had gym. Mutton (not his name) was lanky and sullen, with thick, rubbery lips, and he threatened me regularly and threw anti-gay slurs at me because of my hair. I took it in silence, not wanting to escalate. Though there were other cowboys (we called them goat ropers), I was ignored by most of them, possibly because one of the most popular in the group seemed to make it a point to be cordial to me (and I was grateful to him for that). I was conscious, though, that if it had come to a conflict, I didn't want to rely on them all staying neutral.

Mutton continued his mostly verbal assaults, until one day I snapped. He called me some variety of “queer” for the thousandth time, and I had simply run out of flying forks to give. Looking right at his face with its livery lips, I said, “Well, at least I don’t wear lipstick!” There was laughter from several directions, and he went red and clammed up and turned away. This small victory didn't exactly make me any happier, since I expected he would now be looking to get back at me for it.

Soon after that, though, he was gone. Up and vanished from school. Word filtered out that he had killed someone—his nephew. I’m pretty sure it was stupidity rather than murder, but he was gone nonetheless. A manslaughter rap. I don't know anything about the legal proceedings, but if it stuck, he probably would have gone to Juvie. If it didn't, maybe his family kept him out of school anyway.

Three or four years after I graduated, I was in the checkout line at a local market where the owner was known for giving troubled kids a second chance, and there was my former antagonist, sacking my purchase. “Hey, Mutton,” I said perfunctorily. (This was a local equivalent of hello.) He looked up and favored me with the same sullen expression I'd seen all the other times, and mumbled something back, and I took my bag from him and went on out into the bright, lovely day. I felt free.
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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Classical Gas

The Disney corporation, ever sensitive to the winds of change, and (since at least the 1950s) ever willing to recut their old products up for present-day sensibilities, determined to get out on the cutting edge of kid appeal by folding flatulence humor into their classic releases. Leaked memo from 2008 reveals some of the specific ideas explored.

SNOW WHITE: 
While cleaning the kitchen, SW can't get the dust out of a large jug, so she has animal pals blow dust out. Bunny butt puff is insufficient, so she has a deer help out. Later gags showing reactions of dwarfs to jug: When Doc first opens it, small cloud comes out; Dopey interacts with the cloud, which reacts with alternate coyness and forwardness; Grumpy scowls it back into the jug, but it comes back, etc.

PINOCCHIO: 
Gags added to "Give a Little Whistle" number by simply substituting flatus sound effects for original whistles. Amusing echo business.

FANTASIA: 
Again, simply adding sound effect to existing scenes: "Dance of the Hours" when hippo lands on gator, "Toccata & Fugue" when big trapezoidal solid walks across screen, and in "sound track" sequence when it makes the big drippy noise. Ideas for adding bottom burps to "Night on Bald Mountain" and "Ave Maria" are nixed by humorless suits in front office.

BAMBI: 
Thumper's poem about eating greens is changed to: "Eating greens is good for your heart / There's vitamins in every part! / (But they always make me hafta fart! …I made up that last part myself.)"

LADY AND THE TRAMP: 
Jock taunts Trusty several times by expelling gas near him. Trusty, having lost his sense of smell, is oblivious until the last time, when he tells the abashed scottie "I ain't DEAF, ya know!"

SLEEPING BEAUTY: 
Joke is in "outtake" added at the end, when Prince Phillip bends to kiss his sleeping lady. Gas noise is heard. She giggles, and they both break up.

CINDERELLA: 
Faithful horse is given distinctive sound effect for flatulation, followed each time by horse laugh, and when he's turned into coachman, he still makes the noise and the laugh.

PETER PAN: 
It's no longer enough to shake Tinkerbell for fairy dust. Now you have to squeeze her. Wendy gets relationship off on wrong foor by mis-hearing Peter and calling her "Stink" the first time.

THE LITTLE MERMAID: 
Additional verse and many animated bubbles for "Under the Sea" number. 

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: 
Lumiere occasionally shoots a blue jet from the old afterburner and says "Pardon!" with Gallic charm and no sign of embarrassment.
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Repurposed from a 2008 post at rec.arts.animation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Child's Garden of Robots [part 1]

from A CHILD’S GARDEN OF ROBOTS

An Optimal Morning

A robot with a blinking head
Stood beside my trundle bed
Took my vital signs and said
“Normal tolerances read.”


The Little Friend

I have a metal playmate Papa made when I took ill
He fetches things I cannot reach, and brings my morning pill
He tells me what’s on telly, and he wheels me on the green,
And he helps me keep my dining room and playroom good and clean.

When he stands right beside me, he comes just up to my chin,
But he can touch the ceiling when he squeezes himself thin
And he can lift my bed up just by spreading out quite squat
And he can make me go to bed, if I want to or not!

One morning, I woke up before the clock was telling five
And saw him there beside me, very still, his eyes alive.
He tracked each movement that I made, and hummed and clicked inside,
I asked if all was well. "Oh yes," my metal friend replied.

My metal playmate’s my best friend. He's with me every day
He's stood by me, although my other friends have gone away.
My life would be so dull without the truest friend I've seen.
And Papa says he’ll make a girl for me when I’m thirteen!


The Traffic Copper

The robot on the street tells all the autos where to go
And tickets robot cars who drive too quickly or too slow.
It’s terribly observant, and its eyes don’t miss a thing;
Its moves are like a dance so quick it makes you want to sing.

When I start walking 'cross the street, it holds its hand up high
To signal all the robot cars to part and let me by
But if I ask “How do you do?” it never answers back
But gives a friendly little wave to keep me on my track.

I sometimes stand and watch it from the bus stop’s comfy bench.
It’s never tired or angry, and it has no thirst to quench.
It does its job all day without complaining of sore feet.
Why can’t we all be like the shiny robot on the street?
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Friday, March 23, 2018

Josie and Fred and Make Believe



This is an edited rehash of a stream of tweets I made around 2013 or so, revisited today on the occasion of so much interest in Fred McFeely Rogers, one of the greatest Americans I know of. I'm watching him right now, streaming on Twitch TV. I was an early mocker of Rogers, based on a slight amount of attention I paid his show around 9th or 10th grade. Later, my friends Randy and Torger communicated their admiration for him to me, and for the last year I lived in Colorado I made it a habit to watch the show with them every day after I got off work.

Fred Rogers was a multitalented saint. In '59, he & Josie Carey made  an LP based on their Pittsburgh TV show. For a while, this was available at Way Out Junk, whose proprietor had obtained a copy of my rip of the soundtrack LP, by way of a tape I made in 1983 from the girlfriend (at the time) of my cousin. Thanks, Kathy B., for assuming I would be interested in this and arranging a time for me to dub it. The LP had no cover, but Way Out Junk came up with photos of front and back. The tracks are now available (but for how long?) on YouTube, and I will link to the first part and trust that readers have the tech savvy to find the rest. (Hint: They're in the sidebar. If they aren't there, they may be gone completely, or they may turn up for a search.) 




I made up many of the track titles, which appear to have been sufficiently descriptive or obvious that they were used by Way Out Junk and by the helper (in the Rogers sense of the word) who kindly put them all up at YouTube. As you can see, we now know the real titles, and some of my guesses don't comport with reality. If it happens that you need to search for the tracks some day, consider using both sets. This is the page of results I get searching for the album name and the first track and youtube. Forgive me for not embedding each and every track here, but things change on the net, and by putting all the eggs in this basket, I might find it easier to change this post if it should pass that it gets pulled from there.

Before the tracks begin, let's look at a short video from 1969, in which Rogers testified before a Senate subcommittee which was hastening to do Nixon's bidding in de-funding public television's $20M budget. Speaking to Senator John Pastore (D-RI), Rogers communicates quietly and earnestly, and in a few short minutes, he saves NET (or whatever the network was being called at that moment in time) from the axe, and probably gives an angel its wings. It gets me every time.

Now for my guided tour through the tracks on this album of wonders. I can't count how many times I've listened to the whole thing. When I listened to tapes, this tape was always in the ones I carried to and from work and such. It was one of the first things I ripped to mp3, and has had a place on every music player. It's on my phone now. I am in the tank for it, and in my opinion it is a work of genius—genius in the service of a good heart. (Did you watch the Senate video?) In editing the tracks, I tried to start each one with the song portion. There may be instances where I just couldn't separate a song from its intro, but that was the plan, anyway.


“It’s Morning” has a familiar tune to those of us who’ve watched his Neighborhood. Fred Waring & His Pennsylvanians back it. All the songs were written by Rogers, an underrated composer. His outstanding musical collaborator, Johnny Costa, played the music on the show with his trio live every time, including opening and closing themes. His album of songs from the show is well worth seeking out. Costa based the very familiar lead-in to the opening theme on a passage from a Beethoven sonata, according to an interview that is also on YouTube. This album comes from before the Costa years. "It's Morning," sung by Josie, sets up a mood of joyous anticipation that is so very Rogers.

Rogers, incidentally, is not heard as himself on this LP, but every voice that isn't Josie being Josie is the sound of Rogers, and he wrote every word and note, so he's not exactly unheard.

“I Like You” shows Rogers’s acceptance of his listeners and viewers. He really does like us just as we are.

“What Would You Like” and “There’s a Smile” are upbeat booster songs. What would you like to do today? We are offered a number of possible options, all cheerful. There's a smile in your pocket, and it would like to be on your face. 

Ah, but we’re approaching the castle of King Friday XIII! He's a very busy man; a very busy man!

“I’m Busy Being Busy,” sings the self-harried King of Calendar Land, who drops a bombshell: Tomorrow is… missing! Daniel Striped 

“Where Did You Go, Tomorrow?” echoes the central concern of the adventure, with canonic polyphony. Josie and Daniel are hurriedly deputized as royal detectives to find Tomorrow! (She is to be National Peanut Butter Cookie Day, so you can see how very important it is.)

“I’m Looking for a Friend” is so vivacious it makes us almost fear Josie’s quest for friendship, so similar to our own search.

"It Makes Handsome” is a charming calm-down from Grand-Pere, in English with French syntax. Daniel stays with him as Josie goes on.

“Find a Star” slows Josie (and the story) down some, but she's still finding some nice clear notes to bring out. Make a wish!

X the Owl enters, baffling Josie with harmless, friendly sarcasm. “Fine Feathered Friend” is a tribute to friendship. We meet X's right-wing neighbor (literally: she lives on his right, and he has wings, not hands), Henrietta Pussy Cat, aka Hen. ("What should I call her? Henry?")

Josie cues her own song, “Smile,” anticipating a lesser song in “Annie.” Say, these songs would make a swell Broadway show. Just take the whole album to the stage. I'd watch it.

“Meow, Mister Rogers” is an explanation by Henrietta. Oh, yes, Mr. Rogers has a telephone! A very short epic, worthy of multiple listenings.

X honors Josie in “You’re Special”: “You’re an ice cream cone / You’re a lollipop…” As a bonus, X recites his poem about Y: “Y, by X.” We will hear this tune again.

"Where Did You Go?” is a different song which reprises Josie's growing frustration at the lack of clear progress so far. But who's this, hanging by her toes from the ceiling?

It’s Lady Elaine Fairchild, who drops down for “I’m Special,”  a socko (self-) parody of X’s song. This is the best number on the album—a real showstopper:

"I'm a grapefruit crate
 I'm a rusty can
 I'm a piece of wax; I'm a box of tacks; I'm a glass with cracks
 I'm a frying pan...
 I'm special!

"I'm a leaky pipe
 I'm a garlic bud
 I'm a soggy match; I'm a burlap patch; I'm an itchy scratch
 I'm a sea of mud...
 I'm special!

"I heel and toe it when I walk,
 My nose grows, oh so charming
 My friends all say I'm like a clock
 Because I'm so alarming

"I'm a case of mumps
 I'm a crooked boot
 I'm a pile of rags; I'm a chair that sags; I'm a paper bag
 I'm a broken tooth, darling!
 I-I-I-I'm special!"

The microtonal singing is worthy of Darlene Edwards. It may be one of the most awesome puppet solos recorded, and I've heard a few.

Daniel leaves Grand-Pere in a sweet, bilingual “Nocturne Duet” that reminds us that Mister Rogers, like Sparky, was a man of faith.

Fait accompli, Josie & Daniel are back “At Friday’s Palace” with respectful four-toothed smiles to receive an exciting reward. 

And there we are. Adventure over, we look forward, not back: “Finale: Tomorrow!” anticipates more delights to come, and comes closer to the familiar version of the song that ended each day's visit to "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood." I'm hearing him sing it right now as he puts on his outside shoes and exits another show at Twitch. And here comes Costa's daily improvisation to put a ribbon on it.

I love this record. Once again thanks to Kathy B. 

Before I go, though, this should also be included in any discussion of Mr. Rogers should also include one of the most striking examples of quiet heroism I have ever seen. On May 1, 1969, Rogers went in front of a Senate committee that was intent on defunding public broadcasting, as it then existed. He spoke to them quietly and earnestly, and with nothing but conviction and persuasion, he won those tough guys over.


Okay. Done now. 
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Saturday, March 10, 2018

The New Ozymandias

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I met a farer from a far-off strand
Who said, “Two giant feet of bronze, gone green,
In water sit, bedecked with broken chains
That show their maker well did understand
That bonds of former slavery, still seen,
Convey defeated servitude’s remains.

Near by, a broken torch lies, dead and dark
In grimy water’s tide that, fitful, passes,
And on the base, these words my eyes did mark:
‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses
Yearning to breathe free—’ Here ends the poem,
The rest is swallowed in the rising water.
Along the shore, starved, feral humans roam
Whose brandished weapons offer naught but slaughter.”



KW 20180310
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Sunday, February 18, 2018

New Phases and Unrelated Matters

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1 New Phase

I'm into a new phase. Where I had been reading at the gym during the hour I'm on the Futile Cycle and the Trudgemaster, I am now listening at the gym. The new storage card on my audio player is so darn big, I loaded hundreds of hours of radio shows (Gunsmoke, Marlowe, Johnny Dollar, Shep, ISIRTA, Hitchhiker, Lux, Lampoon, and anything by Welles seem to make up a lot of it). 

I've enjoyed my recent reading of screenplays, Doc Savage books, and whatever else I could find, but I haven't enjoyed the days when the scale showed me gaining weight back that I'd been keeping off since they sawed out my gallbladder, and I noticed after a couple of days of audio narrative that I seem to be able to keep the heart rate higher and cover more phony miles when I'm not taking info in through my eyeballs.


It took a couple of days to get used to not reading. It helps to not turn my tablet on at all, obviously, but then I start looking at the screens at the front of the gym. Closing my eyes works for that, at least often enough to break the spell. Even with that, I ended up comprehending the last half of some drama about agents (FBI, I guess) getting the last laugh on a mad bomber who killed six redshirts under our hero's command in the backstory. I almost looked at the guide to see what series it was when I got home, but then realized it just didn't matter and never would, so I did other things.
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2 An Unrelated Matter

In an unrelated matter, I got some help with ignoring the voices in my head from a surprising source: the voices. Most of the time, they're no problem—they're entertaining, and a rich source of crazy ideas A, B12, and D3. When I'm playing or practicing piano, though, it gets to be a bit much. As I explained once, it's a little bit like practicing while Robin Williams stands just off to the side, quietly but audibly free associating the whole time. 

I've long been aware that something has been acting as a wall that I regularly would hit while trying to execute some piece of music. I'd be doing fine, then bammo! Mr. Fuckup strikes again! Well. One day I was playing along, and the second internal track was doing its usual distracting thing, and a voice on that track actually said something very much like, "You know, these voices are probably part of what's keeping you from playing better." BINGO.

Having a brain that thinks it can multitask isn't always a bad thing. A while back, I made a big improvement in my playing one day when I noticed that I was mentally sending a directive to one of my hands along the lines of: "Okay, if Right Hand doesn't peg the melody in the part, just outline it in the thumb line." In other words, I was designating imagined entities for specific tasks. So I created an invisible henchman (I should give him a name—he's earned it) and tasked him with always knowing where I should be looking in the score. Looey (there you go) stepped up to his job admirably, and my playing was noticeably better.

So I had this resource, and I needed to figure out how to make it work for me, given that even if I pay close attention to a measure and get it just right, my subsequent thoughts (Got that just right! Oh, if only X was listening right now! It would go a little… like… THIS:…) would take me right off the rails again. 

I ended up with something like the bit in my 1970s Transcendental Meditation™ training where the instructor (Jeff Peckham) said, "From time to time, your mind will want to wander. This is okay. Just gently put it back on the track and resume your meditation." (I dropped Jeff's name up there because I saw a news story a mere handful of years ago about how he was being a gentle thorn in the side of some local movers and shakers, and that made me proud to have briefly been his pupil.) What I decided to do was to put a question foremost in my mind that I would return to again and again, like the protagonist in MEMENTO reading his tattoos in the mirror. That question is "What do I have to be doing RIGHT NOW?" It became my new mantra for practicing. Heck, maybe I should use it for everything, along with my philsophy of life, "Left foot. Right foot. If not there yet, repeat." 

So I use it, and I think it helps that I've been playing with the Irish group now for about three years, and that I'm in my fourth semester of music theory and aural skills. The answer to that question is always a combination of words ("Next comes a chord with A at the bottom and a C# under your middle finger"), and the look of the notes, and the feel under my fingers of how the correct combination will be. It's a description that should include every note to be played (though if one hand knows its part well enough, I can expend most of the energy on the weak one). 

So far, so good. It's like I'd been around 65% of where I felt I should be, and have now gotten up to 80%–85%. When I'm playing something I know intimately, even if I haven't done justice to it in execution, the figure feels even higher.

Thanks, voice. That was useful! I haven't shut you out of my head, because you've been useful to me more than twice, and you're entertaining when I'm mowing the lawn or washing dishes. Also, I probably can't. You're still there when I'm sequentially depressing those keys, but you're not the boss of me, and you're way less distracting. So far, so good.
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