323,000,000 people live in the United States—61.3% white—that comes to 198,000,000—which leaves 125,000,000 non-white. Anyone preaching division in our country is trying to cause trouble—period.
Human nature is such that any form of institutionalized division, even so-called ‘separate but equal’, will lead us down a path that can only end in persecution, slavery, or genocide. And America is uniquely vulnerable to this abhorrent rationale, being a melting pot, and having hundreds of millions of people from every corner of the earth—every race, every color, every religion, every orientation. If we start to tear ourselves apart, we’d make our first civil war look like a tea party.
So, anytime someone tries to sell you on division or hatred, they’re really encouraging you to partake in a bloodbath. They want your blood to spill. Oh, they’re nice enough about it—all reasonable and logical sounding at first. But their bottom line is death—for ‘many sides’, as the orange fool would say.
In the land of equality, when people claim others are unequal—they are the problem, not the others they’re so aroused about. By their logic, writ large, if any one person on earth committed a crime, we should all be in jail. That’s a lovely fantasy, I suppose—but this Nazism thing is often a symptom of a more general mental mistake—trying to rationalize things into what one already believes them to be, or what one wishes things could be, instead of taking them as they are (as godawful messy as that may be).
So, hurry up, Mr. Mueller. I think Congress is about ready to impeach—as soon as you can tell them just how horrible the whole back-room story is, they’ll no longer have any defense as to why they still sit on their hands while an egomaniac ruins our country.
The summer rushes on—July reaches an end and the lonely, hot month of August is all that stands between us and the coming of another tilt of the global axis, anti-sunward. My daughter’s daughter, my granddaughter Seneca, had her first birthday—and, of course, her first birthday party (with balloons and cake and presents). Ah, youth—just to look at her makes me feel younger. I, for one, can’t wait for this August to end—because the three of them will be visiting afterwards—and that’s worth another winter.
Claire is painting and printing and charcoaling and pen-and-inking and oil pastel monoprinting and doing pencil portraiture and life studies and plein-air landscapes—it’s been summer art camp for the Bear this year. She’s fantastic and I’m hoping she’ll let me make a video out of a retrospective of her sketches sometime—but not everyone is comfortable splashing themselves all over the internet like I do, so we’ll have to see about that plan….
Spencer has been doing yardwork and home repair—on the one hand, I’m jealous because that used to be my favorite part of being a homeowner—but on the other hand, it’s great to have a real strong man around to do the stuff that needs to get done. I don’t know what the problem is with ‘failure to launch’—we couldn’t get along without Spencer’s help—I’m grateful that he hasn’t felt the need to move far away.
For now I’m having a great old time using baby videos to add a spoonful of sugar to my piano-playing videos. I figure it doesn’t really matter about the playing—how many people can ‘go to the videotape’ to review the first year of their lives? It’s not like it isn’t a happy story. And I’m not quite done yet. I’m listening to Borodin’s 2nd Symphony—it’s nice and long, and good music, which makes it perfect for working at the keyboard.
I’m working on the new batch of videos—this time ‘round, I’ve recorded a bunch of songs from my Dover Music Publications’ “The Ancient Music of Ireland – Arranged for Piano by Edward Bunting”. I include “Molly My Treasure”, “Plangsty Hugh O’Donnell”, “The Jolly Ploughman”, “Slieve Gallen”, and “Give Me Your Hand” (also known as “Tabhair Dom Do Lámh”, the track title used on the Chieftains’ “Chieftains 5” album). I can’t tell you how delighted I was to realize I was playing one of their favorite songs of mine. I practiced and practiced, but I could never approach the speed and vivacity of their recording.
The improvs—well, what can I say. They’re there—that I have the strength to sit on the bench at all is a minor victory, so there you go. It seems that the more tired my playing gets, the more adorable the baby becomes—so, she’s pulling most of the weight on these videos—thank you, Seneca!
Well—back to work—I can’t post this thing without the videos.
I am pleased to present to you my latest videos, featuring my adorable granddaughter (and my piano-playing). She has just started to walk, her first birthday is next week, and they’ll all be coming to see us in a couple of months—hooray!
The Republicans never wanted those tens of millions of citizens to have health coverage—that would mean “socialized medicine” (that dreaded scourge that keeps the entirety of the-rest-of-the-developed-world healthy). Besides, worried the GOP, how will insurers and pharmacists maximize their profit-potential with the government looking over their shoulders?
And so the Republicans fought tooth-and-nail to prevent passage of the Affordable Care Act—they called it a ‘death panel’, they scare-mongered until scare-mongering became the habit of theirs it is, today. The Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act. Tens of millions of citizens have health coverage today because of it.
Repealing the Affordable Care Act would threaten the lives of tens of millions of citizens. Repairing the Affordable Care Act would be the obvious choice for any sensible person.
But if voters had any sense, these charlatans wouldn’t be elected into the offices they hold. How they can shamelessly wave their billionaires’ tax-cut in our faces like they’re “doing good” is beyond me—is there no limit to their dis-ingenuousness?
A child could see through their blatant posturing—just as a child could see through Trump’s blatant posturing, when he started tweeting about “tapes” of his convos with Comey. These dopey clowns that run our country would be met with gales of laughter, if not for the horror they practice upon the youngest and weakest among us—I think I understand Stephen King’s “It” a lot better now.
During the Depression, it became obvious that business owners were a threat to the equality of the workers—but with the Red Scare, we managed to deny that—and denying that business owners are a threat is a founding pillar of the Republican platform to this day. When Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a new awareness came to the public—an awareness that what we do, and the waste we produce doing it, and the poisons we use doing it—has an effect on the places where we live.
Even as we busied ourselves, learning to throw our trash into receptacles (instead of on the ground)—chemical and petroleum companies began to push back on the idea of ecology—denying that our use of natural resources could have any ill-effect on the Earth—or that resources would ever run out. And climate-change-denial is still a part of the Republican platform, as well.
It was different in the past, when big money and big business had an understanding ear in the GOP—now, it seems more as if the fat cats outright own the GOP—lock, stock, and ethics. The masses of people who overlooked the favoritism of the entitled for the promise of conservative, unchanging security—they have become dupes of those who would make great change—and most of it retrogression or partisanship. And now they have a crazy man in charge—it may take time, but they will come to see him as a dangerous man.
So many of our political footballs carry within them some sort of denial on at least one side of the argument—right-to-lifers deny that legal abortion is better than illegal abortion—climate-change-deniers ignore the preponderance of both scientific authority and evidence—marijuana-haters deny the probability that pot has many medicinal uses—gun-nuts deny that the ubiquity of guns has any connection to our sky-high murder rate—it goes on and on.
And these people have their arguments, their points-of-view—but seem, in the end, to simply deny something which they are uncomfortable accepting as part of their reality. I can sympathize—but I still think they’re wasting their own—and everyone else’s—time.
It’s my lovely Bear’s birthday today—may she live forever! O, how the celebration will ring out across the universe. O, how joyous are the people of Earth to have the mighty Bear in all her glory, marking another year with all of us.
The Bear celebrates her day with special yoga sessions and perhaps a jar of lingonberry preserves. We don’t know—the mysterious Bear moves about the community with speed and stealth—she is not presently here.
Improv – Jones Beach
Bear’s home! And it’s time for bagels with lox and cream cheese—yay! I got Bear a selection of Swedish jams and soda-bread for her birthday—from Hemslojd, you know. I think she liked the printed tin more than the food. Well, enough of that—Bear doesn’t like to be talked about online.
Improv – Pop Patchouli
Monday, April 10, 2017 7:34 PM
Pete came by today—we got just one improv out of it—I haven’t been playing well lately. It’s very frustrating. But Pete is great and we had fun, so one improv is all we get. Considering how much trouble the piano has been giving me lately, I’m grateful for the one.
Improv – Five Dollars
Improv – Appalachian Trail
Cover: “Girls On the Beach” & Improv (Coda)
Improv – Breezy Meadow
Improv – Water Sprite
Tuesday, April 11, 2017 6:59 PM
I’m almost done with new videos—including Pete and I from yesterday. I watched “Hidden Figures” today—what a great movie—I’m going to get the book—movies about history always leave out a lot from the book. It’s one of the few times you can still enjoy reading it after watching the movie—because it still has surprises in it.
This weekend started with a bang—but it sucks that we have to get our jollies from seeing our criminal president and his cynical Congress get their asses kicked. If only we could acquire the knack of electing statespersons instead of lickspittles. Well, there’s supposedly a surge of young women getting into politics as both activists and candidates, so maybe our choices will improve in future—let’s hope so. Not that men can’t produce the occasional Al Franken or Tim Kaine, but such men are rare as hen’s teeth on the beltway, or in state legislatures. Women can hardly hurt things.
Improv – Spring Dance
But enough about worldly matters. Oh, one last thing—the ‘Spring Dance’ video I posted today includes pictures of the grandbaby at her first Women’s March in San Jose—such a cute little protestor! There are also shots of the princess (and family) at her first California vineyard wine-tasting and a St. Paddy’s celebration. Even more exciting are the videos of her first attempts at crawling—that kid’ll be mobile any day now—poor parents.
Cover: “Who Needs to Dream”
These videos have taken me two weeks to get posted—I’m slowing down some, lately. But even without the cheat-factor of using cute baby pictures in the video, I think the music is okay—as always, it’s the best I can manage. I yam wot I yam, as Popeye would say.
Improv – Retro-Chrome
I’ve recorded the Barry Manilow covers before, but I enjoy them so I did them over again. Barry is the king of schmaltz—and I’m a big fan, even if my playing (and singing) doesn’t show it.
Improv – Hymnal
I guess I’ll have to get busy at the piano—these six new videos represent only a part of the pile of pix and video that’s been coming from Jessy lately—and I can’t show you all the baby cuteness until I have music to go with it. Still, I think what I’ve posted today should keep up anyone’s cuteness quota for awhile.
Improv – Haunted House Blues
Okay, I’m done—please enjoy these latest offerings.
It was fun playing with Pete yesterday, as always—we did Sixties covers and an improv at the end—shorter than usual, but I’ve been somewhat fatigued lately—this post also has two solo videos I’ve been trying to upload for a few days.
I enjoyed the annual arrival of March 4th on Saturday (You know… ‘What’s the only day of the year that’s like a military command?’) The worse a joke is, the better I like it. It was also brother Russell’s birthday the previous day, March 3rd—had he lived, he would have been 59 last Friday.
Lots of politics in the news—but I’ve decided it’s all a big conspiracy—the politicians, the media, the wealthy, the corporations—they do their little school play and we all applaud, like they’re responsible grown-ups instead of empty suits with staring fish-eyes. As Al Pacino once said, “I’d like to take a blowtorch to this place.” Now that they have us arguing amongst ourselves over what’s true, we’re doomed—they’re even dropping any pretense of ethics, they have us so locked up—it’s pitiful.
So I’m taking the night off from playing their bull-pucky games. I tell you what really gets me—the pretension to respectability, so transparent, so far removed from actual respectability. All we expect of them is that they can speak intelligently about the job they’re supposed to be doing—and they can’t even get that much together.
But pose? Man, can these monkeys pose. I suppose, given the majority of them having no ethics, it’s just as well they don’t know much. But enough about politicians—competent people are hard put to throw themselves in with mongrels and such saintly folk are thus eternally doomed to labor in the minority—like Warren, Franken, and Sanders. My blogging, about what that gang of thugs in Washington is doing, is even less effective.
Well, there goes my plan to write something cheery. Dammit.
What can I say? I’m not a chipper guy. And I really am feeling tired lately—it’s not helping. I think I have political depression—they’ve changed our democracy into a reality show/game show/talk show—and I get depressed remembering the good old days—when people still had working heads and democracy was a serious responsibility. Remember? It was just four years ago.
Anyway, thanks as always to Pete, for being such a good sport about playing music with me—and for being such a good friend.
Sunday—and February almost over—these months just whip by if you don’t stay on top of them, eh? I’ve gotten a whole slew of new baby videos in from the fam—so, new YouTube videos are the order of the day.
I sent a Rusty-the-Robot teething toy—which appears in the videos—she seems to get a kick out of it, so I’m a happy grampa. Lil Sen is really starting to crawl now, so there’s lots of action in the videos—Sundance here I come.
With a February like Spring, it isn’t that I deny Climate Change—it’s just that I kind of like it. Is that wrong? It’s not like I’m the guy causing it.
I’m reading a new sci-fi book called “Breakthrough”—it’s about a lady scientist who tries to tell people that ocean levels are falling. No one will listen to her because they think she’s a climate denier—but it turns out there really are aliens running a star-gate on the ocean floor in the Bermuda Triangle, siphoning off seawater for their parched planet. It’s fun—I hope the earthlings win—we’ll see.
I’ve been adding a lot of sappy stuff to my Spotify playlist recently: Van Morrison’s “Into The Mystic”, Johnny Mathis’s “Chances Are”, Billy Holiday’s “I’ll Get By”, Dusty Springfield’s “Spooky”, and some Chopin Nocturnes—even some Carpenters, and Barry Manilow—I guess I’m getting backfire from Valentine’s Day, I don’t know. I’m always into sappy, but I don’t usually dive this deep.
I’ve spent the day creating new piano videos for my YouTube channel. These are something a little new—I’ve taken my ‘masterpieces of art’ graphics collection and interleaved them with baby pictures of Sen—so you see one old master, then Sen, then another old master, and so on. The baby watches the videos at naptime, some days, so this will give her something to look at besides herself—and all the paintings are colorful with vivid images (which was why I collected them in the first place).
One of the videos is fairly long—that’s partly because it includes a ‘cover’ of the old Carpenters tune, “Yesterday Once More”, which I play rather freely, for a wonder—and the following improv is about twelve minutes—so, a rare recording in several ways. The other one is shorter, just an improv, and only remarkable in that I chose to name it ‘Toothpick Charlie’, for no reason on earth—it’s a funny name, is all. But I’m satisfied with both performances, making it a good day’s work.
My mom’s not well—the doctors are trying to figure her out but so far the best they can do is a morphine drip. I wish I could travel—I’d take up residence in the bed next to hers—I could use a good morphine drip—and those damn doctors could get around to me once they’ve figured out my mom. Meanwhile, we’re all pretty concerned.
Been doing a lot of reading lately—nothing to write a review about, but passable fare. It’s like that old bumper-sticker about ‘a bad day of fishing vs. a good day of work’—a bad book is still better than your average TV show.
Okay, time to slow things down. Trump’s blitzkrieg of incompetence has the overall effect of forcing us to play his game, on his timetable. He does and says so many inflammatory, imprudent, borderline-illegal things that we simple folk are spurred into instant response—there’s never time for sober discussion—his stupidity is faster than light.
And while it may seem impossible to justify ignoring Trump and his minions for even one second—I sense that pulling back from his shit-storm of non-ideas, and taking the time to laugh at him and them—and to remind ourselves that life goes on, madness in the White House be damned—is the correct course. When caught in an inane conversation with a drunk, we don’t try to win the argument—we try to move away from the drunk—and this seems the sensible course in the case of Trump’s fascist Justice League of Losers and their obsession with media-storms.
Granted, Trump’s Electoral College win is a huge blow—in spite of the majority voting against him, he holds the presidency for the next four years—and that’s a lot of power for a crazy egotist. But the sub-set of Americans identifying as Trump supporters is still, in many ways, a far more ominous threat in the long term. These people are trapped within the echo-chamber of ‘alternative’, resentful, paranoid fantasies about how the world works, outside of their town.
Where their existence was once threatened by the ubiquity of information, the rise of biased information sources has now strengthened their grip on such self-excusing delusions. Bigotry is back in fashion. As long as Trump (and their portion of the Internet) reinforces their balky refusal to open their minds, they’ll feel infinitely justified in maintaining even the craziest notions.
These people have even been convinced to vote against Health Care, for themselves and their families. Think about that. It’s not far different from offering someone a juicy steak dinner—and them punching you in the mouth, like you’d insulted their mother.
You tell them the globe is warming, sea levels are rising, untold disaster awaits—and when their boss at the oil company, or the coal mine, sez, ‘No, it isn’t’, they dutifully jeer at the scientists. Scientists! People who make a career out of sweating the details—and who, more to the point, have no dog in this race—unlike their deniers.
I’ve seen regular people—not rich business owners or anything, just regular folks—who actually oppose the Minimum Wage. The sole purpose of a minimum wage is to make it hard for employers to pay you less than you deserve. Do these people think that the rule will only apply to immigrants—and even if it did, do they hate immigrants that much? How will they feel when their own kids can’t find work that pays their rent? Minimum Wage might start to look a little more attractive then.
So, in my humble opinion, there are some tragically, self-defeatingly, self-destructively stupid people out there—and a lot of them vote. For the most part, they don’t really oppose the changes that the Left promotes—they simply fear change—and that is their only real point of agreement with their leaders, especially Trump. Imagine a 21st-century American putting billions of taxpayer dollars into a wall—a big, stupid wall. Hasn’t he read Clausewitz?
A wall can be swum around, tunneled under, and flown over—if Trump’s idea was to stop immigrants, he’s a failure—if he merely wants to inconvenience them—good work, Donald, spend away. Although it should be noted that immigrants are no strangers to inconvenience. The act of building a big wall can be seen as less of a practical exercise and more of a desire for the world to be so simple. It is a statement more than an achievement—and those familiar with Trump’s pre-presidency resume will recognize this theme.
The sad truth is that rich people raise lazy kids—and rich countries raise lazy citizens—America maintains its preeminence by constantly blending in fresh blood. And if the newcomers are not creamy white, that is beside the point—they are eager—even desperate, for a chance to make something of their lives, and their families’ lives. They work like dogs. They take everything seriously. They listen to what’s going on around them. Basically, all the stuff that you and I are too ‘over’ being Americans to bother with.
These people prevent the rest of us from drowning in our own toxins of apathy and entitlement, selfishness and irresponsibility. They recharge the battery of America and they always have—our own ancestors were part of the process. Deciding to stop now, to shut it all down, to ban travel and build a big honking wall—suicide—sheer suicide for our country and ourselves.
Don’t take my word for it—look at Europe. A lot of those countries are accepting refugees, not simply out of the goodness of their hearts, but also because their populations are becoming too small and too aged to maintain their economies. They need immigrants—and the only reason we don’t is because we’ve always had them. We’ve never known what lack of change, lack of growth is really like—stagnation is foreign to us—but not for long, if we keep up this xenophobic nonsense.
Spencer gave me a music book for Xmas—piano arrangements of works by Joe Hisaishi, a famous composer of anime films by Studio Ghibli and video game music, he’s also issued some albums. I’m loving getting to know this stuff—the melodies are fantastic, but bear with me—it’s not every day I get new sight-reading material and it’s still unfamiliar ground. I plan to post covers of every piece in the book, eventually.
I’m still digging myself out from under the profusion of photos received and recordings made during the holidays and the rest of this month. Today’s posted videos include one from a month ago, and three from a week ago—but they also include over one hundred photos that I’ve just gotten to processing. So, nothing in today’s posts is recent except the effort.
You’ll excuse some of the holiday photos—there’s still mostly nothing but baby pictures, so you can live with a few ornaments. That baby gets cuter every time I look. I barely listen to myself play the piano on these videos anymore—I just gaze at my adorable granddaughter and remember her recent visit.
It’s been a long week—but I used the time to get my backlog cleared, so it wasn’t a total loss. I needed to have a lousy day or two, just to convince myself that photo-shopping picture after picture was a pleasant enough way to pass the time, compared to the rest of what was going on around me—so, there’s no cloud but has a silver lining, once more.
I long to return to a time when I play for the camera, process the video or videos, and post them to YouTube—all in the same day. This playing catch-up is for the birds—and I’ve got a crick in my neck from repetitive keystrokes during the hours of photo-shopping. I’ve gotten to where I prefer receiving videos of the baby, rather than a slew of photographs—much less processing involved for five minutes’ worth of background graphics.
Enough shop-talk. Sometimes, I swear, I type just to hear myself think. This blog is supposed to at least try to be interesting.
The Buds-Up Time-Space Orchestra was delayed last week by a cold my partner caught—but Pete’s all better now, and here’s another fine mess he’s gotten me into. Seriously, though, I think some of it came out pretty good.
We almost didn’t get to the music, what with discussing the craziness in today’s politics—things are getting weirder, and not in a comfortable way. Eventually, however, we were able to move along to the Gershwin brothers—the song “Clappa Yo Hands” is one of their unfortunate efforts to force a patois onto the lyric—but it’s a nice song.
Then we tried Yellow Submarine and Yester-Me Yester-You Yesterday, both of which I suspect we’ve done before—but we mostly do the covers to warm up for the jamming (at least, I think we do) so no harm done. It’s hard for me to follow a professional drummer when I’m goofing around—add sight-reading and the results are suspect at best. But it’s fun to try—maybe don’t call the covers ‘music videos’, call them videos of us having fun—that’s the idea.
I’m pretty happy with the two improvs—I tried to play along with the drumming and mostly managed it—and the music isn’t awful. Five stars, as far as I’m concerned. Well, it’s been quite a day, what with the playing and the processing and the posting to YouTube—so, th-th-that’s all, folks!
I’m exhausted from responding to alt-right trolls on Facebook. I know that nothing that happens on Facebook matters worth a damn—and I know I’m never going to change the mind of any of these hysterical jingoists. Still, with things as they are, whenever any of that pro-Trump idiocy appears on my feed, I’m going to keep on responding, contradicting and insulting the people who post it.
I didn’t use to. I used to look at their stuff and say to myself that no one could ever be so blind as to be taken in by the charlatan and his creepy minions. But the Electoral College has proven that I was wrong about that. So now, whenever I see a stupid, thoughtless post in support of criminals who just happened to get elected—I post a reply of my own. I don’t want to—I’ve got better things to do—certainly nicer ways to spend my time. But I will no longer let these lies go unchallenged—even in the wasteland of Facebook.
Is it wrong of me to insult these people? Under ordinary circumstances, yes, it certainly would be. And if they are truly so deluded that they believe in Trump, it’s actually cruel of me to torture them with my scorn. But a lot of these people are just feeling the oats of their misogyny, racism, nationalism, and plain old resentment over how shitty their lives turned out. The miserable irony of it is that they have been conned into staunchly supporting the very people that keep their lives so miserable.
Can you imagine it? These rich, powerful people—who can create major changes with the stroke of a pen—accuse the poor, the sick, the displaced, and the immigrant of causing all our troubles. These cynical pigs stand there, with their hands on the switches, their fingers on the buttons—and they expect us to believe that the most powerless, vulnerable people on this earth are causing the problems. It’s beyond tragedy—it’s even beyond farce.
Their eagerness to smear anyone who stands against them is a sure sign that they have no conscience, no real concern for anyone but themselves—they echo the true accusations we make against them, like little children—yet enough people were taken in by this childishness that he won the Electoral College.
So, I apologize to all you people who I may call Stupid (and other things) over the course of the next four years. Please understand that I wouldn’t insult you without reason—you have been stupid, you continue to be blind and ignorant to the real threats, and you show no sign of wanting to become un-stupid in the foreseeable future. If the situation allowed for me to be polite enough to ignore your empty-headedness, I would gladly let it pass—but stupid in a crisis is a real danger, and I don’t have the luxury of etiquette anymore. However meaningless and futile my comments and posts on Facebook may be, they are my only point of push-back against the cretins—besides, evil pisses me off.
The ladies will be having brunch at PJ’s today—although it may be just lunch—we’ve gotten a late start on the day and everything’s sideways, in the best possible way.
Friday, December 23, 2016 4:45 PM
Make it lunch, definitely lunch—they’ve just gone an hour or so ago—and Spence has been through with a vacuum to get all the pine needles. We got a nine-footer this year—and it looks grand, just like the old days—way too big for the room—perfect.
Marie was by for a visit last night—and just before, Great-Nana was by for a look at her latest tree-branch. Sen gets along with everybody—she’s a real charmer. We’re all having the happiest of Christmases—except for the new dad—who is stuck at work until after Christmas—it doesn’t seem fair.
But I guess there’s no getting around the reality of being a restauranteur during the holidays—just like performers, this is their rush season. There should be a second Christmas, an unofficial one—about Jan 3rd or so, for all the people that have to work to make the rest of us happy during the holidays.
I remember enjoying going Christmas shopping on the Friday before Christmas—I used to be skinny and quick and I loved to slip through a crowd of people—crowds can be very intimate. But it’s only fun when you’re young enough to think that everyone else’s head is also dancing with sugar plums—I imagined a Christmassy glow coming off all the busy, noisy people, though I imagine some of them were quite grumpy, without me noticing at the time.
And now the girls are back from lunch and shopping! Hooray!
I’m trying to post my final Christmas carols before anyone gets here—I expect to be posting far less once the house gets full-up. I have the raw recordings from last night, but editing them will take some time. This always happens to me—I’m about to complete my big project of recording the entire Christmas songbook—and before I finish, I’m already feeling foolish for having bothered. After all, who wants to watch a long piano recital by a half-assed piano-player, no matter the theme of the concert?
But then I remember that family will watch. Poor piano-playing can actually add a homey touch to a video—and these videos are as much baby-albums of all little Seneca’s pictures and videos, as they are piano performances. I haven’t really created a Playlist—I’ve created a deluxe photo album of the first four months of my granddaughter’s existence (with holiday soundtrack included). And that is certainly worth a little effort on my part.
Just as few words about the completed playlist of: the Big Book of Christmas Music. There is one song missing from the book—“Joy To The World”, strangely enough—somehow the page came loose, and I couldn’t play just the first page, and stop in the middle. It’s not important—I’ll just include it in the next book’s recordings (“Joy To The World” is in every Xmas songbook).
Also, there are a few of these that I don’t play so well. Some pieces use figurations, especially in the left hand, that are difficult for me—I usually avoid them, but this was a clean sweep of the table of contents, from beginning to end, so I did the best I could with the ones I shouldn’t have been playing. The good news is that I won’t be posting these carols ever again, now that I’m sure I’ve done the whole book.
In doing this sight-reading every year, I’m always struck by the carols and songs that are of an earlier popularity—the ones that you can only barely remember hearing before—and then in childhood. There’s really an endless supply of Christmas and holiday music—I was just watching Bill Murray’s “A Very Murray Christmas” (2015) on Netflix yesterday—and that whole musical special was a list of songs I don’t have the music for—great stuff, too. I hadn’t realized there’s this very show-bizzy-type side to Christmas music as well—and Paul Shaffer is fantastic at that stuff. It was excellent fare—for a Christmas Special.
As for the words—this was a big project for me—and close-captioned lyrics would have made the whole thing take ten times the work. If you want to sing along, the lyrics to songs are easily searched online—so, I left it to you, if you want them, they’re out there. I did supply the title at the beginning of each song, so you’ll know what song to do a lyrics-search for.
I have to write something nice to post. I’ve started to get some conflict between my gruesome, acidic rants and the videos (of baby-granddaughter and the Xmas-carols) that go with them. I don’t want cute photos of our little Seneca to be stuck beside my venomous diatribes and gloomy Eeyore-isms. So, if I don’t write something pleasant, I have no post to put the new videos in.
Monday, December 05, 2016 8:46 PM
Christmas Music sweeps a broad path—it isn’t a genre—it’s more of a filter applied to every genre. It has the sanctity of church music and the jollity of Santa Claus, the grandeur of Hallelujah and the intimacy of a newborn’s cradle, it has angels in heaven and Elvis in a Blue Hawaii—there are very few things that can’t be squooshed into a Christmas Song, when you get right down to it—including silver bells, one’s two front teeth, and Grandma’s vehicular demise.
I like to be chronological about my annual return to the Christmas-music pile. (When we were younger, I made a point of putting them back in the library bookshelf every January, but lately, they just sit in a dusty pile by the piano until December comes round again—it’s like: why make your bed, if you’re just going to sing it again next December?)
So I start with the carol books—songbooks that focus on the ancient and traditional standards. By the time I work my way up to Irving Berlin and Jose Feliciano, that stuff sounds downright snappy, compared to stuff that was written contemporaneously with Gregorian Chants—or hymns written by Martin Luther himself (does that guy have to do everything for you Protestants? Write a hymn, dammit.)
This year, I’m recording Christmas Carols for YouTube videos like it was my job or something. I guess I hear a skull chuckling at my elbow—and this is my way of setting myself up for absent Xmases. But it’s a good thing I started early this year, in November—here it is December 5th and I’m only half-way through the first book of songs.
I have about five different caroling books—and if I get that far, I have some George Winston sheet music, too. I feel like Winston’s “December” Album is the last modern-day addition to the Xmas-music repertoire. That, and Lennon’s “War Is Over”, and Joni Mitchell’s “River”, represent the furthest reaches of Xmas-music evolution for my generation—younger people could probably cite more recent ‘classics’, but such would be dross to these fuddy-duddy ears.
The rare instrumental Xmas-tunes are my favorites—but they are unanimously difficult on the piano—Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker excerpts, Handel’s Messiah excerpts, Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Bells”, March of the Wooden Soldiers—you name it: if it has no lyrics, it’s a bitch to play. But I get a little better every year. Come to think of it, if my other musical efforts were seasonal, I’d probably be making better progress with them as well. I should have an era a month, from Elizabethan to Swing—that would probably be fun. Hmmm.
But December is taken—and I am on a mission. In future years my carol-playing may become worse, but it’s highly unlikely that it will ever get better than it is now—so the video archive of all of it will make a repeat of the same thing unnecessary next year and in years to come. Maybe next year I can try for the whole Nutcracker, or the entire Messiah (which would be tricky without a full chorus, but there are arrangements…)
Someday, I’d also like to do a good recording of Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons, all twelve months—it’s not official Christmas music, but there’s something about the winter months that’s very seasonal—and it does end with December, after a November ‘sleigh-ride’. Plus the fact that it ‘circumnavigates’ the year makes it kind of New-Years-ey, too. It’s Xmas-ey to me, anyhow.
I’m reminded of my good fortune in being an amateur musician—while doing these books from front to back, I find some of the fun is fading and it’s becoming a bit of a chore. Music is all fun and games until you’re committed to doing a pre-determined set-list, one after the other, easy or hard, like it or not. It’s a whole different animal—and I’m not even performing.
Friday, December 02, 2016 9:21 AM
Living Today (2016Dec02)
If my health were a small child, I would give it my sternest look and say, “I’m very disappointed in you.” Our bodies are a miracle of moving parts, of chemical balance, of evolutionary design—I should be grateful that mine works at all. Bodies are fancy British sports-cars—genius engineering, incredible performance—but get some moisture in the fuel line, a little air in the brake line, a slight under-pressure in the tires—and, suddenly, it’s all hobbled, wobbly and life-threatening.
I’m feeling tremendously empowered today—for a rarity, my body is mobile and my mind relatively clear. That is a glaring contrast to the last few days, when I had so-many-more-than-usual pings and ratchets, I felt ready for the junkyard. But this is something healthy people (and I remember, once, being one) do not have the capacity to appreciate—to wake up in the morning with a clear mind and a body that does what you tell it to—such incredible power—such potential for this day.
I love to write. I bitch about ‘who cares?’; ‘is anyone listening?’; ‘do I have anything to say?’; and so forth, but the truth is I do this because it feels good. Sometimes I go off the rails—but I don’t post everything I type—I give myself liberty to write whatever-the-hell, and then I decide whether it’s fit for public exposure. Like most people, my privacy is important to me—and I try to respect the privacy of others—but that means I’ll never be good writer. Actually, the desire to keep myself to myself is just half of it—I’m also a lousy liar—and a good story-teller has to be comfortable telling stories.
But I don’t need to be good at something to enjoy the hell out of it—take my piano-playing for example—horrible stuff—but you can see that I’m very into it. And I write the same way. I’ll just be sitting around or watching TV and I’ll be struck, out of nowhere, by a notion that propels me to the keyboard—it’s almost inconvenient, except that there’s a thrill that comes with the compulsion.
I suppose it’s an obvious adaptation to the lack of people to talk to—or maybe it simply reveals that I prefer to do all the talking. You have to admit, I do have plenty to say—whether or not it’s worth saying, aside—I really crank it out—I can’t shut up. But there are people wandering the street-corners of New York City that could make the same claim—and they’re actually collecting change—maybe they’ve got more on the ball than I do.
The trouble is that writing is an industry, music is an industry. It is virtually impossible for me to enjoy my hobbies without the thought sneaking in, unwelcome, that other people make money this way—it’s like trying not to think of a purple elephant. I fucking hate money. I’m lucky my wife handles all of it—it makes my skin crawl. But whose head would not be turned by the thought of all the glittering prizes, the fabulous wealth, of the successful—rarer than power-ball winners though they may be?
Shows like American Idol or America’s Got Talent whisper to us that the point of enjoying the arts is to win. Better that more people enjoyed the arts as I do, for their own sake. The talented would still shine out, would still be plucked into the heavens—but the rest of us could just be comfortable with the immense pleasure that amateur artistic pursuits offer us.
To be of less-than-professional training and ability is a very modern concept—a few generations ago, gathering around the piano and singing was as natural as sitting down to watch TV together. And writing correspondence was as much a part of an evening as saying one’s bedtime prayers—volumes of such source material inform our historians. Maybe that’s why we bloggers are so legion—letter-writing is gone out of style—and we’ve all taken to writing letters to Ulysses’ ‘Noman’.
It’s an ironic concept—I’ve learned to use all these social-media apps, WordPress, Facebook, YouTube—and all these graphics and audio editing software suites—just so I can approximate the 19th century habit of playing piano in the living room and writing letters to distant friends.
Pete has Left the Building. Ladies and gentlemen, the legendary, the incomparable—Pete Cianflone!! The Buds-Up Symphony Hall-Space welcomes you to return to us soon and—have a safe drive home now.
What a day—Pete came by (as you may have surmised) and brought with him an old drawing of mine—Joanna Binkley wanting to return it for safekeeping—for which I thank her. It’s great to see an artifact from the steady-hand-and-sharp-eye days of yore. I was pretty good, while it lasted.
And I had something to show Pete—Bea Kruchkow forwarded an archival copy of Newsweek—from 1989—a ‘look back’ at 1969 (then, a ‘whole’ twenty years ago). Time sure is funny. Funny—ha-ha, not funny like fire.
So anyway, after girding our hairy-purple loins, we set forth to do battle upon the field of sound. First we did a selection of Spirituals that are traditionally connected with Christmastime—and for good measure, threw in two popular songs of Xmas as well.
We did two rounds, or maybe three, of improvisation—I can’t remember. One of them is very loosely based on the Swanky Modes tune, “Any Ordinary Man” (from “Tapeheads” (1988)). Movie-credits soundtracks often have something catchy about them that makes me go straight from the end of the movie to the piano, to try and find the melody of what I just heard. That was the case, yesterday, with Tapeheads—but I soon realized, after finding the notes, that this was one of those energetic songs that I’d have a hard time keeping up with. But Pete had never heard the song—and I’m not exactly a natural-born blues-player—so it’s a toss-up whether you want to call it a bad cover, or just a different piece of music.
Pete and I were happy with all of it, so that’s all that matters. Poor Bear has had an uncomfortable head-cold for three days now—why is it impossible for the holidays to pass without colds? Spence has been renovating the attic room and the cellar, preparing for our royal visitation later this month—all must be just so, ya know. It’s quite something to have an infant come into a house that hasn’t seen one in years—I’ve started noticing dust where I was hitherto dust-blind.
It’s a sign of just how busy life can be—the Buds-Up ensemble has nothing to show for last November. We try to gather once a month, but even that tiny schedule can be impossible to keep to, in this hurrying, rattling time-stream. Still, I’m pleased enough that we had such a good time, today—I think it makes up for the gap—and I hope people enjoy these as much as we enjoyed playing them.
It’s been a busy day—rarely on any December 7th do I fail to stop and think about the ‘day of infamy’. A Japanese Prime Minister visited Pearl Harbor last week—the first-ever Japanese State Visit to the site—and this is the 75th anniversary of the start of the War. There are many Pearl-Harbor-themed movies on TV today—I guess I’ll go watch some of my favorites.
My Dad was a war-movie fan—we used to watch John Wayne movies on TV in the living room—my Dad was a Marine in Korea. Watching war movies is the closest I’ve ever been to actual murder among men—I don’t mind, I tell you. I respect the hell out of veterans like my Dad—but I don’t feel bad about living an un-blooded life. I suspect I would have made a lousy soldier anyway.
December 7th is special though—there’s something awesome about an entire globe in conflict—it may have been evil and stupid and lots of other things—but it was ‘awesome’, in the literal sense of the word, without the implication of admiration young people give the word today. It fills one with awe.
I’d recommend Haydn—particularly the piano works. Tell your digital concierge, “Play Haydn keyboard sonatas.”—and you’re good for several hours of peaceful working- or reading- music.
If the raw sunlight gets in your eye-line, tape a piece of colored construction paper on your window—the room stays lit, but you don’t get that one headache-inducing reflection in your field of vision. And it looks cheery—like a child’s art project—but you have to replace it once a year because construction paper fades and becomes very dreary-looking, in the end.
As a smoker, I’ve taken to confining myself to two rooms of the house—here in the front room, where I work, and my bedroom, where I watch TV and read. If the doors are kept faithfully closed, the rest of the house doesn’t reek of smoking—but it must be noted that I often open the front door for front-room ventilation, and I have a window-fan on exhaust in the bedroom, year-round (yes, it does get a little chilly in winter).
I’ve also surrendered to the smokeless ashtray—it’s stupid and noisy and uses too many batteries and is a pain to empty every time it’s full—but if you use one, it will demonstrate that most of the smoke in a smoke-filled room comes from the cigarette smoldering in the ashtray, not from the smoker’s exhalations. And studies have shown that smoldering butts give off the dirtiest second-hand smoke—much more unhealthy than ‘smoked’ smoke, and more of it.
Grapes, celery sticks, and baby carrots make the best working snacks—you can eat all you want and it won’t do the kind of damage that chips, crackers, or candy can do. Also, for smokers, hot tea provides a bit of steam-cleaning for the lungs—and drinking tea all day won’t fry your nervous system like coffee. There is something about tannic acid that makes tea bother my digestion more than coffee—but only if I’m really chugging it down, cup after cup. Moderation in all things, as they say.
Don’t multitask. Do what you’re doing and leave the rest for later—it may seem slower, but in truth, when each task is focused on, it gets done better and quicker—and if you go from one to the next without pause, the overall time-use is less than if you hop from one thing to another all day long—the hopping around makes you feel busy, but you’re actually wasting time interrupting yourself. And focusing on a task reduces the number of errors.
Enjoy your work—it is a choice. Even the most menial tasks can become a game in your mind. Indeed, the more menial jobs lend themselves to mind-games better than complicated ones. Insisting to yourself that you hate what you’re doing is counterproductive—and a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Stop when you’re tired. This is certainly something you don’t always have a choice about, but when the choice is available, take it. Nobody ever did great work while running on fumes. I often found that tasks that take an hour in overtime can be done in five minutes when approached fresh the next morning. Answers that play hide-and-seek in the darkness of fatigue will stand out clear as day in the clarity of morning.
Even in the middle of the day, pausing to refresh can do wonders for your productivity—much more so than dutifully slogging on. Short breaks are like remembering to breathe—something else you should try to do. But here is where ‘multitasking’ can actually be useful—if you get stuck on one project, and you have something else to work on that will take your mind off it, that can be as good as a break.
Get a comfortable chair—if your workplace won’t give you one, steal one. I remember one workplace where the office manager was a real stickler about furniture—I would steal a good chair from another room. Every night she had the janitor put the chair back where it came from—and every morning I stole it again. Improvise, adapt, and overcome, as the Corps likes to say.
Don’t get ahead of yourself—whenever I do that, I always skip a step. People used to ask me why I always walked with my eyes on the ground—and I would answer that I didn’t like to step in dog-poo. Ah the good old days, when picking up after our pets was considered beneath us. Still, there are things to trip on, slide on, and stumble over—watch where you’re going.
Well—who knew I had so much free advice to give. And you know what they say—free advice is worth every penny you paid for it.
Spencer has made bread. Claire has come home from the gym. I’ve had a full day, for me, but I’m not going to embarrass myself by telling you what I did—little victories are my stock in trade these days. Real little. Okay—I moved two very-light pieces of furniture. That’s a full day for me—okay? You happy now?
It’s getting dark way earlier all of a sudden. Winter is here. I’m still working on video-ing the Big Book of Christmas Carols, front to back. It’s slow going—most of them are very familiar, but some of them need many ‘takes’ before I play it through with some semblance of accuracy. Sometimes, like just now, a few minutes ago, I’m too tired to get a good take. I have to wait for tomorrow’s supply of energy and alertness.
I have my mind set on it. Indeed, I’ve considered keeping the idea, and only posting videos of entire books from now on. I have a large manuscript library, but only a few of them are easy-to-play enough for me to play the whole book. So, I guess I’ll try it with a few books, after the carols are all recorded, and then forget about it and go back to my random recordings.
That’s the thing—I start every new day with a fresh head—any long-term plans I might have do not survive the pleasant distractions of waking up each morning. There’s usually a thread or a hint lying around somewhere, but if I don’t look for it, I miss it. Fresh head—every damn morning. I’m considering tattoos….
Monday, November 28, 2016 5:45 PM
I freely admit that I binged the new Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life, on Netflix—which is as good as admitting I watched the whole series, back when (which I did, of course). But it’s not just because I like that kind of show—you go ahead and check—Kelly Bishop, Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel—they’re all great actors who have done lots of great stuff, outside of fictional Connecticut.
That’s the trouble with bingeing TV, isn’t it? It’s over now—nothing to wait ‘til next week for. That’s why I like to stay busy—as I get older, I’m becoming really picky about my viewing. At this point, if it isn’t as pleasant as listening to myself play the piano, while I look at pictures of my granddaughter, then I don’t need to watch it. I’m building a library of granddaughter/piano YouTube videos—I’m stockpiling this stuff. If the TV won’t give me what I want, I can make it myself. And, with my new Wi-Fi-enabled TV—I’m just another channel.
I’m working on two projects at once. Longer-term, I’m working on the next installment of Xmas Carols—the Series. And today I’m also processing a treasure trove of pictures and videos from my favorite movie stars—Jessy and Sen. The two will go together nicely—but eleven-Xmas-carols is always a lengthy video—so I’m here waiting for the music-video pre-edit to finish saving-to-disk. I’ve prepped the pictures into video, and the raw videos from Jessy—so now I just have to put all of that into one video….
I played a Chopin Mazurka on the e-piano, with the Harpsichord setting—nice result. I don’t mean I played all-that-well—but Chopin sounds just swell on a harpsichord. That’s a trick I noticed about good music—you can play that stuff on anything. There’s a guy who’s famous for playing Bach on Harmonica—I used to own the LP, hand to God—and it wasn’t half bad.
I can only use the first half of all my Carols recordings—I stay pretty cheery and spritely for a few songs—but then it becomes a Bataan Death March of sight-reading, turning every song into a dirge. You’d think I’d know all this stuff by now—I can feel my fingers remembering as I play them—why can’t my head do that?
Tuesday, November 29, 2016 3:28 PM
Okay, I must be in a post-Thanksgiving metabolic ‘trough’ these last few days—my energy levels are nil. My aches and spasms are small but many. My mental focus is a joke—I’m not even sure if I’m entirely awake. Partly, I stressed myself out—I finally finished the five videos and doing five videos at once makes my head swim—it’s hard to keep everything straight.
But I’ve got them all done now, just waiting for the last two to finish uploading to YouTube. I’m going to try to process my videos one-at-a-time from here on, if I can—it’s a tricky little maneuver that I’ve gotten very comfortable with—but doing more than one at a time makes it ridiculously complex.
I watch TCM today—they showed “Act One” (1963) based on Moss Hart’s autobiography, specifically the part when Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman first meet and collaborate on a play called “Once In A Lifetime”. “Once In A Lifetime” was Hart’s actual first play (well, second, technically—he flopped in Chicago with “The Hold-Up Man”, but the movie leaves that out)—and was made into its own eponymous movie in 1932. I found that out from IMDb, which also cleared up a great mystery: Even as a little kid watching TV game-shows, I was always at a loss as to why Kitty Carlyle was considered a great celebrity. Well now I know—she was Moss Hart’s wife—celebrity.
Then I went with KT to grab some Chinese at Imperial Wok—he had the chicken and broccoli—I had the Taiwanese rice noodles—you can always count on Imperial Wok. It was great to see KT—it’s been nigh on twenty years since last we met. He takes guff from the locals for being a rich guy, so I guess he’s doing pretty well—I certainly don’t get hassled that way, but I doubt I would mind. His daughter graduates in a week or so and already has a job lined up—things are going great.
Then Dee called. I’d seen on Facebook earlier that Malcolm’s multiple surgeries had been successful—only to find, yesterday, that all three of them got sick—Dee a sinus infection, Bossy bronchitis, and Malcolm developed a post-op infection. But they are all feeling a little better—it sounded like Dee had to get off the phone because she had children crawling all over her—I don’t know—it was weird.
So now I’m looking at Sen videos, emailed from Jessy. I’m almost too tired—it’s been a long day. I have a new shirt—very fancy and comfortable—it has green stripes and I think it’s made of a silk blend—it’s shiny. More later.
[10 minutes later:] Oh, those are sweet videos!
Tuesday, November 22, 2016 8:16 PM
Very tired now—I played some more piano, and now I’m back at the videos. I had something—but it’s gone now.
Tuesday, November 22, 2016 9:31 PM
Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:03 PM
That’s better—it’s funny how people (or at least I) get run down at the end of a day, like drained batteries, and then wake up feeling fresh the next morning. I didn’t notice as much—when I was younger. Sleep then was more like a switch turned on and off. But now I notice the steady decline in energy and focus as the day wears on—and the fatigue at the end of the day is so much greater now. But, as balance, I’m very appreciative of the freshness and acuity of the morning hours.
I’ve created two new videos using Jessy’s new videos of Seneca—for the first one, “Water Babies”, I lowered the volume of the piano-playing, so you can hear the baby. For the second video, “On ‘Xmas Comes Anew’”, I muted the volume of the baby-video, so you can hear the piano. “Water Babies” is older—I recorded it a few days ago and waited for baby pix—that’s why the dates are different.
Claire signed us up for Spotify—it’s nice to have every classical music recording I can think of, available for my listening pleasure, while I work away here. It has popular music, too—I just don’t listen to that stuff while I’m working. A lot of my work is my own music videos, though. It’s always been difficult for me to go from my own paltry music to the professionals and back again—I suffer from the comparison—but less now than I used to, so that’s something.
It’s tomorrow now, but back when it was still today, Jessy sent me new photos of the Princess enjoying her first meal of ‘solid food’ (baby food, really—she’ll need to wait for teeth for anything solider). But she appears entranced by the process—and I’ve always suspected that babies look upon their high-chairs as thrones—so all is as it should be. I never get tired of that adorable mug.
But those new pictures only cover the first four minutes of today’s very long video—18 minutes of Christmas carols—thirteen of them in all. I have it in my mind, in these days before Christmas, to simply record the entire book of carols, first song to last song—and then move on to the next carol book—just to see if I can record the entirety of the Christmas piano experience, here in our living room, this year.
Because of that, you will notice that all these songs start with ‘A’, except the Bell Carol (one of my favorites). The next videos will move further along the alphabet, as you might expect.
I would have liked to sing as I played, especially with carols—I’ve known the words to most of them since early childhood. But, it’s harder for me to get a clean recording if I’m trying to play the notes and sing—so, maybe next year I’ll go for the vocals on all of them, too. I’d like to get a microphone set up before doing that—the other reason for not singing is that my voice doesn’t carry, over the piano, without some help. So much to do, so little time.
Anyhow, all these carols have certainly got me leaning towards the holiday spirit—and just in time to go over the river and through the woods to Nana’s house on Thursday (supposed to be quite a crowd this year—16 people or so). I love the season—until the pressure starts to build. If I could spend the whole time playing piano carols and making cookies, I’d be okay—but it’s never quite that simple, is it? Still, fun will be had—or my name isn’t Bozo de Clowne.
The election is over and people still want to talk about it, even protest about it. I don’t think they understand what the word ‘election’ really means. I was happy to argue over the choices, while the election was still to come—indeed, I did little else. But we are no longer arguing about what Trump might do—he’s president-elect now, and he’s gonna do pretty much whatever comes into that fool head of his.
The time to stop him has passed. You lose. Or, rather, we lose—I lose—and I don’t feel much like talking about it anymore. It’s painful enough to know that half the voters didn’t even show up, that Hillary got the most votes of those who did show up, and that Trump won the race anyway.
What else is there to talk about? Are we going to torture ourselves, watching every stupid move this clown makes, every mistake that sets the world a-shudder? Not me—if the country is this stupid, I’m not watching it self-destruct on TV—I’ll wait until it shows up at my front door.
In the meantime, I’ll try to stay busy and stay positive. I try to remind myself that, underneath it all, Hillary probably feels great—she’s free as a bird, she did her best—it was the country that lost out in not getting her for our president. What did she lose? Four, maybe eight years of the most grueling job on earth—she’s well out of it.
From a personal point of view, Hillary won big. She got a million more votes than Trump, but she doesn’t have to be imprisoned on Pennsylvania Avenue for the next few years—she can take it easy, take some time for herself.
An eighteen-month presidential campaign is no picnic (and she had to bull through pneumonia along the way) so I’m sure she could use a little downtime. Truly, I’m almost as happy for her as I am heartbroken for myself. Hillary, you win Nerd-dom hands down—this is the supreme example of the cool kids not listening to the head-down, hard-working, smart girl—you are the Queen of the Nerds for life.
It’s done wonders for us here—after the initial shock of disappointment, Claire threw out her TV and got intensely busy with her various projects; Spencer seemed galvanized to start doing all kinds of projects (I think this election has convinced him that there is a threatening world out there—something I was loathe to teach him myself, but that may have some good come of it); and I am emerging, too, into a fresh, new world that doesn’t revolve around watching news channels and writing my election blog-posts.
I enjoyed the last eight years of politics, particularly after the preceding eight years of frustration (and war and economic crisis). I felt the arrow of time bending towards progressivism—which only makes sense in a world growing ever more closely-bound together. But the future must wait. The next four years will be an epic hiccup in our social progress—and excuse me if I choose to ignore it entirely until 2020.
I am impatient with any waste of time—and following politics, for the present, will be nothing but an exercise in masochism. I’ll just keep my head down and hope for something better, next time around. You younger, healthier people should spend the next four years getting your ducks in a row, preparing to take the government back from the dickheads. I’m not saying everyone should be old and sick like me, unable to bounce back from this debacle—in fact, you should be working on getting some Dems elected in the 2018 races—you’ll want a plurality in both Houses, when and if you get another Dem for Prez.
But I am done. I’ve watched Cronkite report on JFK’s assassination, LBJ’s war protesters, Nixon’s tapes, Ford’s fumbles, Carter’s hostages, and Reagan’s Cold War victory. I’ve watched CNN’s Wolf report on Bush Sr.’s Iraq War, Clinton’s peccadilloes, Bush Jr.’s Iraq War, and Obama’s Health Care. I’ve seen enough—and the turd that just rolled up has no place among these past leaders.
Yes, somehow the world manages to become a better place, year by year, but not without a lot of problems lingering, or even getting worse. President-elect Aberration is a perfect example of that. But Trump’s election is no reason for total despair—his incompetence is still preferable to the polished evil of his VP. And four years of practice will prove to his supporters what they refused to face during the election. The Republicans have finally ousted all their favorite excuses—what will they say when they have no Obama to blame, no Hillary to scapegoat?
Oh, they’ll still lie—they’ll still make excuses—getting elected doesn’t change anything. But they’ll have a lot less cover. And the truth will out—no matter how many biased news-reports try to hide it. Congress will still suck—and now they’ll be working with a president who doesn’t know what he’s doing—should be great fun, eh?
But I don’t watch reality TV—and now that politics has commingled with that genre, I’m going to watch something else for the foreseeable future. Please let me know if journalism makes a comeback, or if voters become engaged, or if a competent person replaces our new president-elect. And don’t worry, I’m not gonna hold my breath.
But I will not torture myself by following every dick move this guy pulls, day after day. I gave up two years being mesmerized by TV, watching them play this media game, where the truth is hidden under one of the shifting teacups—‘that’s right, viewer, just keep your eyes on the swirling teacups….’ I’m done, I tell you.
Now that I’m much older than 99% of the talking heads, I see them more clearly than they see themselves—and the kernels of truth squeezed in amongst all their sensationalism get rarer and rarer, like gems in the mud. I’m like one of those old master-butchers—you give me a carcass of story and I’ll trim away all the fat with a few expert slices of the knife, leaving only the lonely fillets of factual info—but present media reporting is a conveyor-belt of animal parts fit only for dog-or-cat-food. Presenting such a fact-free wasteland to an old butcher like me is an insult, and I won’t take it anymore.
Sunday, November 13, 2016 5:24 PM
Even If Flames Surround Them
As the veil of anti-depressants falls away
The mind doesn’t clear so much as catch fire,
The clarity cluttered by the rawness.
The first thought is ‘Retreat!’—losing a grip on the cotton
Clouds, peering over my shoulder at the long fall
Back down to the ground.
And between that downfall of an election
And the constant shouting of the still, small voice
That says, ‘Quit smoking!’ this may seem a bad time
To stop softening the edges of the world in my head.
Yet down we must come. Down we must be,
Here on the ground where we can touch the
Things that matter, even if flames surround them.
As the grumbling gremlins become visible,
And all-too-well heard, shoulders hunch in revulsion.
Words jumble; memories tumble, stumble, and fumble.
Why do I need to be here? What’s my job?
I stand on that lone promontory, confused.
How do emotions get broken—and how do we
Clear them from the road ahead while they remain
Too heavy to shift? If I can climb over, if I
Can get through, if I can keep moving,
I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.
And descend to the valley of the real, down
On the ground where I can touch the
People that matter, even if flames surround them.
Monday, November 14, 2016 12:08 PM
Something Everybody Does (2016Nov14)
You know that feeling when you’re just starting to wake up? It’s comfortable and fluffy, but you don’t know anything—where you are, who you are, what day it is—that sort of thing. It’s a beautiful moment—I remember enjoying that immensely. But now I never get passed that feeling. I can’t get a firm purchase on the surface of my thoughts—they slide around me like wisps of smoke. I miss having a working brain—they are handy.
So many things can be accomplished with good wetware—I’ve been exiled from their kingdom, but I refuse to join the people who hug their ignorance to themselves like a fur coat in a strong breeze. Maybe I can’t think anymore, but I can still tell the difference between what is and what I wish would be. All this pretending is so childish.
We pretend that we are not animals. We make excuses for our impulses, pretending there are reasons behind them. It makes me laugh—the more ignorant we are, the more proud we are of our opinions—intelligent people are never sure of themselves. The world is a complicated thing—thinking you’ve figured it out is a sure sign of idiocy.
There is nothing as hilarious to me as someone with the confidence of his or her convictions—I remember when I was that young. I was so sure I was right and everybody who thought otherwise was wrong. But I was a little kid, then—there’s no excuse for that kind of childishness when you’re a grown person.
People can be very demanding—they want what’s theirs; they want their rights; they want their fair share; they want free speech for themselves—and a little peace and quiet from everybody else. And they don’t even see the paradox in their hypocrisy. We want our kids to behave—and we want them to think for themselves. We want our parents to give us everything we want—and protect us from the things we shouldn’t have. We want to make a killing in business, but we want businesses to be fair to us. We don’t understand why we have to wait, when we are so busy. We try to get past the rules we don’t like, but we want to punish those who dare to break the rules.
William Blake once drew a picture symbolizing childhood—it was a child at the foot of a ladder that goes up to the moon, the child reaching up and crying, “I want! I want!” I think he was going easy on the human race, implying that all that sort of thing ends in childhood. I certainly have little more to offer the world than my urges, my needs, and my desires—and I can’t think of anyone else who could honestly claim differently. I suppose his point is that children don’t climb the ladder—they wait for someone else to fetch them the moon. But while an adult may climb the ladder, it’s still in thoughtless pursuit of the bright object—little different from a myna bird seeking tin-foil for its nest.
We still seek food and shelter—but we do it in this deferred-reward capitalist square-dance that trades time and effort for money, then money for food and shelter. The stress of this requires escapism, so some of the money goes to our leisure pursuits—though the fact of ‘leisure’ being necessary to the system tells you something’s off about the whole thing. Then there’re the layers of pretending—the wealthy get to pretend there’s a reason why they have it easy, the poor get to pretend that the system that keeps them poor is a good one.
We’re just a bunch of animals who’ve learned how to play pretend on a grand scale. But for me, the pretense takes something out of the grandeur. A culture based on facts and common sense would undoubtedly be less imaginative, perhaps even less fun—and that is probably why Progressives have such a job getting people to change the way they think. Their mistake is in assuming that thinking is something everybody does.
The peace and quiet of the suburbs is a myth. In the spring you have chain-saws and wood-chippers, in the summer it’s weed-whackers and mowers all day long, in winter it’s either snow-blowers, snowmobiles, or the collective grumble of an entire neighborhood full of individual emergency generators keeping their furnaces working during a power outage. That’s all discounting the delivery trucks, garbage trucks, septic trucks, oil trucks, moving vans, road-crew vehicles that clank in a variety of rhythms, and the occasional hot-headed hot-rodder with a muffler problem. The ‘summer special’ is the ice-cream truck that plays a Stephen-King-rendition of a nursery rhyme for hours on end—but never passes in front of your own house.
However, in the fall we get the king of noise-makers—the mighty leaf-blower. The guys that operate these things wear muffler-headphones like they use at an airport—but they fail to hand them out to the rest of the neighborhood. I miss the good old days—when the only loud noises were people playing their stereo too loud—or some drunk beating up his wife with the actual Hollywood soundtrack effects. There really should be laws regulating the manufacture of these unmusical noise-makers. I know that it makes people feel like they’re really working when it’s loud—but a car makes less noise, driving by, than these hand-held lawn-tools do—there’s something wrong with that, and very oppressive.
You may hear the whining of this thing during my videos—if I waited for them to stop, I’d never get anywhere. I played a few song-covers from my Looney-Tunes Songbook today—Warner Bros. published an oldies-songbook comprised exclusively of pieces used in the classic cartoons—it’s great fun. Some of the lyrics are very un-PC, but I just play the piano on those tunes, usually. I also attempted new improvs—it was a struggle, but there might be something there.
I’ve got the latest snaps of princess poopypants—they’re included in the videos. She’s such a charmer. I’m just crazy to finally meet her! If I wasn’t such a wreck I would walk to California, just to see that little baby. But at least I get the movies and the pictures—and they’re coming for the holidays (I hope—young peoples’ lives are so hectic).
Anyhow, here it is one o’clock in the morning and I’m still finishing up these videos—I just want to talk. And this imaginary piece of typing paper is my friend. I type and words come out on the screen—it’s just as if I were communicating with someone. Well, at least it’s quiet now. All the leaf-blowing men are snug in their beds, or drinking at a bar. I wonder how the Cubs did tonight?
O, no! Now, their only chance is a big upset. Go Cubs. (I’m a Mets fan, but a century is long enough to wait.)
A long and productive day—Pete came by, we recorded most excellent musical diatribes, but he had to cut our visit short and return to the world from whence he came. Then Joanna came by to see Pete—moments too late, very frustrating—but she and I had a pleasant visit, at least. This time I remembered to take a picture:
Today’s posts bring my total YouTube uploads to 2,005. Of those, 59 are videos of Pete Cianflone and me, collaborating together on improvisations and song covers. The audio-cassette archives of our 20th-century recordings are lost in the mists of time—after many years of pursuing separate paths, we resumed our monthly journey together in January, 2014. It’s all on YouTube: Pete n’Me playlist
I’ll grant you, it’s an uneven catalog (always with the caveat that the problems are all mine—Pete’s a professional who’s nice enough to indulge me) but as we’ve gone along, Pete has figured out an impossible trick—drumming for a pianist with no sense of rhythm. He always makes me sound better than I sound by myself—it’s really something. Today’s videos are a perfect example—no matter how badly I mess up, Pete keeps things going.
Well, it’s been a very busy week. I think I’ll go back to bed for a few days.
Now that the ‘ill wind’ of the GOP has bloviated sufficient extremism to fill a Gag Reel of non-presidential character, or lacking character of any sort, really, we might be deluded into sitting back and breathing a sigh of relief—but that would be a mistake. Trump sprang from the mulch he grew out of—the GOP itself is the same cold-blooded, empty-spirited anti-Americanism that Trump is—he only ‘let it all hang out’, rather than the GOP’s normal tactic of ‘teaching the controversy’, or as I like to call it, hyper-bullshitting.
Vainly trying to find rationales for the worst side of people—exclusion, xenophobia, isolationism, and heedless greed—the GOP has played Devil’s Advocate long enough for us to drop the ‘Advocate’ and call them by their true name. Paying taxes for the good of the common welfare is no sin. Welcoming those who thirst for a better way of life is no crime. Insisting that the least of us get the same rights and respect as the rest of us is not faintness of heart—neither is being unable to succeed, through no fault of one’s own.
They reach into our darkest desires and fears—they tell us to blame and to suspect—they take advantage of our desperation, dangling false promises in our view. The GOP are the orcs to the Democrat’s elvish. How anyone can fall for their nonsensical prating eludes me—it is an abandonment of reason and judgment that I would not think most people capable of—yet it deludes a good half of all Americans.
I would have thought the ‘whoops’ war, and the cratered economy, would have woken up voters to the glaring truth. Failing that, one would hope people noticed the Congress they elected has devoted the last eight years to neglecting the people –with an iron resolve usually reserved for doing something productive. And if all that wasn’t enough, you have the specter of Trump—the high prince of unreason—leading them into a tomorrow full of open, blatant hate and fury.
If you vote for any GOP candidate this election, Trump or otherwise, I wash my hands of you as an American—I don’t know where the hell you came from, but you can go on back now. Just kidding. That’s what the ignorant tend to shout—‘Go back where you came from’—even though they shout it at their neighbors, hence their ignorance. I get it, though—if I blame someone else for my problems, then it feels good to shout at them to go away.
I’m sick and tired of this election—I’ve always seen Hillary as the obvious choice; I’ve always viewed Trump as a nothing with an ego; and the longer this circus drags on, the more ludicrous the coverage becomes. But I’m angry at the glacial time-frame of political change—our lives change overnight, and have done for a long time.
Our politics have got to become more pragmatic—we have to talk about grown-up stuff and shunt aside the childish whinings of those who want to turn back the clock (but only in their favor). We have to demand transparency from government, we have to start expecting results, and we have to start voting for people who hold themselves accountable—because we sure can’t do it, after we elect them. With all the work that needs to be done, I really don’t want to hear any more bon mots from the Donald. I don’t want to hear people give Hillary any more crap—you try running the effing State Department—or help run a global charitable foundation.
I don’t suppose it occurred to any journalistic geniuses to research what, if anything, the Clinton Foundation has done—that story doesn’t grab clicks, I guess. But as a viewer, I wouldn’t mind hearing about it—even if it was just boring stuff about trying to make poor people’s lives better. But no, better we stick with vague suppositions about financial hanky-panky—that makes a better news chyron. But at all costs, please don’t inject anything other than the presidential race—that would imply that it isn’t the only thing that matters to everyone. Where would that leave your ratings?
The entire state of Louisiana got flooded and sixteen people died—that’s a tragedy—not to mention tens of thousands of homes destroyed, or at least their contents and first floors—nearly the same thing. But 1,245 victims died in Katrina, 233 deaths were attributed to Hurricane Sandy—much smaller disaster areas—that makes 16 a pretty small number, President Obama—go on with your golf game until your scheduled Tuesday visit. It isn’t the presidential presence that makes the difference—it’s the preparedness and the organization of the relief effort—and Louisiana gets a gold star. The Katrina disaster was an education as well as a tragedy.
I found it amusing these last two weeks that many news shows, especially the NBC network family, were able to suspend their laser-focus on the presidential race to watch the Rio Olympics in awesome detail. But then it was right back to all politics all the time. Would that all the news shows would have the integrity to continue to report on the rest of the country, and the world, and still find time for Trump and the stupid things he says. Perhaps Hillary will be caught on tape, hiccupping during a speech—think of the infinite attacks springing to mind among the Trump campaign staff. But you journalists have minds too—maybe you can find other things to report besides Trump’s latest hiccup-gate comment.
Two months ago, when our daughter’s pregnancy (and on the west coast, yet) lurked in the back of my mind—and it still looked like we might get taken in by Trump’s big con—and I was smoking too much and doing too little—back then, I resumed my anti-depressant prescription. That’s how bad I got.
But a half-a-pill a day of that stuff really pole-axed me. Yes, I smoked a lot less, because a lot less of me was there—I was zombified. But the cutting back on smoking was good for me—I felt much better. The only trouble was that I wasn’t doing anything else, either—and I wasn’t upset about that. I was very far from upset about anything at all.
Now, if I had wanted to spend my life on drugs, I could do that all by myself—and with much fun-ner drugs. So I compromised—now I take a quarter of a pill every day—and only until October, when I will stop altogether, and see how it goes. There’s a reason I stopped taking them, after all, and if I can do without, I’d really prefer that.
So, back then, it wasn’t just raining anxiety—it was pouring. But now, with our brand-new, cute-as-a-button granddaughter, I’ve been inspired to play new piano improvs. Claire’s trip has inspired me to get out and do more—like doing my own shopping. The influx of baby pictures has given me lots of busy-work in photoshop, making them fit into my YouTube videos. I enjoy my playing more when I’m looking at photos of that beautiful baby instead of myself—I think it makes me sound better.
Then Pete came by today—Hooray! I was pretty disappointed with last month’s recording, because of the anti-depressants making me punchy and basically out-of-it. But we made up for it today.
We started with a request: “Jesu—Joy of Man’s Desiring” by J. S. Bach. (That’s two requests in August—for me it’s been a banner month for music.) I played it slow, so I would make less mistakes—but Bach is good that way—it’s still pretty, even slow.
Then we did a couple of jams back-to-back. That video is called “On A Wednesday Afternoon”. I enjoyed it much more than the title might suggest—I guess I was going for the ‘soft-sell’, there. No Pete Cianflone session would be complete without a bunch of weirdness in the video—blame it on Jessy—if she had sent me a bunch of baby-pictures, you wouldn’t even see us on the video.
Then Pete suggested we cover a Golden Oldie from the 60s, so we played “Let’s Live For Today”. Now, about “Let’s Live For Today”:
Songbook from “Great songs…” series, titled “of the Sixties – Volume 2″ gives the following credits:
But Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia gives the following credits:
“Let’s Live for Today”
Writer(s): Michael Julien, Ivan Mogull, and David Shapiro. “’Let’s Live for Today’ is a song initially recorded by the English band The Rokes in 1966. The song was later popularized by the American rock band The Grass Roots, who released it as a single on May 13, 1967.”
I leave that mystery to someone else to solve, but we had fun playing it—it’s not really a piano piece, but we made do.
The last bit of improv was bang-ish, so the video is called “Monstrous”. Pete said he might be able to come back next week, so we may get two sessions for August—who knows? We toasted the baby—well, I did, Pete doesn’t drink. A good time was had by all. I hope it’s as good to listen to. Enjoy.
As I was saying—new baby granddaughter, clearer mind, more piano music—and having more fun at the piano, baby-picture photoshopping, regular shopping… and it looks like there’s no need to worry about Hillary being elected—(but Vote anyway!) Suddenly, it’s not just raining good things, it’s pouring. Ah, life. That’s what I say. Ah, life.
Okay, I give up. Yes, the computer room needs an air conditioner. In this heat I waver from wanting to stay in the cool bedroom, or coming out here to the hot-box and typing on my PC. I can be comfortable and bored, or engaged and sweating like a pig. Neither one is working right this minute—and I always decide I need A/C on the weekend, when I have to wait until Monday to order one. What a schmo.
I just got back from the supermarket. Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee pastas and Progresso hearty soups—it’s a can festival. Also some hot dogs. Now that I know I can make it into next week without shopping for a while, I feel better—plus, call me picky, but I like to eat dinner almost every day. I bought dill pickles and pickled sausage bites and some Laughing Cow and those round cheeses in the net-bag.
I found the world’s best microwavable breakfast—Eggo’s bacon-egg-and-cheese waffle-meals. And I grabbed some Polar Bears (Heath bar flavored). I was worried about getting those two things home and in our freezer before they were ruined—I think I made it.
Sunday, August 14, 2016 12:48 PM
“98.6” by Keith—what a great tune. It lifts my spirits. I collect one-hit wonders—the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not of the music world—strange artifacts that belong to no movement or genre but their own personal musical ‘ear’. There are a surprising number of them—and it’s sad in a certain way. Think about it—you can try for a musical career, spend a few years touring local bars and clubs, then peter out from lack of determination or lack of audience interest—or you can get lucky and hit it big, get signed to a label, tour big venues, the whole nine. But with a one-hit wonder, the artists are served the success-banquet and then have the whole thing snatched from their mouths after the first course. The same amount of grueling giggery, PR, lawyers, fans, and yet more giggery—then the promise of fame and fortune—then the almost instant fading of it all—how hard that must be. I love one-hit wonders—but I truly feel for the artists that make them.
And it begs a question that often haunts a sixty-year-old would-be artist like myself: Is there a finite amount of creativity in each of us, to one extent or another? Would Beethoven’s Tenth have been anti-climactic? Did Van Gogh kill himself because he had used all the colors in every way he could imagine—and was loathe to repeat himself? Was Dickens’ last novel just ‘more of the same’? In olden times an artists could be satisfied with just one single ‘masterwork’. Of course, if one is capable of that, there was probably a bunch of stuff one could do—Michelangelo did sculpture, painting, architecture, and poetry, but he did some things better than others.
But today, with the ‘industrialized’ arts, if you can have a hit record, contracts are drawn up by the money-people, as if to say, “Well, anyone who can please the public can continue to do so forever”. There is no recognition of the possibility that what makes someone creative may be the same thing that bridles at being expected to play those songs every day for years, or come up with another whole album of ‘more’. What the hell is ‘more’ when dealing with inspiration? And how can we expect inspiration to stick to a release deadline?
We think of art as a job. It was never a job. The musicians that played at weddings and dances were just the folks who had a knack for music—they had day jobs. The artists of old weren’t working on canvas—they were carving sculptures into the furniture they made, painting landscapes with glazes on the pots they were throwing. The ‘career’ thing started with court appointments—Michelangelo was part of his Pope’s court, Bach worked for his church choir until his fame made him a member of the household of the Duke of Brandenburg.
These early artists didn’t do anything but their art—but they were servants to royalty, at their beck and call—even with regard to subject matter and style. No artists made a living from their art except the travelling troupes of entertainers—and they were mostly fugitives, working sub-rosa in a culture that forbade merriment in general—criminals of art, in effect. No individual musicians made a living concertizing until the nineteenth century. The monetization of art has a fascinating history—but it is a history of the deformation of the original impulse to art.
Sunday, August 14, 2016 6:48 PM
I’ve made a nice video that contains our granddaughter’s latest pictures and, in between the two improvs, a piano cover of Cole Porter’s “Tomorrow”—so I tried to throw in some entertainment. It’s difficult to create a video under these rolling thunderstorms—I’m a computer hack since back in the ‘80s—lightning is my mortal enemy. I always rush to power down the PC when the lightning gets too proximate.
Usually a storm comes and I call it a day, computer-wise. But with this kind of late summer weather, I can either play the margins or wait for Fall—intermittent thundershowers are forecast for the foreseeable future.
So, I’m going to upload my video and get off until tomorrow—it’s hot and muggy even when the sun breaks through. Only a fool gets stressed on Sunday. Bear returns next Thursday, thank goodness.
Don Pietro del Cianflone has returned from summer hiatus—sing laude and strike the tambor! Here, we have the Buds-Up Semi-Ensemble wreaking havoc with the laws of both rhythm and harmony in a spectacular display of bongo-osity and piano-tivity. If you spot this duo—notify the musical authorities at once. If you hear something—you’ve heard too much!
The rest of this is just me—nothing to see here, just move it along…
That’s that, for now. A big thanks to Peter Cianflone for the jam session!
Pete’s late—looks like no jam today. And I just got my microphone working! Oh, well. Oh, wait—maybe he comes at one, instead of noon? I can’t remember—maybe he does. Damn this swiss-cheese brain of mine.
Well, Jessy is expecting—which is great. Spencer is working on historical fiction for gamers (I’m not really sure—something like that) and he asked me for some medieval music examples recently, for research—he’s started up gardening and mowing, now that spring has sprung—which is also great. And Claire—well, as usual, Claire is unbelievable—life-drawing classes almost every day, a watercolor painting-tutorial day at the Botanical Gardens recently, and a drawing class in Katonah once a week. (She’s really becoming a phenomenally able graphic-artist). And that’s all beside the daily (at least) trips to the gym—and her ongoing work on her resume for her dream-job. Plus, she takes care of me, Spencer, and the house (with her other hand—ha ha).
So, let’s see—Claire was a prize pianist and music student in her youth, raised two toddlers as a young adult, got her Bachelor’s in computers and worked for an online-encyclopedia company during her programmer phase, then took care of her dying husband so well that the bastard never died, then went for her Master’s in occupational therapy, got in shape with pilates, yoga, and the gym, started drawing lessons—and is about to get a new job in her new OT career, at the same time as becoming a new grandmother. Lazy—that’s Claire—she’ll be sixty in a couple of years—and what will she have to show for it? Some people.
I used to have a life—boy, those were the days—but that was so long ago I can hardly remember what it was like. Okay, it’s one-twenty now—even if Pete was coming at one, he’s late now—looks like no jam today. Guess it’s time to go watch TV. Damn. Well, there were new movies on the menu yesterday—I hope one of them is worth watching.
Son of a bitch—Pete’s here!
Wednesday, May 25, 2016 6:20 PM
Okay, Pete came—we had a great session—then he had to go home—and I had a cheeseburger—now I’m just editing the video—and writing a blog about the political news of today.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016 8:41 PM
Okay, the best thing in the new movie listings is Zoolander II—hardly inspiring, although I’ll probably watch it. Ben Stiller really makes me laugh—when he isn’t making me puke—I think his masterpiece, “There’s Something About Mary”, redefined the boundaries of good taste in a comedy film—and it’s something of a genre these days. I can take that stuff, up to a point, but my gross-out limit is a very low bar.
I’ve gotten my rough cuts of the jam session edited—three improvs and a medley of eight Burton Lane tunes. The first improv sounded to Pete like calypso music, but I thought it sounded more like I was having a fit, so I call it ‘Calypsis’.
The other two improvs came out real nice—me in my best voice, I felt. You decide. One, “Either Way”, is three minutes, the other, “Twilight of the Gourds”, is a minute and a half—but still, all told we got about 32 minutes of video for the day—not too shabby.
Let’s talk about our Burton Lane songbook-covers video—first and foremost, none of this is Pete’s fault—he just puts up with my eccentricities. And, yes, this is some pretty sloppy piano-playing. But there are some moments of interest—and we did have fun joking around. If it were just me, I’d probably have second thoughts about posting this—but with Pete there, it’s still pretty entertaining, most of it. So, listen, don’t listen—either way, you’re right.
Thursday, May 26, 2016 11:38 AM
Last night I had my choice—sleepless, or sleep with nightmares. I finally got a few hours of shut-eye, but now that I’m up, my back is killing me. Which all goes to show that I had more excitement and fun yesterday than this old carcass is prepared to deal with. That’s a bad thing, kinda—but it’s also a pretty good thing, if you think about it. It’s not like I don’t get occasional nightmares and backaches—without having any excuse at all—and a good day is a good day, regardless of tomorrow.
Yes, I know—it’s cheap and silly and stupid—but sometimes I just get desperate for a new sound. I thought, ‘maybe I could turn on the dishwasher or some other appliance—maybe a car engine idling—I don’t know—Oh wait—I know, I’ll play that ocean waves CD at a really high volume, so I sound like I’m playing piano on the beach.’ Yeah, right—no way it’ll sound like a cheap stereo playing ocean waves in another room. Hey, we do what we can—we work with the tools we have. And speaking of which—yes, I’m singing show tunes with a voice that sounds more like a torture victim’s than a vocalist’s—but I like the song, so deal with it.
Sherryl Marshall had her annual recital next door last night—I traditionally kick things off, since I’m shameless enough to do it—and it helps put the others at ease to see me mess things up (which I do) and not have the world come to an end. Everybody gets up and sings a song or three—I did “Masquerade”, “Maybe”, and “Marching Along Together”, all from the 1930s, and all (as Claire pointed out) from the ‘M’ section of my songbook. I’ve played my parents’ old songbook for decades, but still I had to rehearse these three for a few days beforehand, just to be comfortable performing them in front of other people (something I only do this one time each year, excepting Xmas-caroling sing-alongs).
Afterwards, when I got home, I was like an old car that keeps backfiring for a while after you turn off the ignition—spazzing and making involuntary exclamations—like the police were coming for me or something. I’m really not cut out for public performance. But then there is also a feeling of having made it through an ordeal, which is very satisfying. I spent most of today just basking in the fact that it was over with, and that I hadn’t screwed it up too badly.
I don’t get out of the house much. It’s wonderful of Sherryl to include me in these annual recitals—I’m not even one of her students. She says it makes the other students comfortable to see a neighbor there, that it makes it more casual—but I think she’s just being very kind to her shut-in, next-door neighbor. And these annual concerts help to remind me why I don’t try to perform more often on my own—it’s terrifying. I only do it that once each year—I don’t know how Sherryl has the courage to do it for a living. But then, she’s a real musician—a professional—and I imagine that gives a person more confidence when they stand up in front of a crowd.
I wish I could offer you some video from the concert, but I left my camera at home—I didn’t expect my singing to be worth recording. This re-enactment video will show you why—I guess I do better under pressure. Or maybe it was the setting—I don’t know.
Also, I want to wish all you mothers out there a very happy mother’s day!
Pete and I went for two today—and came up with an extended session which I am pleased to share with you here—three improvs, six cover songs, and a piece by Domenico Scarlatti, no less—it was quite the take and I am now very tired—we don’t usually get so ambitious on these monthly get-togethers.
Now you can say that the covers—and certainly the Scarlatti—are terribly done and I can’t really argue with you. I post these more for the fun we had than for any great contribution to YouTube. But I stand by the improvs—they’re not so bad—and I don’t care what you think. Nothing inspires me more than to have a drummer play along with me—and Pete’s the greatest.
We start, as always, with an improv—today’s first improv was a warm-up, kinda Spanish-ey (I like to steal rhythms from Rodrigo) but not quite the greatest thing ever. That’s the trouble with improvisation—you can’t just ‘start’, you have to work your way into it—and I fear I lose listeners sometimes just because you have to give us a minute before we get anything going. Listeners don’t usually give that kind of slack to a YouTube video—but there’s no way around it, for me.
Here’s the chronology of today’s two part set:
Improv – When The Deep Purple Kush
Domenico Scarlatti‘s Sonata – Longo 23
Improv – Bluesome
Cover: “Crystal Blue Persuasion”
Cover: “All My Loving”
Cover: “Crimson and Clover”
Improv – Stone Soup
Two (2) 1960 Covers: “Gee Whiz” & “Silence Is Golden”
Cover: “Sugar Sugar”
As you can see, the second round was shorter and less ambitious—but I’m still impressed that we had a second round at all. Only at the beginning of our sessions would I try something crazy like the Scarlatti—but I got that out of the way (and out of my system)—and trust me, you really haven’t played Scarlatti until you’ve had tympani backing you up—even if it is only bongo drums. There are many fine pianists (and harpsichordists) on YouTube, so you can hear the piece played properly (I gave you the Longo number) if you wish to do a search.
The second improv came out that way because Pete said, after the Scarlatti, “Hey, let’s try something more bluesey.” So I improvised using mostly seventh chords, which is my way of sounding bluesey. I’d play like Art Tatum if I could—but again, just search on “Art Tatum” if you want to hear some real blues piano.
I had a great time today—we played some of my favorite piano arrangements of cover songs from the sixties—and there was a third improv that we tried to be spacey with—like an acid trip on the piano—but I don’t know, I was pretty tired out by then. We had a great, sunny day to play in—so for today we bill ourselves as the Buds-Up Sunshine Band (with apologies to K.C., et. al.)
We talked a bit about a podcast—but as we discussed it, I realized that I always pick activities that can’t be rushed or scheduled. If I had to do an improv once a week on schedule—well, I couldn’t do it. It’s just like the poetry or the drawing—I can only do what I’m inspired to do; I can’t just decide it’s time to play an improv. Besides, I have my good days and bad days—getting together with Pete once a month is about as busy as I can manage—and even then, some months are better than others. Fortunately, today was kickass.
In high school I wrote a term paper comparing T. S.Eliot’s “The Waste Land” with Lewis Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland”—a spurious pairing based on both titles inferring the existence of a ‘land’ of some sort. On first reading I found T. S. Eliot rather opaque—so I was able to make a case that both works involved a lot of nonsense. My teacher was probably so glad that someone bothered to read Eliot that she forbore from destroying my facile interpretation of his poem—I think I got a high grade based solely on the ambition of my reading.
But having been introduced to Mr. Eliot, I was off and running. I read all his poems and most of his plays—then I read most of his essays—then I read critical analysis of Eliot’s life and works, seeking some explication of this rather difficult poet. In the process, I was led to read parts of the Bible, some Shakespeare plays, some poetry by Marvell and Donne, Jessie Weston’s “From Ritual To Romance”, and a good chunk of Fraser’s “The Golden Bough”. At one time I could recite “Burnt Norton” from memory—though at sixty now, and having read all the Four Quartets many times over, I think I understand the poem better now than I did when I could recite it.
Eliot is a strange influence on a young man—he was both after and before his time. He was after his time in the sense that Old World propriety meant more to this native of St. Louis than to the inhabitants of the modern-day London where he spent his adult life. He was before his time in many ways—not least of which being his rejection of religion in his youth and his return to it later in life—not unlike the born-again backlash against secularism that would sweep America a decade after his death.
Eliot being as much a philosopher as a poet, studying his work as an adolescent may have made me old before my time, at least mentally. Looking back on it, I feel that studying Eliot made me old before my time in much the same way that being ill for so long, and even dying momentarily on the table during my eleventh-hour liver transplant, made me dead before my time. In my mind the two are similar in having made me an outsider among my contemporaries and robbing me, in a sense, of the innocence enjoyed by most people—both the carefree-ness of youth and the ignorance of death most adults maintain right up to the end. But there is room for doubt as to whether those things affected me or if I just have that sort of personality.
Because of this feeling I have a tendency to feel irritable whenever my thoughts turn to social ills, politics, or man’s inhumanity to man—I know that most people give these things only cursory attention now and then, rather than becoming obsessed with our immature behavior as a race. Most people cling to the assumption that humans shouldn’t be any better than they ought to be—but my ‘old geezer’ perspective rants and raves at our insistence on such ingenuousness. I look ahead so persistently that I never enjoy the present—it is a maturity shared by few. And that’s the way it should be—it is foolish to take the world’s troubles on one’s shoulders, when there is little to be done about it other than fret.
‘One day at a time’ is considered great wisdom by many—to me, it smacks of the grasshopper—wasting away the present, without a thought for tomorrow’s troubles. But then, I’m no big fan of ‘surrendering to a higher power’ either. So no twelve steps for me—I get along without them, but I’m glad they work for other people.
Monday, April 11, 2016 11:53 AM
Yes, I know that Monday has a bad rep amongst the working—but for those of us who are unable to work, Monday has a sweetness to it that workers could never imagine. After being disabled it took me years to get over the vestigial thrill of the weekend. Every Friday night I would get that conditioned response—relief that the weekend was finally upon us—but what followed were two more days just like all the rest, if not less enjoyable.
Stores close early on the weekends—those that open on Sunday at all—and you can’t call any place of business to work out a billing or customer service problem. The weekend roadways, should I venture out, are crowded and slow. House-bound people tend to watch a lot of TV—and weekend TV sucks. (Okay, I’ll give you “Madame Secretary” and John Oliver on Sunday night, but that’s it.)
All weekend long it’s mostly sports on TV—I could never acquire a taste for televised sporting events—believe me, I’ve tried. Even Turner Classic Movies (TCM) deserts me—Slip Mahoney and the Gang in the morning and silent films at night. The news channels (which I dislike enough on weekdays) run ‘caught on tape’ prison documentaries instead of live reporting—which is very apropos—weekends on TV are a lot like prison. All of this makes perfect sense—the vast majority of people have lives—and those lives are busiest on the weekend—why run top programming for an empty room?
I’ve learned to love Mondays. On Monday the New York Times crossword is as easy as it’s going to get—and Jeopardy is once again on at seven—those may seem like little things, but they loom large when one’s life has few other high-points. Weekend food is usually leftovers and take-out, so the food is better on Monday, too. Everyone else is starting their week and that excitement comes through a little, even if there’s a lot of tail-dragging that goes with it. When weekends involved a lot of partying, I used to have a terrible time on Monday morning—now that I can’t have that sort of fun, enjoying Mondays is my booby-prize, I guess.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016 9:50 AM
There is so much music. I own so many CDs that a strong man couldn’t carry them all in one trip—stacks and stacks of them pile up as I continue re-ripping my collection to my new external hard drive—and all I can think about as I go through them is how much music is missing. My old LP collection was more complete, and I never lose that urge to buy enough CDs to equal that former glory—but that old collection was largely built up during my dad’s tenure as VP of Direct Mail at BBDO, back in the sixties. It included the Deutsche Gramophone recordings of the complete works of Beethoven (about twelve volumes of six records each) and the entire Time-Life classical music series (another pallet-full of records)—an avalanche of recordings he was given as free samples in the course of determining their mail-order ad campaigns. (We used to joke that he should talk Mercedes Benz into doing a Direct Mail campaign.)
I am one of five siblings, but neither my parents nor my siblings showed any interest in classical music back then—all the free records went to me and no one was jealous about it—in fact, I often fought over the living room hi-fi with my siblings—they much preferred Rock and R&B. I liked that music also—but I preferred variety—I wanted to listen to all music. The whole world was mesmerized by rock’n’roll back then—when I actually bought classical records at Fox & Sutherland’s, they were going cheap—sometimes only a dollar or two, where Beatles albums were closer to ten bucks. The whole classical catalog was referred to as ‘loss-leaders’—records that were produced to enhance the reputation of the label, rather than to make a profit.
Having that in my early days, I would get huffy, later on, when some piece of classical music became popular—“Thus Spake Zarathustra” used in the soundtrack to “2001: A Space Odyssey” or “Bolero” used in the movie “10”—people would say, “You’ve got to hear this!” and in my mind I was always thinking, “Yeah, right—like I’ve never heard that before, you philistine.”
When you listen to classical music and read classic literature at thirteen, you get used to being an outsider. But there is a way in which everyone will suddenly become an expert on something that found its way out of obscurity and into the spotlight for a time—and I find myself caught between my delight that others are finally sharing in the joy I get from these obscure sources—and resentment of my private preserve being trampled by the unwashed. But it’s not all my fault—I spent most of my time feeling outside of society and to do that day after day required that I build up some pride in being different—and there’s some unavoidable bitterness when that difference gets erased in a surge of popularity.
To make matters worse, there is so much music that even my obsession has gaps in knowledge. When ‘Classical Music’ appears as a Jeopardy category, I always assume I’ll know all the answers—but oftentimes I don’t—there’s just too much to know. Plus, ‘opera’ is the most popular form of classical music—and I’ve never much cared for opera—I don’t know much about it. Well, that’s not true—but I know less about opera than an opera buff.
It makes me laugh when Music Choice’s ‘Classical Masterpieces’ channel gives out with three factoids about the composer, that cycle on the screen while the piece is played on the audio. It’s ludicrous—they could be scrolling the composer’s complete entry from Grove’s Music Dictionary—or at the very least, the Wiki entry—in the time it takes some symphonies to play. Do they suppose that would make people less likely to watch? How information-phobic are people, anyway? They’d probably tell you that the factoids are meant to pique your interest so you’ll go google the composer yourself—but that’s just lazy.
Then again, I only turn to that channel when I’m reading—still, they could actually build up a viewership of music-geeks, if they put a little effort into it—maybe not—I don’t know. They make me irritable anyway, mis-titling and mis-crediting a surprising number of audio-tracks—so I know there’s nobody home at that company that gives a damn about classical music. I guess it’s still a loss-leader.
A fresh day in early spring—this is what we’ve earned by our patience through the long, dreary winter. The daffodils have a white pallor that suits them and belies the bright yellow they will eventually achieve. Here in the foyer the front door is ajar. A light breeze is clearing out the tobacco smoke and mixing in heady earth-tones of life stirring in the mud.
My head is clear and my mood is solid—something I’ve learned to appreciate for its increasing rarity. I’m also thankful about many other things I took for granted, back when they were so plentiful and constant I mistook them for permanent fixtures rather than the glory of youth.
My daughter’s gift for my sixtieth birthday was socks—Superman socks, Spiderman socks—an embarrassment of super-hero socks. She knows me too well. Not every adult is comfortable sporting Superman socks—I have no problem with wearing anything silly—red plaid pants with green plaid shirt and argyle socks—I don’t care. I never leave the house—and when I do, I assume everyone’s staring at me anyway because I’m kinda neurotic—so if they really stare at my socks, I don’t think anything of it. Life can’t have too much color in it, if you ask me. I could never be cool because cool people only wear black. I’ll wait for the funeral, thanks.
Okay, so—why play these creaky old tunes? Is it ironic? Well, maybe a little—but not entirely—some of them are fun, some are funny, some are just a great tune. Take, for example, “Paddlin’ Madelin’ Home”—now this song has got the silliest lyrics ever—and I’m not entirely sure the lyrics aren’t ingenuously sexual—they’re certainly suggestive. And “Yes! We Have No Bananas”—what kind of monster could fail to love that song? It makes no sense at all—I love things that make no sense at all. And I can’t sing “The Sheik of Araby” without picturing a mob of flappers swooning over Valentino wearing too much kohl around his eyes.
Old songs—the more I play them, the dearer they become to me. I think my favorite songs are still the ones I learned in grade-school assemblies and Boy Scout campfire sing-alongs. As a teen I was always eager for the latest hits—but I think people generally prefer songs they’ve heard over and over—it’s more fun when you don’t even have to think about it to sing along.
Today’s improv, “Extra-Sharp”, is passable–but you can skip the “Player Ade” improv from a few days ago–if it were anything special, I wouldn’t have waited so long to post it.
Happy Vernal Equinox (1st day of Spring) everyone! It’s colder today than it was on Xmas, so of course they’ve forecast a little snow for the area.
I’ve been asked about copyright issues. First, let me disclaim any education, pre-law or otherwise—I don’t really know anything—I can only give what is my present understanding of how these things go. Firstly, aside from my downloadable e-CD, “Opus Eleven by XperDunn”, I don’t have anything profit-based online—my YouTube videos are downloadable and are all part of their Community-Usage pool of material, my blog is not subscription-based, and I have nothing for sale on E-Bay—I’m a non-profit user.
As I understand it, that doesn’t exempt me from copyright law, it just makes me a low-value target for the litigious—unlike successful artists, who it seems must spend a great deal of time and money fending off pretenders to their work, valid or spurious. Were anything of mine to go viral, or to show any revenue-earning potential, then I would have rich people’s problems—but don’t hold your breath.
As far as what you can post to YouTube, there aren’t any hard and fast rules—you can even post a favorite album of yours, if you go to the trouble of making a video out of it. But if you do that, and the band you posted doesn’t like it, YouTube’ll take it down. What I do is slightly different. I post covers of music—meaning I perform a piece of piano music on video and post that.
A lot of my stuff is classical or folk—and that stuff is in the Public Domain—which means it’s at least a hundred years old and no one can ‘own’ it. But I do a fair number of jazz and pop covers from songbooks—and in these cases both the original music belongs to someone else—and the piano arrangement rights belong to the publisher of whatever book I’m sight-reading. Here’s the weird part—I own the video of my own performance.
In the case of covers, YouTube will send you an email asking you to agree that the song doesn’t belong to you—but they leave the video posted online. I always include a ‘cover’ tag with any such post of mine, just so nobody can claim I was trying to pull something. When I’m not feeling lazy, I try to include the credits and copyright info for each cover-song in my description text as well. It may subsequently have a suggestion-link that uses your video to sell the original artists’ e-tracks—but even if they don’t use it as advertising, the cover post itself is free publicity. Unpopular YouTube channels like mine don’t get a lot of views—and if I post a really bad cover, even my channel subscribers don’t watch it—so it isn’t as if it hurts the composer—unless he or she listens to it.
Perhaps I hadn’t made it clear in my previous posts about copyright claim disputes—in my case, it’s all about the principle of the thing. My sole downloadable CD for sale hasn’t sold even once in two years, that I know of—and that’s pretty much what I expected. Only when an artist generates revenue does the issue of copyright become a serious legal matter—after all, you’ve got to pay for the lawyers. If you are a piano player, like me (or play any instrument, or if you sing) then you should feel free to post whatever you record—nobody is going to sue you. No one’s going to pay you either, but no one’ll sue you.
I’ve just been listening to a bootleg CD, a gift from my friend, Chris, of a live concert of Peter Blegved at St. Ann’s in Brooklyn. It filled me with the sense of music being both powerful and personal—you pick your own words, you tell your own story, you make up your own tune. What could be more empowering? What could be more intimate?
I appreciate all that from a distance, though. You won’t catch me onstage in Brooklyn singing to a crowd of people (like they’d have me). There has to be a motive force to get a person onstage—I have nothing I wish to share that urgently with other people—typical of someone who’s always had trouble communicating. To me, it’s a struggle. It’s so easy to be misunderstood—and that’s when people are paying attention to begin with. All it would take is one heckler and I’d be outta there. I think of entertainment as show business, emphasis on the ‘business’—music, itself, is another thing entirely.
I guess that’s what I’m trying to say by posting thousands of piano videos on YouTube—I love music, but I’m no entertainer. I don’t really invite people to listen to my playing—more that I’m asking people to share my love for the music I’m struggling to recreate (in the case of the classical and other sheet music covers). I put the improvs out there because I don’t mind people listening to them, not because I think I’m the second coming of Tchaikovsky or something. Perhaps an illustration would help clarify—sometimes I listen to one of my better improvs and I think to myself, “Hey! That almost sounds like real music.”
It might help my self-esteem if I didn’t have such a deep appreciation of music—I’ve always been a fan of classical music, first and foremost. I like all the other kinds, but if I had to pick just one—classical. I like rag, swing, jazz, rock, blues, funk, folk, and show-tunes, too. Between the great composers and the great performers, the virtuosi and the rock-stars, Glenn Gould to Jimi Hendrix to the Bulgarian Soviet Female Vocal Choir, my mind is awash in the glory and the diversity and the ecstasy of centuries of great music. So when I plonk away on my Mason-Hamlin baby grand, it’s unlikely that I’ll get a swelled head.
Conversely, I never have to worry that I’ll run out of things to do—there’s always more music to learn, there’s always more music to invent, there’s always room for improvement in my technique—it’s an infinite hobby that offers nothing like an endgame—perfect for someone who’s feeling his years.
My illness has been serious enough to offer ample opportunities to contemplate death. I consider it unhealthy to dwell upon, but only when it remains in some distant sometime—when you hear it knocking, it’s only natural to give it some thought. Funny that my one great fear, it turns out, is the embarrassment—‘He was right in the middle of something—he actually thought he was going to keep on living—what a schmuck!’ I imagine the dirty clothes I hadn’t got around to putting in the hamper—all the loose ends that a person assumes they’ll ‘get to’ eventually. I could almost spend the rest of my life making sure I leave a neat room behind me, with no unfinished projects lying around. How sad for my family to have to tidy up after what I presumed would be the rest of my life—you know?
I don’t think anyone fears the actual dying itself—it’s the absence of the life that’s impossible to get my head around. What good’s a universe without me in it, right? At some point, I will no longer have a vote on what constitutes reality—I’ll be completely non-participating. That just doesn’t seem right—it’s eerie.
And it is unhealthy to dwell on—I’ve found that being sick enough to feel compelled to face death is a horrible curse—we’re not meant to face the infinite. Our lives are meant to be lived as if they are open-ended—admitting death’s inevitability spoils that. So I really shouldn’t even be writing about it—it’s not fair to you, dear reader. Forget I said anything.
That was a poem (if you can call it that) I wrote yesterday—don’t ask me to explain it—I think the title does that, if anything can.
Had some strange recordings today—well, it’s yesterday now—and the day before was pretty awesome also. That day I played a slow but nearly accurate ‘Arabesque’ by Debussy—and then, after listening to Sibelius’s Second Symphony in e minor, I tried to pick out the finale theme on the piano—and that one I call ‘Playing with Sibelius’—I really shouldn’t use his name, since I made quite a mess of his music (which is really beautiful—check out the YouTube of Leonard Bernstein conducting it) but I couldn’t pretend that his theme, even as jacked-up as I played it, was my own creation.
Then today, or yesterday rather, our good neighbor, Harlan, came over to repair our plumbing—you can hear some handiwork clunking about and such—while I was making a video of the snow falling outside our window—and I played some song covers that came out good enough to post. The camera was pointed towards Harlan’s house (even though you can’t see it in the video) and you can hear Harlan, at the end of the recording, asking why we’re filming his house (ha ha).
The two improvs I played after everyone else left, so they have no interesting stories to them—but I kinda like the way they turned out anyhow. February has been a big recording month for me—this makes twenty-six recordings for February and it’s not even over yet…. But the biggest thrill for today is—the toilet flushes again! Yayyy. (You never appreciate stuff until it goes away, do you?)
Billie Holiday’s discography includes some beautiful old standards—one of my favorites is “I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me” written by Jimmy McHugh & Clarence Gaskill in 1926. I find the sheet music demanding and if I can’t play the thing properly, I certainly can’t give you the slightest idea of how exquisitely simply beautiful it is on the Billie Holiday recording. Those early recordings of Billy Holiday with the Teddy Wilson Orchestra are, in many ways, the apotheosis of musicality—so weirdly perfect and so perfectly weird. (Apotheosis means “the highest point in the development of something; culmination or climax.”—I looked it up to make sure I wasn’t being stupid.) Here’s another favorite Holiday recording:
And that’s the context in which I first heard performed “Everybody Loves My Baby (But My Baby Don’t Love Nobody But Me)” written by Jack Palmer & Spencer Williams in 1924. Again, I struggle too much with getting this sheet music played to give it the easy bounce that it should have.
The middle piece from today’s video is by Vincent Youmans—a real class act—influenced in later years by Jerome Kern—but this early song is more of a jazz take on a revival-tent choir—“Hallelujah” written by Vincent Youmans, with words by Clifford Grey & Leo Robin in 1927. Here’s another from 1927, “I Know That You Know”:
I’m working on backups—I’ve had it in the back of my mind ever since the new year turned—and when the PC crashed yesterday, I was worried about how much writing, music, scans, and who-knows-what-else I might have lost—so—backups, right away—before I forget. And I have it in mind to try and think of a way to do intermediate, frequent backups of work-in-progress—just to keep this sort of thing from covering too broad a time period.
Thursday, February 11, 2016 11:05 AM
The pain is obscene—I’m having a bad day. God, I could scream. I’m not usually Mr. Comfortable—but I’m used to that. It’s when the pain is just so severe and so constant that I can’t think straight—that’s when I get a little bitchy about it.
I resisted the strong urge to respond to all the political posts on my Facebook wall—thankfully—there’s nothing to be gained by venting my ‘old crabby guy’ sentiments all over Facebook, just so some trollish meathead can engage me with what he or she is sure is ‘cogent reasoning’, but which in the end only proves how superficial, emotional, and peer-pressured their thinking is. The trouble with Facebook is that an educated, intelligent person can find himself or herself put on the same level as the dumbest ass in the country—and I recoil at the waste of time represented by arguing with someone who can’t even use the English language (or, at least, spell-check).
Also, there’s a mountain of difference between someone with fifty years of engagement in history, politics, and current events—and someone whose political involvement began when they decided to jump on Bernie’s bandwagon two months ago. I won’t even go into the depths of stupidity, and lack of self-preservation, represented by favoring the GOP. I could face standing in front of a classroom, trying to teach people what they don’t know—but I’ll be damned if I’m going to face them as equals, trading quips, while I try to educate them—and while they pretend to an equal understanding. That’s too hard for me—and much too easy on them.
And it is too easy to be a troll—they can just keep spewing bullshit until someone calls them on it—I, on the other hand, feel a responsibility to know what I’m talking about before I argue a point. I could twist the truth eight ways from Sunday—but I call myself on that stuff before it even leaves my lips—I don’t just throw it out there and dare someone else to refute it, just because it wins my argument for me. That’s debate-team bullshit—and everyone knows it—even the people who habitually use it in place of verisimilitude. Debate and argument are like government—none of it works properly without good will on both sides.
Not that I intend to leave the battlefield to the morons—I’ll post political comments on Facebook again someday—but using the cold logic of reason—not out of this pit of bitterness and pain.
Here’s some piano music from before the recent computer crash:
Well, let’s see, lately I’ve watched “Bridge Of Spies”, which was fantastic, “Suffragette”, which was beautifully made, and some other movie that escapes me at the moment—no reflection on the movie—I just have a swiss-cheese brain. I did a nice post the other day, “Lachrymosa Regina”, which is about as good as my writing gets—and a new improv, “Suffragette” (which I named in honor of the film) which is about as good as my piano-playing gets—so I’ve had a banner post-birthday few days. Claire and I watched the last hour of the Super Bowl last night, waiting for Stephen Colbert—but the game ran long and Claire had to give up and go to sleep—I only saw Tina Fey, his first guest—I fell asleep before Will Ferrell came on.
That’s my autobiography of the last few days—pretty insular stuff—I did take at least one walk up and down the street outside my house during that time—not much, but I did see the sun. And I just recorded another decent improv (I think—I still have to listen to the playback). Okay—I just listened to the playback—I’d forgotten that, about one minute in, I’m trying to figure out Tom Wait’s “Jersey Girl” (I just heard it during the credits of the eponymous Kevin Smith film)—I only get a few chords from the chorus before I give up and start improvising, but it does kinda drag down the whole recording—which is, otherwise, as good as I’d hoped it was while I played it.
I also recorded a cover of the old Association hit, “Cherish” (by Terry Kirkman)—which I bang on quite wildly—like the piano owed me money or something—but that’s how I play when I think I’m being expressive—maybe I should take anger-management—but I think the problem goes too deep for group therapy to fix.
I had “Groundhog Day” playing in the background for part of the day—Comedy Central ran it on a loop, in honor of the day. And for those of you following at home, Puxatawney Phil did not see his shadow this morning—which legends tells us betokens an early spring—as if global warming wasn’t threatening to bewilder the spring bulbs out of the lawn right here in early February. I have a special fondness for Groundhog Day because it has always been the day before my birthday—which I share with Horace Greeley, among others. And the eponymous film is one of my favorites because lots of people say they don’t care for science fiction—but everybody loves “Groundhog Day”, and if that’s not science fiction, nothing is.
My CD-library-designated external hard-drive died, and today I purchased a new one-terrabyte Passport by Western Digital to replace it. I’ve started ripping my CDs to the new drive—but I have hundreds of CDs, so it’s going to take a few days. I hope I didn’t lose anything irreplaceable—but I’m not going to spend $500 to find out (that’s the average cost of a data-retrieval service to restore a broken hard-drive’s data). I’m enjoying the review of my CD collection, anyway—so I’m just going to relax and enjoy rebuilding my digital music library. I was fortunate in using my C: drive for the downloaded music files delivered by Amazon or I-Tunes—I don’t know where I’d begin to restore that part of my music collection. Do I re-order it? Do I have to pay for it twice? What’s the deal? Here’s hoping I never have to find out.
Hillary won (just barely) and Trump lost in last night’s Iowa Caucuses, so I’m cautiously optimistic. I think people forget that Hillary Clinton would be our first woman president—and that’s aside from being the best candidate, regardless of gender. We’ve been so excited and proud, most of us, to have elected Barrack Obama—and now we have a chance for another first—but somehow, the fact that we’ve had our first non-white president takes some of the luster off of the idea of our first woman president—which is weird. I guess, emotionally, people can get too much of a good thing.
Ms./First Lady/Senator/Secretary Clinton has done a lot of the downplaying herself—I guess she doesn’t want to make her gender the focus of her candidacy—and I can see why she’d think that—but I’m excited. Female heads of state may be rare—but guess what’s rarer? Female heads of state who commit war crimes, or get caught in corruption, or do the many bad things that male heads of state get up to when they get the chance—that’s what (or should I say who?). Not that women are always good—perhaps they get less chances to ruin the world—but that still leaves them with pretty good track records.
Good old Bernie is a nice guy—but he’s promising the moon to college kids—and those young people have enough school-loan-debt and unemployment to make them hungry for change—even hungry enough to vote. But let’s get serious about a Socialist running in the national election—the Democratic primary is one thing, but getting the whole country behind him is altogether different. And that’s just getting him elected. Look at Bernie Sanders’ voting record in office and ask yourself how much bi-partisan support his programs are liable to generate—even an elected Bernie could never deliver on his promises unless those same people vote in progressive Democrats to the Congressional and Senate seats.
Anyway, I continue to watch the race with interest. Now here are some videos I posted recently—I hope you like them:
And, finally, this is a post originally from my Amazon Customer Reviews:
Monday, February 01, 2016 3:58 PM
Book Report: “This Long Vigil” by Rhett Bruno (2016Feb01)
This would be more properly titled ‘Short Story Report’ but I often fall into the pit of convention—and in this case I am helped along by my Kindle, which renders the purchase and consumption of all fiction into the same seamless ‘buy-with-one-click’ stream—with the exception of the length of time for which we will be beguiled by the author. In this case—blink and you’ll miss it.
I found ‘This Long Vigil’ entertaining, well-written, and engrossing—but far too short. In the case of such snippets, one is more likely to feel the resonance of what’s missing than the paucity of what’s not. In this particularly case, I was left wondering how the premise came to be—what devilish organization would decide to put humans into the situation which the protagonist of this story finds himself? A solitary life leavened only by the voice of a parental computer, but surrounded by a thousand sleeping bodies who will never wake—this story leaves a lot unexplored—particularly how someone could survive such a life without succumbing to emotional imbalance or outright insanity. The protagonist’s final option skirts the issue, but couches it as a hero’s choice—not the ultimate desperation of a tortured guinea pig.
In programming we have the ‘reality check’—we look at a program’s results and, rather than check the calculations, we’d ask ourselves ‘does the output make any sense in general?’ If the ‘number of orders shipped’ equals negative two, or twenty million—you know you have a program bug—that’s a ‘reality check’. Story’s like “This Long Vigil” can be haunting and evocative—but the lack of a ‘reality check’ in the premise always breaks my vicarious concentration. Fortunately, this story is over before you have too long to dwell on it—the doubts come after. I look forward to reading something of Rhett Bruno that is longer and less darkly-toned—and I must stop here lest my review outstrip the story.
Well, don’t expect much, because it’s been a rough few days and it is Sunday after all. I’ve been thinking about Bernie Sanders and his surge in the early states’s polls—and while that doesn’t mean a change in the overall Democratic nomination process—it does feed into my worry that I’ve been so set on Hillary Clinton for so long that I might be overlooking something in her number one rival for the Democratic nomination. However, now that I’ve taken some time to think on it—this is why I’m ‘still for Hil’:
A couple of things—first, Sanders supporters might not be taking into account that Bernie’s message, while attractive to the Democrats themselves, may fall on deaf ears in the nationwide election. Secondly, while I applaud all of Bernie’s most thrilling reforms, I question whether any person could deliver on any big, sudden financial reform—there’s a lot of headwind in that process—and while Hillary may be promising to do less, she has more chance of getting it done.
Hillary Clinton, because of Bernie’s rhetoric, is becoming the ‘bird in the hand’ candidate. You can take what she offers and be fairly certain she’ll win the election (and, as importantly, work better with a probable GOP-majority congress) or you can reach for what Bernie is offering, even though the realpolitik of his succeeding in both the election, and in working with a GOP-led congress, are less than promising.
I kind of think of Bernie Sanders as an Elizabeth Warren without the wisdom to see that such reforms will require a longer game—and greater influence—than a presidential term or two. In fact, Liz Warren, continuing her struggle in the Senate, has more chance of getting these kinds of reforms passed than a President Sanders ever would.
The chaos of the Republican campaign has caused the Democratic race to be shrunk down into a cartoon of itself, with little room in the meager coverage—between Trump sound-bites—to get the subtle nuances of why Hillary Clinton is still far and away our best bet, in spite of Bernie’s pyrotechnics in live performance (who’d a thunk it, huh?) And I admit that my fear that one of those Republican clowns could possibly ‘slip through’ is another factor in my favoring Hillary Clinton. Bernie supporters should recognize that his appeal stems from the very things that will make him beatable by a Republican—‘Socialist’ isn’t a dirty word to Democrats—but to the rest of the country? Please. Not that I have any objection to Bernie Sanders—wonderful guy—great ideas—total champion of the little people—but as presidential candidate in lieu of Hillary? No.
So, that’s my two cents on the Sanders surge.
I played some music the other day, right after several days of practicing nothing but my book of Chopin’s Mazurkas—so I’ve entitled it ‘Mazurkoid’—not because it sounds like Chopin, but because it has harmonies and rhythms I’ve never have thought of, had I not immersed myself in his genius—and I like to give credit where credit is due. All my improvising, honestly, is informed by constant practice, sight-reading through the great composers, the great song-writers, and any sheet music I can find, really—so while I don’t know where my fingers will go next, I know that their paths have been shaped by others—and all I’m adding is my personality.
Today I played from my Jazz Standards book—these are songs that I may have posted previously but if so I guarantee that these are better versions than I’ve ever recorded before, so I want to post my progress, if nothing else. They’re even kind of listenable, if not professional grade, renditions—so please feel free to give them a listen. I also ended with a tiny improv that I call ‘Moving On’, because it sounded so bright and sunny—like a fresh start. Wish it was longer, but I was pretty tired from all that jazz. I had just failed to play a decent rendition of Gerry Mulligan’s “Five Brothers” which was so bad it’s not on the recording—and you can hear me mumble, “I ain’t no Gerry Mulligan.” as I begin to play the improv….
Xper Dunn plays Piano – January 17th, 2016
Nine Jazz Standards:
Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams
Cute – by Neal Hefti
Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
Moonlight In Vermont
Bernie’s Tune – by Bernie Miller
Let’s Get Away From It All
Fly Me To The Moon
Been playing a lot of Burton Lane Songbook lately—it suits my mood—especially the ‘Finnegan’s Rainbow’ stuff—ethereal and lost-ish. Posting what I assume will be my last Xmas Carol YouTube video this season—I’ve already done four of ‘em and one with Pete—about twenty or more songs all told—that’s enough for one Christmas. Got a decent improv out of it, too—been lucky with the improvs lately—I’m pleased with the last few.
Raining today—not very Christmas-ey while we trim our tree—a little guy this year—barely big enough for all our ornaments. Gotta lot of cardinal ornaments—they go with the clan of actual cardinals that live outside our kitchen window. Got the door open it’s so warm outside—I can hear the dripping and the splatting and the occasional shushhhh of passing cars—not too Christmas-ey, I tell ya. And what’s with all the mist and fog these days? I feel like I’m living on a Game of Thrones set….
It’s a long way from sheet music to video—I started this holiday season with the idea that I could video myself performing an entire book of Christmas songs and carols. I play them cover-to-cover every December, and most of the songs in the different songbooks are the same—there’s only so many traditional holiday songs that remain popular over the years. Carols and such have to be good songs, but they also have to be accessible to the untrained voice, and catchy, without being too challenging for the average kid to sing.
It’s its own genre of music—but don’t be fooled—some of these babies are just as demanding to play on the piano as your average piece of classical music—it may be for the kids, but it’s not kid-stuff to play. There are pared-down versions, of course—but it took me some years to be able to play the intermediate versions—and I don’t like to backslide.
Also, I pretty much have to sing along. It’s more difficult to sing while I play, but I know most of the words—and what’s a Christmas song without the words, after all? Anyway, the thing is—I start to record the songs—and I find that the recordings are not as good as they felt like, while I played them. So then I try again—and by playing the songs more than once, I hope to get a useable recording of each—but then the camera’s battery died just as I was getting warmed up—and an hour of playing goes unrecorded. The next day, I try again, but now my back hurts and my fingers are stumble-y.
I consider backing off, taking a day or two off from playing piano—but then I realize that if I don’t keep going, I’ll forget what I was doing (this is a common problem for me). So I keep pushing when I should be resting—suffice to say I won’t be publishing ‘recordings of entire songbooks’ on YouTube anytime soon. But I got a few done.
Sunday, November 29, 2015 9:55 AM
Okay, Christmas carols—Now, I’ve made no secret of my atheism so someone might reasonably ask why I’m so crazy about the holiday music. Well, firstly, I love music—and the holidays provide the only real opportunity to suggest a sing-along, outside of a boy-scout campfire, without hearing a chorus of moans in reply. Besides that, there’s also the matter of childhood memories—when I was a kid, we not only sang Christmas carols around the piano, we still went to midnight mass.
The carols are fun to sing and play, but they lose a bit of luster when you no longer ‘feel’ the lyrics the way a young, Catholic-indoctrinated boy does. Nowadays, I am comfortable enough in my atheism to allow some nostalgia for faith—to allow myself to pretend to still believe while I’m singing—and the thrill is back, to a certain small degree. For me, there’s no smidgen of cognitive dislocation involved at Christmastime—what with the irony of Santa Claus being a belief we grow out of, and Christ being a belief we’re supposed to maintain. But it is just that irony that now allows me to pretend that Christmas is what it once was—at least while I’m singing.
I would, if I could figure out how, prefer to make videos of a crowd of carolers—a video of just me, singing and playing carols, lacks something in the holiday-cheer department—but I have to work with what I have available.
Saturday, November 28, 2015 11:25 AM
Treacly Ever After (2015Nov28)
Have a holly-jolly…. Oh, hello there! And welcome to the dreamy snowflake happy kids express—yes, it’s that time of year again—and if you share my sickness, you’re once again binge-watching the Hallmark Channel’s offerings of Christmas-themed TV movies—partly because it’s crack for the romantics and partly because it’s a fascinating infinite loop of wishes coming true and impossible dreams coming true and fantasy—and while that may not be, as Hallmark claims, ‘the heart of Christmas’, it is certainly the heart of good TV.
Last night was an especially rich vein of fantasy—two movies which both combined Christmas miracles with becoming a princess: “A Crown For Christmas” and “A Princess For Christmas”. It got me thinking about how royalty is an old-fashioned type of myth that no one believes in anymore—and how Santa Claus is an old-fashioned type of myth that no one believes in after grade school—and how Christianity is an old-fashioned type of myth that many people still believe in. I think it’s odd how these Hallmark Channel movies focus so much on fantasies and miracles and dreams coming true—it’s as if theism has a market value, and this holiday-centric company is willing to intermingle Christianity with other, admittedly-pretend ideas—just for the entertainment value—in spite of how it lumps Faith in with childhood imagination and wishful thinking.
It’s like they’re admitting that Christianity is more of a ‘feel-good’ idea than a fact—something we keep as a tradition more for the sake of innocents and children rather than as a core belief—it’s quite undermining, if you think about it. There are so many of their Santa-based plot-lines that end with the kids being right all along—there is a Santa Claus—and that seems a dangerous concept to mix in with Christianity, which expects followers to keep believing into adulthood. Are they trying to say that real Christians believe in Santa Claus, too—even though the grown-ups are buying their kids the presents, and know full well that if they don’t, there’ll be nothing under the tree?
Or are they saying that Christianity is just an idea—and you have to do all the work yourself? Because, I’m sorry, but that’s Humanism—atheism with a smiley face. Now, if Christianity is just a thing for the kids, like Santa Claus, and all us grown-ups are supposed to play along, both for the kids’ sake and because it’s just a nice thing—that’s cool—I can get on board with that. It’s just when some very serious grown-up, like a politician, starts talking about how we should sprinkle magic-dust on public policy—that’s what I can’t deal with. If we could keep religion at the Santa Claus level, where we only talk seriously about it when we talk to kids, but laugh about it amongst ourselves, that would be fine with me. Maybe that’s why I like the Hallmark Channel.
Void unimaginable, an ocean without a floor or shore
Floating there I wait and see only distance and space
No company to joke with—no more after or before
Floating where eternity dances yet hides its face
With feet that never find a place
And I am small amid the vastness
And I am lost among the stars
And I am never going to see again the green
And I am stuck forever in between
And if I died no one would know it
And if there’s hope no one will show it
In this vastness
The power of nothingness overwhelming my mind
No chink in the every of everywhere always
No feature or landmark remaining to find
Come speak to me love—(I don’t care what she says)—
Say what you will but please say Yes.
Face and Bubbles – Collage
Tuesday, October 27, 2015 12:10 AM
Well, I may have gone a little too dark on this poem—I tried to pull the nose up, at the end—but maybe too little too late. Anyway, the point is that too much solitude is as mentally unhealthy as too little sunlight is physically unhealthy. Love is necessary, or friendship—even simple companionship which, while not as profound, may be easier to come by—I’ll take anything to break that recursive loneliness loop that eventually drives one insane.
The new pictures are made with my new oil pastels—I haven’t quite got the hang of them yet. I’ve always had a problem with color—I tend to use them all. I like prisms and rainbows—I’m very democratic, even inclusive, when it comes to color.
The piano cover of “Autumn In New York” goes well with all the gold and orange leaves outside my window—my voice—maybe not so much. I threw in the other three covers just because. I’m struggling with my improvs lately—I have been trying to make them better for decades, but I feel like I can’t find anything new anymore—we’ll see—maybe I’ll have an epiphany or something. In the meantime, I’m just trying to sound entertaining.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015 10:38 AM
Real Progress (2015Oct27)
In just a few days, we will have reached the one-year mark on our presidential campaign—I can’t help wondering what the previous twelve months of back and forth were supposed to accomplish, other than to fill air time on cable-news shows and politics-based social media threads. It’s hard to stomach all the focus on ‘who it will be’ without any concern about ‘what will they do’. Yet, with the right-wing, those are the same question—a tea-party candidate will do nothing—except try to keep others from doing anything—that’s their whole agenda.
Likewise, a moderate Republican will do nothing—not for lack of trying, but because of their tea-party brethren. And even a Democrat will get done only as much as the executive office allows—because the House and Senate are still firmly in the hands of the GOP. The only real hope for governmental or legislative action is if the Democrats can find a way to win back those Congressional seats, as well as win the White House. So this presidential campaign obsession is just the usual media focus on the inconsequential. Ben Carson (not to mention Trump) is a scary possibility—but the odds of anyone but white males voting for either one is so low as to make their chances in a general election ‘slim to none’.
The same can be said of Bernie Sanders—he’s got the far-left tied up, but he could never get the majority of the nation’s voters either. That leaves Hillary, whom everyone has assumed will win all along—only she’ll be hobbled by the same GOP congress that bedeviled Obama. Again, the real story—the story that’s being ignored—is whether the Democrats can elect local support, outside of the presidency.
Of course, I could be wrong—we may get a Republican president, if voters are stupid enough—what a hell on earth that would be. Despite Obama’s heroic efforts, we still haven’t dug ourselves out of the hole the last GOP president buried us in. The only good that came out of Bush’s two terms was getting Democrats out to vote—Obama began his terms with a friendly Congress and I’m still confused as to how we managed to screw that up.
Well, not really—the answer is horribly simple. The Democrats, while they have an edge on common sense and American values, are just as dumb, lazy, spineless, and corrupt as the Republicans—both our candidates and we voters. Intellect and transparency can find a place in the Democratic party—which, as I say, gives them something of an edge—but we’re still people, just like the GOP folks. And people are human—with all the failings that implies.
When I look back on all the changes in society, I’m dumbstruck by the incredible progress we’ve made. While we still struggle with racism, at least it has lost its legitimacy in the laws of our land. While we still lack gender equality, we have seen women get access to birth-control, jobs, and inclusion far beyond the Suzy Homemaker mindset of my childhood. While we still have issues with LGBT equality, we have at least progressed beyond the point of considering homosexuality as a crime, or a mental disease. To me, this is the real progress of our country—I could care less about laptops, cellphones, smart-cars, and DNA sequencing, if it doesn’t have the open-minded humanity that an enlightened, modern culture deserves.
I don’t know—I mean, I know a little, but not enough. I have no confidence—I mean, I have a little, but not enough. I don’t have the strength—well, maybe I could manage one effort, but not over and over. Most importantly, I lack enthusiasm—I can forget the past and enthuse for a moment, but inevitably I remember the past—entropy, illness, betrayal, and indifference—and I feel the enthusiasm melt away, a mist in sunlight.
Was it a wrong turn I took—and if it was, was there any life I could have lived that didn’t come to cynicism, eventually? (Maybe it’s Maybelline—right?) If I could have lived a life that avoided the lessons I’ve learned, would that ignorance have been better? No—I struggled equally hard with a lack of information. People are animals—once I learned not to judge that statement, once I learned just to accept it, I had to stop believing in the ‘but’. “People are animals, but…” But there is no ‘but’. Take away convention and pretense and all that’s left are animals, social animals—but animals just the same.
One divergence we like to point to is the ‘path of least resistance’—a dog will bark and dig from behind a fence, trapped because it cannot move forward; a person will look around and walk away from the fence to take a route around the obstacle. We cite this as a sign of human intelligence. Yet our powerful skills in finding obtuse escape routes seem to fail when we try to deal with society—we bark behind self-imposed fences at things we could easily work around, had we the imagination to walk away from conventions and acceptance.
Such open-mindedness might bring people further away from their animality—but whenever an open-minded person suggests getting away from conventions and acceptance, a close-minded person will jump on the idea and say, “Yes! Let’s start by ejecting morality and inclusion.” The desire to act out among others without consequences is really more animal, not less. A good liberal wants to avoid the strictures of conventions and acceptance, but retain the cooperation and inclusion that are society’s best features—it’s never easy and it’s never simple.
So we see that being a ‘rebel’ is an ambiguous role—breaking the rules encompasses both forward progress and devolution. To be conservative is to consider the whole thing as being too dangerous, too unpredictable—better to just keep things as they are, warts and all. A liberal considers change a necessary risk that it is better to engage with purpose than to strive to avoid. I’ve always considered conservatism as cowardice—but to believe that, I’m implicitly agreeing with conservatives that change is dangerous. It’s really quite a pickle.
Last night started out good—I’ve become a fan of The Big Bang Theory and it had a season premiere last night—they’re pretty funny. I enjoy the comfort of an established sitcom with a toolkit of running gags and themes—all expositions, settings, and character intros have long since been made and the thing just chugs along—funny, funny, funny.
Had a big meal (Bear makes a mean chicken) maybe too big—I felt like I had to have some coffee. But then I watched TV until 2:30 and my eyes still refused to droop. I didn’t sleep at all last night—I was reading a couple of great sci-fi books—“Appleseed” by John Clute is a book I bought about ten years ago but forgot to read; and “Nexus” by Ramez Naam, which I finished at about 6:30 am—fortunately it’s only the first book of a trilogy, so there’s more. But no more coffee at night for me!
Now here’s a bit of lyric for all you strong babies out there:
Hard muscle—lean cut—on a stri-king frail.
A hard look—a straight shot—makes my ego bail.
When she looks like a tank made o’doves
I could almost cry.
Talks like the drill sarge o’love—
I could nearly die.
Strong women—make me crazy.
Wo-o-ork it out—don’t be lazy.
Watch those ‘ceps pop—makes me dizzy.
Dat can’t be a woman—is she?
My god—that’s a lot of power.
Think it’s time for my cold shower.
Awe me with that rock of muscle
Tell me I can lose that tussle—please!
Baby—please—it’s too much—
Thoughts so hot they make me blush.
I’m a man with a plan but
A strong, fit woman there’s no man that is better than.
When you tell me I got-to-be nice
Then it’s understood—
No need to-tell-me the same thing twice
You know I’ll be good.
Strong women—make me crazy.
Work all day—make men look lazy.
Legs like trunks of trees of satin,
Eyes the light from stars get fat in,
Smell so sweet it makes me twitchy
And that voice so low and witchy.
Stand there like a tower of power.
Going strong from hour to hour.
Beauty—brains—and all that muscle
Tell me I can lose that tussle—please!
We poor men—fit and strong is supposed to be our thing. When we find strong women attractive, it’s confusing and a little embarrassing—but there’s no better make-up than muscle tone, nothing more youthful than a proud bearing. It’s funny—we talk about over-idealizing one standard of beauty—but that’s just the suits that make corporate decisions about magazine covers and such. For all our fixation on women, we men find attractive a myriad of flavors—tall women, short women, small women, big women, full-figured or skinny, any color hair, any color skin, librarians, firewomen, GI Janes, and nurses.
I find the spirit of a woman shows in her face and bearing—no matter what her outer appearance. You can see a person’s personality, male or female, and I find myself attracted to the spirit rather than the package—I think we all do.
Dy’ever have one of those days where you feel like instead of reaching a peak, you feel off the cliff? With health issues like mine, I often watch myself become more and more energized from day to day—recovering from whatever circumstance blew out my reserves of strength, like bad news or car trouble or just a crazy day. Each day I feel more like myself, more capable, containing more potential to get something done—and today was going to be one of those peak days where I really made a splash in a video, or in writing, or something. Or so it seemed, leading up to it. But today, phht!—nada, nothing, goose-eggs, zippo, kaput. I might as well go back to bed.
Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015 10:31 PM
I saw “Pitch Perfect 2” on VOD yesterday—it was okay, but “Pitch Perfect” was one of those movies that caught lightning in a bottle—beyond the premise, the characters, the songs—there was pacing, introspection, coming-of-age notes were hit—it was a perfect movie, in some ways. “Pitch Perfect 2”, I’m sad to report, was more like an extended episode of Glee guest-starring Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson. It was so busy hitting all the old themes and adding new material, that it never gelled into a movie. It wasn’t terrible—the songs were nice, Rebel is funny, and I’ve got an age-inappropriate ‘thing’ for Anna Kendrick, so it was watchable, but a let-down, still.
I’m too old for Glee—they sing contemporary songs and mash-ups—which I enjoy, but for me a sing-along uses songs my parents, and even my grandparents, used to sing. If I was a little more dexterous I’d get a job playing karaoke back-up piano—when you’re no virtuoso, it’s great to have voices drowning out the piano-playing. In today’s video of 1940s Song Covers, I even try to sing along myself—but that doesn’t help so much, since it distracts me from the playing—and I’m no Andreas Bocelli, either. I left in a brief interruption, where I’m begging my son to sing along with me—and he, being kinda shy, pretends to have a sore throat—someday I’ll catch him in the right mood.
This second video is more song covers—I would have called it Part II, but these songs aren’t from the 1940s—more like the 1930s thru the 1960s. I guess I just felt like singing today.
And here we have another ‘stitched-together’ improv that is really three different segments from among my cover recordings, when I stopped to take improv-breaks.
I’m running into some confusion lately—my improved piano-playing ability makes me very happy, and I enjoy posting new recordings of pieces that I’ve posted before, but much more listen-able. But even today’s posts, which came out pretty fair—I was tempted to not post them and wait for a better take. I also consider playing pieces many times over before posting a recording—something I am doing now with the Brahms Opus 117. Trouble is, even in my new condition, even when I’ve rehearsed a piece, I’ll still spaz out or stumble over a chord; I’ll still have pages to turn; I’ll still get folks wandering through my recording studio (our living room, that is). So perfection ain’t gonna happen—I post what I get and I hope for better in the future. But it is confusing sometimes. I would like to become a real boy (said Pinocchio the wooden pianist).
I was grateful yesterday to be joined once more by my good friend Pete Cianflone for an unusual recording session. In the course of our collaboration, we decided that we should retire someday to an old-folks’ home in Colorado, where weed is legal—someplace like “The Buds-Up Sunnyside Rest Home”. And thus a new super-group is born.
Pete crushes it on the Purcell “Air”—giving it the kind of renaissance aura such old music calls for—and he adds great vocals to the drumming on our Beatles song-covers. The improv isn’t half-bad either—and I take all the blame for the Rainbow Connection cover—sometimes I just like a song better than I can perform it.
I’ve been playing too much and posting too slow, so I’m adding four or so less-new videos, after the four Pete and I just made—they seem a bit pale compared to the new stuff but when I’m on my own, I have to do what I can. I hope you enjoy it all.
September 17th, 2015 – Peter Cianflone, Bongos and Xper Dunn, Piano
Improv – Buds Up
September 17th, 2015 – Peter Cianflone, Bongos and Xper Dunn, Piano
Henry Purcell – Air in d minor, Z. T675 (originally intended for “The Indian Queen”)
September 17th, 2015
Beatles Song Covers – as performed by The Buds-Up Retirement Orchestra
featuring Peter Cianflone on Bongos and Perc. and Xper Dunn at the keyboard
I just watched “Love and Mercy” (Director: Bill Pohlad, 2014) a Brian Wilson biopic, starring Paul Dano as his ‘past self’ and John Cusack as his ‘future self’. It was beautifully made—not just the photography, which was stunning—but Atticus Ross’s musical collages, made for the soundtrack using samples from the Beach Boys’ oeuvre, had a way of (very appropriately) making Brian Wilson’s inner nightmare sound like a cyclone of Beach Boys tunes. And John’s sister, Joan, isn’t fooling anyone with her uncredited cameo as one of the back-up dancers in the scene that recreates the “Fun, Fun, Fun” televised performance—she’s only in the background for an instant, but there’s no mistaking that toothy grin.
The Beach Boys were a guilty pleasure of my youth—much like Anthony Edwards’ character in “Downtown” (Director: Richard Benjamin, 1990) who meets with disgust from Forest Whitaker’s character when he claims the Beach Boys as his ‘jam’. (It gave me inordinate pleasure to see Whitaker’s character’s ‘family’ become Beach Boys fans by the end of the film.) While the politics and social agendas of other song-writers’ lyrics of the time made many dismiss the Beach Boys as insubstantial party music, Brian Wilson’s musical genius shone through for people like me who cared more for the sound than the ‘meaning’.
Also, there is great yearning and loneliness in songs like “In My Room” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” that was audible to those of us who shared Wilson’s suffering under draconian parenting or his isolation from less-sensitive, less-artistic family and friends. So often, people condescend to Beach Boys music as fluff—while overlooking Wilson’s subtle but profound reflections of domestic abuse and teen angst—perhaps it takes a ‘fellow traveler’ to hear that subtext.
“Love and Mercy”, like other Beach Boys biopics, made my skin crawl with the depiction of his horrendous father—and then added an even creepier note to Wilson’s life by depicting his twisted therapist. Both nightmare scenarios resonate strongly for me—too strongly to enjoy the story, in spite of the incredible cinematic skill brought to this effort. But I gloried in the deconstruction of their classic hits as we are shown recreations of the production process Brian Wilson goes through, experimenting and fine-tuning every instrument, every beat—to create the overall sound that we find so familiar. I especially enjoyed the evolution of the passage that combined Theremin and cello within “Good Vibrations”—so hard core, yet so outside the box of ‘rock’—an ineluctable sound if there ever was one.
I also wanted to cheer when Melinda Ledbetter (played by Elizabeth Banks) throws open her office door to confront the monster therapist (played with Oscar-worthy monstrosity by Paul Giamatti)—what a moment! Though difficult for me to bear, the movie was overall a tremendous experience—a true masterwork of film in many ways—and a welcome further examination of the life behind some of the twentieth century’s finest music.
Here’s a YouTube playlist that shows my ongoing struggle to mind-meld with Brian Wilson:
Pete came by yesterday—we killed our imaginary audience and made some recordings which I hope no one will mistake for Pete’s fault—if you look closely, you’ll see a very capable drummer trying to be nice to a totally awful piano-player. This mess is completely my responsibility. I almost never play with musicians because musicians, understandably, don’t go looking for half-assed collaborators—but Pete is an exceptionally kind soul and an old friend who is the exception that proves the rule.
This is a picture of Pete and Spencer back in the day–If you watch Spencer’s walk-through on the video, you’ll see he’s grown some since this picture was taken.
I’ve been thinking about collaboration lately. As I’ve mentioned often in these posts, I think that people may have excellent self-control when the situation demands it but that humanity as a group, as a mob, has no brain and does whatever it does, crazy (or even suicidal) or not. We try to mitigate this with governments and other frameworks for group action—but even these foundations can only influence people en masse to a certain degree.
Take the Drug War as an example—with Prohibition as a historical precedent, we can’t be very surprised that the Drug War has been a complete failure—drug abuse is a part of the human condition. People will seek out recreational drugs just as they seek out alcoholic beverages. After all, life is a struggle and there aren’t that many features that offer unalloyed enjoyment—we can gain peace from our relationships and achievement from our endeavors, but not always—and it’s a struggle, win or lose. But a weekend spree is an easy and affordable escape from the rigors of the work-week and the number of people who choose to do without it will never be unanimous—criminalization simply complicates things.
Collaboration, cooperation,—even democracy—all also run up against the matter of people all being different in many ways. I heard the debate yesterday during the news reports of the first two women who passed the Rangers Training School requirements. As the closet-misogynist debated the moderate-feminist, they both had some confusion about the fact that average men have expected differences from average women, but the best of the best soldiers are exceptional people with above-average abilities, gender notwithstanding. Generalizations about gender roles do not apply when speaking of virtual Supergirls—although, rightly, we ought to take the hint that generalizations about gender all have that flaw to some degree—because we are all different.
Thus individuality and human nature are both obstacles to traditional governments and other organizing frameworks—yet they are both strengths as well. Perhaps our paradigms of organization are at fault. Churchill once opined that ‘Democracy isn’t a perfect form of government—it’s just better than all the others’. And I feel that we have become sophisticated enough to look at democracy (and capitalism, for that matter) and start to face that fact—having found systems that outdo more ancients customs is great—but is it the best we can do?
For that matter, can Democracy and Capitalism coexist without one cancelling the other? We see many examples where capitalism has infringed on the democratic process recently—but there are also times when the force of majority rule outdoes the primacy of property. We aren’t really being honest about this whole subject—we’ve been too busy defending democracy from fascism and capitalism from communism to allow ourselves to question their basic values.
While Democracy and Capitalism fight it out (and while we pretend that they work together) we have a third player—religion, or Christianity, since I’m speaking primarily of the USA. Many conservatives will insist that religion is a bedrock value—in spite of the fact that we are famous for sidelining religion from our governing principles. They’ll put on their blinders and assure us that ‘religious freedom’ was only meant to apply to the different Protestant sects of Christianity—as if that made sense, and full ‘religious freedom’ didn’t.
This is partly a failure to understand history—in much the same way that conservatives insist that our constitutional guarantee of ownership of flintlock rifles translates into prowling the Wal-Mart with semi-automatic weapons. But it is also a failure to understand religion, as a concept. Most people of faith make the mistake of counting their religion as the truth, while all other religions are, at best, to be tolerated. But Truth and Faith are not interchangeable—particularly in the situation where we have allowed for the existence of more than one form of faith.
What the original colonists did was recognize that even a single individual’s unique faith, with or without an established church, may be questioned as to its validity—but it can’t be made illegal. The opposite truth to that premise is that no one religion can be made the legal faith under our government. Basically, we accept that citizens will have whatever faith they may or may not have, but the law will operate separately from any one faith. Anyone who seriously proposes that America become a Christian nation is as much a threat to our way of life as the Communists were in the 1950s—even more so, since the Commies have had their day and faded away. ISIS would be a better example, come to think of it—both parties wish to transform us into a theocracy.
But let me return to collaboration. In science fiction novels, one gets the impression that the human race will expand outward, mimicking our behavior of the exploration era and the pioneering era. One gets used to the idea of the human race having a ‘destiny’—a place or a state that our future selves will eventually reach out to and evolve into. We envision a solar system busy with mining, colonization, exploration, and discovery—our little blue marble, Earth, just a single part of a civilization that calls the Sun its home. We even dream of FTL starships that allow colonization of other stars—a future civilization so vast and varied that imagination can barely envisage its size, never mind its nature.
Our gravity well, however, is no small barrier. If humanity is ever going to go beyond Earth, it will have to involve tremendous collaboration. At this point in modern technology, we will need tremendous collaboration just to survive at all. Where does the motive come from? How do we mobilize our efforts towards the survival of humankind when we have never had to worry about it before? Up until now, we’ve been so sure that the Earth is invulnerable to our attentions that we have never considered it a factor in our decision-making. The whole debate over climate change is really just humanity trying to convince itself that we’ve outgrown that simplicity.
Our systems of government, of commerce, and our cultures have all developed under the mistaken mindset that humanity can do whatever it will—we are slowly coming to grips with the fact that this is no longer true.
Part of our problem is that heretofore we have assumed that the point of life was the afterlife—that we should concentrate on living our own individual lives under the tenets of our faiths because the important part, the afterlife, will be affected by how well we follow the rules while living. No part of human culture actually emphasizes the importance of species survival—‘God’ made us, so naturally we can’t be unmade unless ‘He’ decides to unmake us. Climate change, drought, chemical and oil spills, and nuclear waste make it clear that we can certainly unmake ourselves—there’s nothing religious about it, it’s just a fact.
So now we have to turn from our focus on our individual afterlives to the maintenance of the survival of the human genome, and to Gaea—or whatever you choose to call the overall biome of the Earth. For we have two ‘afterlifes’—one is a spiritual belief, the other is our offspring. To reach the first one, we have to be mindful of ethics. To protect the second we will have to begin having ethics as a group—something we’ve never had, and something I have no idea how we’ll ever attain. The alternative is to remain the simple, global mob we’ve always been—and just wait for the lights to go out.
Artist: Winslow Homer (American, Boston, Massachusetts 1836–1910 Prouts Neck, Maine)
Oil Paintings by Winslow Homer (1836–1910)
“Camp Fire” (1880)
“Searchlight on Harbor Entrance, Santiago de Cuba” (1901)
“Rainy Day in Camp” (1871)
“Harvest Scene” (ca. 1873)
“Moonlight, Wood Island Light” (1894)
“Shooting the Rapids, Saguenay River” (1905–10)
[courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC]
The first time I got a true sense of history was when I asked my parents about World War II. My parents were children of the thirties, so WWII was their childhood, for the most part. But WWII as history—as it was presented to me in school, on TV, and in books and movies, was a historical event. When I asked them about it, it seemed to be something they heard on the radio news—no more a part of their everyday lives than I found the reports of Nixon’s Watergate scandal, which was a big part of my youth but which I found to be nothing but an annoying part of every day’s newscast and paper headline.
Most grown-ups of the early seventies were relieved when Nixon’s administration went to jail and he finally resigned—I was simply relieved that everyone could stop talking about it. My parents felt much the same about the last World War—it was something horrible that the grown-ups got upset about. There were things I learned about the Second World War that my parents didn’t know about—and didn’t have any interest in knowing about. I consider myself lucky that none of my kids ever took an interest in the Nixon era—I’d be just like my folks.
Similarly, we here at home knew far more about the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan than the soldiers who were doing the fighting. They probably don’t get CNN in action zones—and they’re probably too busy to watch it, even if they did. It’s always about perspective—if you can climb a tall tree in the middle of Kansas, you can see more than everyone else—but the people on the ground are the only ones who matter, the ones who get things done. On the news we see what’s happening everywhere—a soldier under fire has strictly local interests.
History, despite its importance, has already happened. We can talk about it, we can learn from it, but we can’t change it. Our interests in history tend to focus on whatever means something to us on its face. Everyone likes the Revolutionary War because it was a war for freedom—and freedom is a popular thing. The history of science has fewer fans—science is a forbidding enough topic without the addition of dry old history. Neil DeGrasse Tyson has remarkable success at it—yet he has to leaven it with plenty of the new, the latest things, the wildest new theories, the bleeding-est-edged tech. My point is that you don’t have to stray far from the beaten path of military events and inventions to find areas of history that have no writers, never mind no readers.
It makes sense. History, in a sense, is a playback of the past—put too much detail into it and you end up without enough of a present to do anything but study the past. Plus, history is the history of all—we have enough trouble keeping track of all the details in our own solitary lives. To tell the story of everyone mandates that we speak in mostly general terms—else we reduce history to a series of actuarial tables.
I was equally nonplussed by my parents lack of interest in the classic movies that I watched incessantly on old late-night TV, and later, at the dawn of cable, on American Movie Classics, followed, finally, by Turner Classic Movies. But those movies were seen by my parents as they were meant to be seen—in a big old movie palace with close-up faces ten feet high. Those stars weren’t legendary to my parents in the same way—they were contemporaries, even if my parents had never left Bayside Heights to mingle with the Hollywood elite.
More importantly, I have contemporaries of my own, many of whom have no interest in old movies. A taste for cinema isn’t all that common, no matter what generation you’re a part of. There are lots of people who go to the movies—that’s not quite the same thing—in the same way that lots of people listen to and dance to popular music, but have no interest in music in its broader sense.
One piece of music history that has relatively few fans is swing music. It gets by—no genre is completely ignored in this age of media. But being so distinctively antique while lacking the gravitas of classical music—plus being confined to such a tiny slice of the historical timeline—it has a specificity that limits its mass appeal to the occasional cameo in popular culture. I count myself among its adherents, though I don’t pretend to any great learning on the subject—I just like to play it. Don’t get me wrong—I listen to early Sinatra, Billy Holiday, Glenn Miller, Arte Shaw, and lots of others. There’s a sense of power to the percussion in swing music that isn’t exceeded (perhaps couldn’t be exceeded) until the advent of electric instruments and amplifiers.
I admire that—I’m always trying to get the maximum effect from my baby grand’s acoustic sound alone. I feel like whatever extra fanciness I could get from a synthesizer or a beat box would be frosting rather than cake—not that I don’t like frosting. And I recognize that there’s a power to amplification and synth that nothing I can do will match—maybe a great pianist could take that challenge, but I’m still shooting for ‘good’.
The jingoism of the post-war forties and fifties was out of favor by the time I ran across “They Call It America (But I Call It Home)” by Freddy Grant (1953). Singing such unabashed patriotic mush was frowned upon by my Flower Power generation (see this wonderful essay on Patriotism in Music).
Nevertheless I can’t deny the thrill of such crowing. It feels good to celebrate the greatness of America, even if we are far from the perfect picture being painted in the verse.
The “Our Love Affair” cover is not the famous “An Affair To Remember (Our Love Affair)”—a romantic song composed by Harry Warren for the 1957 film “An Affair to Remember”, but the lesser-known song from “Strike Up the Band” (MGM, 1940) in which it was sung by Judy Garland.
I used a bunch of my classical art graphics to create the video backgrounds today—they give a sense of history, though I didn’t put them into any chronological order or anything. I’m kinda pushing the copyright envelope today—song covers with screen-grabbed art-works. Hey, I can’t do everything myself—and my amateur status makes it all fair use, since nobody really watches my videos anyway.
The following songs are performed in “Six (6) Swing Songs That Start With ‘S’ “:
Oh–and just for laughs–I wrote a song lyric today, in honor of the season:
When the Spring is really greening
And the dog-flowers start to bloom
I can’t stand this crampy house.
I got to leave this musty room.
Outside, breezes float the pollen
And my nose begins to run
But it’s worth it for the freedom
And the warming of the sun.
Give me a Kleenex, baby
My nose in on the flow
Throw me a Kleenex, baby
I really got to blow.
I’d use my sleeve or spew it out but runny noses make me shout
Give me a Kleenex, baby
My nose in on the flow
Throw me a Kleenex, baby
I really got to blow.
Some days ago I threw a bag of birdseed onto the lawn outside the front door. It may not be for everyone, but I enjoy the racket every sunrise and sunset when the birds come to feed—and sing. The squirrels don’t sing much, but they do appreciate a bag of bird seed—boy, do they get chubby when I do this.
Bear suggested I place the video-camera outside the door for awhile and see what I got. That was a great idea—although I had to edit out a terrible amount of passing cars and idling or beeping trucks to get my final, idyllic background-footage. The remaining background sounds are mostly the breeze, the squirrels arguing, and the birds tweeting—I almost posted it all sans music.
Plus, I nearly didn’t post these two ‘cover songs’ videos—they’re terrible. But the squirrel is fun to watch. And the two ‘improvs’ videos are pretty good, for me—so I’m listing them first, in case any of you want to click on a video.
My old friend, Randy Bell, dropped by yesterday for a brief recording session. It had been three years since his last ascension from his Georgia home to visit his old stomping grounds and we had a lot of catching up to do. Inevitably, we turned to music—Randy, a one-time fervent ‘Dead-head’, has a very different musical perspective from mine, and our collaborations, while challenging, produce some very interesting results (for me, anyway).
It was a confusing afternoon in one sense—I have a tendency to improvise on basic chord progressions, and those chord progressions, being in some sense basic building blocks in a variety of tunes, can go in and out of the ‘cover’ domain. For instance, my favorite a-minor chord progression led Randy to start singing along, revealing those chords to be the basis of a Chris Issak hit, “Blue Spanish Sky”. However, as I said, some chords progressions are basic components to many pieces, of both classical and popular music. So if I have to credit Chris Issak, then Chris Issak has to credit basic music theory, as do the Beatles and the Turtles, who use the same chord progression in hit songs of theirs, and Vivaldi, who uses it in his “Four Seasons”.
Having crossed that line, I showed Randy how I had derived my favorite G-Major chord progression from Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”. It was weird—after a good half hour of ‘improvisation’, we had recorded two ‘covers’!
But my favorite part was Randy teaching me to play a cover of a song written by someone we both knew—“Hard Road Blues”, written by Randy’s lifelong friend and one-time collaborator, Burrie Jenkins. Burrie is a Massachusetts composer and guitarist best known for his “Dharma of the Leaves” . I hope he doesn’t mind too much that Randy and I ‘roughed up’ his tune—it was hella fun to play…
When I was a boy, I liked to lie on the floor of a dark room and listen to classical music. My closed eyes became an IMAX screen for Rorschach-fueled fantasies—vague daydreams of struggle, passion, voyaging, and victory. Back then, I didn’t listen to music the way I do now—I simply heard a soundtrack to an invisible movie. Dvorak’s New World, Tchaikovsky’s 1812, Smetana’s Moldau, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter—they all suggested vague plotlines of grand adventures, terrific battles, and transporting joys—and Beethoven’s symphonies were right up there in my ‘top hits’ list. Classical music has always been the soundtrack to my daydreams.
Because I felt that classical music (mostly Romantic, and symphonic, at that time) was a ‘drug’ that would take me on a ‘trip’, I preferred listening to it on my bedroom record-player to sitting in the audience at Lincoln Center—a privilege that my public school provided as often as twice a year, thanks to the wonderful Mr. Freeman, our music teacher. Young people, and non-musicians of any age, I suppose, can hear music without truly appreciating that musicians have to make it. In a sense, music, to me, came from a flat, round piece of vinyl.
Walt Disney and I had that in common, sort of—but he was not a lifelong music-lover—he didn’t come to appreciate Classical Music until he had already become a successful filmmaker. But upon discovering these treasures, they became his passion. He began to use it in his “Silly Symphonies” animated shorts. While working on an extended Silly Symphony of Dumas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (a comeback role for Mickey Mouse, who was slipping in popularity) Disney determined to make it part of the full-length feature that came to be known as “Fantasia”, a set of eight animated classical works performed by Leopold Stokowski (the premiere conductor of the times).
I was in my late teens by the time I saw a reissue screening of what, by then, had become a classic film. The original 1940 release of “Fantasia” was marred by the start of World War II—the lack of European market revenue, and the mixed critical response, made the film seem a failure upon its opening. Plus, there were high costs involved in making an animated feature film—even more so in the case of “Fantasia”, as it was the first film shown in stereophonic sound, and ‘Fantasound’ equipment had to be installed in every theater that screened the film!
“Fantasia” is a treat—a celebration of both music and art, created by the world’s most beloved and successful commercial artist. Every musical piece in the film brings out special features of the individual pieces—and of music itself. For someone familiar with the music, the animation ‘accompaniment’ brought a whole new dimension to the works—and for those hearing them for the first time, it was an indelible, endearing introduction. The skill and effort of the creative teams, the innovations of artistry and technology used to achieve the film, gave the final collection of flickering images and sounds substance to rival the great pyramids of Egypt.
Now, having said all that, it’s not hard to imagine that today’s musicians could find “Fantasia” to be dated and superficial. It may be difficult for any of us today to appreciate the technical challenges of 1940—with the debut of “Beauty and the Beast” in 1991, we experienced the first CGI-generated animation (and the first animated film to be nominated for a “Best Picture” Oscar). Yet, to me, the old Disney animated classics are still marvels of effort and organization—and the proof is in the enduring value of the surviving individual cels, as collectors’ items and as works of art suitable for framing and hanging on the wall. That’s what those old films were—a sequence of hundreds of thousands of hand-painted artistic masterpieces! In comparison, CGI animations are akin to pyramids built with modern construction vehicles—still impressive, but hardly the same effort.
More importantly, serious musicians focus on the pure sound—what else is there, in music? Music videos have been a part of our culture since the 1980s—with their tendency to push more-pedestrian music’s popularity using provocative visual accompaniment, they can make ‘adding visuals’ seem overly manipulative. Plus, there are now many serious composers who are known for their soundtrack compositions made specifically for film, such as Richard Stephen Robbins’ score to “The Remains of the Day” (1993)—or even Karl Jenkin’s score for the DeBeers diamonds ad (1994). It is understandable that today’s musician might see “Fantasia” as opportunistic or exploitative of the great composers. But that would be overlooking the educational and popularizing effect of those times.
It was only the previous decade, the 1930s, that public radio broadcasts of classical music had allowed the masses to hear concert music—prior to radio, classical music had remained as much a privilege of the ‘upper class’ as it had been in the days of noble patronage, centuries before. And Leopold Stokowski, José Iturbi and Arturo Toscanini were still freshly-minted radio stars—the NBC Symphony Orchestra gave its premiere broadcast in 1937. Classical music, in 1940, was in a certain sense, the ‘latest thing’.
Plus, Disney’s animations ‘closed the distance’ for new fans of classical—instead of seeing the mechanics—a film of the orchestra itself, playing—we see the kinds of fantasies that listening to such music can inspire. Disney’s “Fantasia” showed music from the listener’s perspective, not the performer’s.
So when we are tempted to dismiss the film as trite or silly, we ignore its historical context. I’m reminded of Owen Wister, the author of “The Virginian” in 1902. Today we laugh at the clichés of Westerns—the shootouts at high noon, the schoolmarm sweethearts, the strong, silent gunslingers—yet all of these memes were original ideas when Wister first penned them. They only became clichés because these images were so powerful that they were copied and varied ad infinitum, for a century. In the same way, Disney’s enormous influence on our modern viewpoint blinds us to the originality and impact of his work when it was first created. Respect must be shown.
Not that I don’t respect Beethoven. I loved his Sixth Symphony long before I saw “Fantasia” and I love it still, in spite of the fleeting mental image of bare-breasted, gamboling centaur-nymphs imprinted by the film. I also see dancing mushrooms whenever I hear Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and feel the urge to belly-laugh whenever I hear Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours—but I’m sure the composers themselves, if we could ask them, would be flattered to have received the loving attention of Walt Disney.
Overcast, sprinkly day—our neighbor hurt his hand on a power tool, but Bear had just bought some first aid supplies—now his fingers look like gauzy sausages. If it ain’t one thing, it’s another. But my day went alright—up until now, when I’m finally posting the videos—the Stevie Wonder Covers video is like eighteen minutes long—and I’ve got a splitting headache from all this video editing. Not that my performance wouldn’t make Mr. Wonder cringe to hear it, but he’s on his level, and I’m down here on mine. With some more practice, I may be able to post better attempts in future videos—I love his music. I hope that, at least, can be heard.
The improv is silly—on purpose. I felt it was high time I did something silly and this improv qualifies.
The Artworks for both videos, by Caspar Luyken and Carel Allard, are, once again, provided (for non-commercial use only) by the wonderful Rejksmuseum (State Museum) in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
“Verzamelen van het manna in de woestijn”, Caspar Luyken, 1712
(“Gathering Manna in the Desert”)
Source Graphic courtesy of : The Rijksmuseum Website
“Sterrenkaart van de noordelijke sterrenhemel”, Carel Allard,
Johannes Covens en Cornelis Mortier, Anonymous, c. 1722 – c. 1750
(“Star-Chart of the Northern Hemisphere”)
Source Graphic courtesy of : The Rijksmuseum Website
It’s been a banner day for music here. First, I got off one decent improv this morning; then Pete arrived, and we knocked out two covers and two improvs—a decent day’s work for my YouTube channel and some decent music, if I do say so.
I’ve been practicing the “Brown-Eyed Girl” cover in anticipation of being accompanied by my professional drummer buddy—but the “My Guy” cover was just easy enough for me to get through without prep. The improvs made me very happy—if there’s a bit of paisley and patchouli in there, there’s a reason—‘nuf said. I’ve never been exactly ‘hard rock’, per se—which is why I appreciate the support from Pete, who definitely is. He always add so much energy, he almost makes me sound healthy!
Here we go…
I really needed today. Lately, I’ve been very down about the piano-playing—I’ve frustrated myself by working on difficult pieces and I’ve been even more frustrated by how hard it is to keep improvising without ‘going backwards’—if that makes any sense. But today was fun—and I’m truly pleased to share the results. Thanks, Pete!
Yesterday’s videos are weird — the cover video is of “Brown-Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, and “Do It Again” by Brian Wilson and Mike Love –I play both songs in the morning and then again in the evening. I had hoped for one to be better than the other, but they are both imperfect in their own way. I’ve been sight-reading out of my weight-class lately, and these recent videos are evidence of that, but there it is, anyhow.
The improv is weird too, though I can’t say exactly why.
The graphic images used are downloaded from the new Metropolitan Museum of Art online collection:
I know a woman who is a broth-witch. She takes a mess of crab-claw shells and boils them all day, filling the house with a seaside perfume—and by evening there’s a bowl of sinfully rich shrimp chowder like you’ve never imagined. Or take today, when what looked like the ejecta from my lawnmower catcher, and a handful of various spices, again filled the living room with a multi-layered scent, the subtlety of which hinted at the many ways such a potful could have gone wrong. But when the steam left the pressure cooker, there was a bowl of clear vegetable broth on the kitchen table. I lowered my nose to inhale the steam—paradise. And I’m a meat-broth kind of guy.
I use to wonder what that woman saw in all those cooking shows—turned out it was a professional interest—she could kill on one of those shows, if she had a mind to.
It’s eighty-two degrees! I have photos from about a month ago—three feet of snow. It may not be climate change, but it’s sure-as-hell hot out there. The bleeding hearts are blooming—the neighbors’ cherry-blossom tree is a pink, humming mob of bumble-bees. The breeze is blowing. This beats snow any day.
It’s a beautiful day. What more can I say? May the fourth be with you.
Tuesday, May 05, 2015 4:07 PM
In Which I Disappear Up My Own Egress (2015Mar05)
When I type phrases using words like ‘erudite’ or ‘pomposity’ I risk sounding pompous and over-educated. When I employ what I think of as bitter satire I risk sounding childish and flippant. And certainly if I don’t write well, those points become confused with a host of unconnected difficulties. I’m one of those idiots who think that I should bring all my education and emotion to my writing—you’d think I’d never heard of style, much less manipulation.
I blame it on honesty—a concept with which I have much concern. Honesty doesn’t go well with good manners—another concern of mine. Thus I feel constrained in writing what I know—I don’t know anything that doesn’t involve everyone else. Plus fiction (my favorite thing) was, I thought, the ultimate goal—but good creative writing is a process of manipulating the reader and of imagining, well, fictions, i.e. lies. Good fiction writers are good storytellers—they have no compunction about telling tall tales—whereas I’m too hung up on the ethics of both the inventing of entertaining fictions and the recycling of my personal history as fodder for the writing factory.
I write quite comfortably in this blog. You can’t see the sausage being made—I have to back up and correct every other word because of tremors and generally poor motor control, but the result doesn’t show that. I don’t know—maybe I’m afraid to let myself go as a creative writer—it reveals a great deal about a person. Where I have the courage of my convictions when it comes to sharing my thoughts, as I do in this blog, sharing my feelings is quite another story. A great deal of social posturing is concerned with maintaining a strong front, a poker face, the eye of the tiger, even. Exposing oneself in the writing of fiction feels, for a close reader like myself, very naked-ish—I don’t know if I have the balls.
What is a story? A young person leaves home and enters the woods, as Joseph Campbell might begin. More modern stories might begin with the humdrum lives of two young people who have no idea they’re about to fall in love. Beyond the adventure/journey story and the love story, there’s the family drama, the saga, the epic, and the mythos—all in various flavors of time period, interlocutor, class, culture, setting, fantasy, psychology, etc. However, there’s been a whole lot of fiction written—and more being published every day. The best modern fiction either lasers in on one aspect of the human condition or else ‘goes big’, interlocking and intertwining several of the above scenarios.
It’s all become quite huge in concept. Plot-outlined whiteboards end up looking like dense electronic blueprints. Big-money fiction writers use many hands—researchers, writing assistants, an editor or two—and, nowadays, in many cases, aspiring writers try to keep up through involvement in a writing class, a writing workshop, or a writing commune—either geographical or digital in location. While writing still consumes the lion’s share of a writer’s working hours, the idea of a writer working in solitude and sending the finished work off to a publisher is as antique as Jane Austen, who died in 1817. And she was pretty good, too. The rest of us need help—or so it would seem. I’m not sure I have the energy to find out.
I can virtually hear all you he-men out there: “You don’t know if you have the balls? You don’t know if you have the energy? Quit with all the negative vibes and make it happen, sissy-boy.” Yeah, yeah—I get it. But everybody has a different context. In my context, exercise produces negative results—added effort only brings extreme fatigue. Ordinary human bodies recharge after exertion—mine, not so much, or so quick. Do you remember how, in the Bourne Identity, Matt Damon’s character wonders why he can’t remember his name, but he knows he can run so many miles before his hands start shaking too much to aim a gun? Well, think about that stat—fatigue doesn’t just reduce strength, it reduces nervous control and mental concentration as well.
The virus is no longer preventing my liver from detoxifying my blood. I can exercise now without flooding my bloodstream with the toxins of exertion. Well, no, that’s wrong. Everyone gets a flood of toxins from exertion but the body, especially the liver, cleans that stuff all up. In my present case the central nervous system got its feelings hurt, back when things were really bad and now it goes off on a tantrum every time it gets a whiff of muscular activity, like talking a short walk—you’d think I’d asked it to scale K-2. So maybe the he-men are right—maybe if I powered through all the pain and tremors and spasms and restless leg for ten or twenty months I could get myself back in the fight. Trouble is, I’ve never been a big ‘self-control’ nut—I have trouble getting myself to drink coffee in the morning—even remembering to.
Plus, I’ve spent many years with the perspective of one who ruthlessly simplifies life to the least possible motion, conserving a tiny bit of energy for the most essential activities. In my not-so-long-ago world, pushing myself was not only unproductive, it was dangerous. And there is an accretion of coping mechanisms encrusting my life-style: nicotine, caffeine, junk food—all of which would have to go if I attempted to torture myself back into being able to jog around the block. It would mean Olympic-level training just to get me in semi-average shape—at my age, with my stress levels, I could blow a gasket trying to get into the kind of shape I may never see again.
As you can see, I am beset by doubts and weakness. I’d be embarrassed to admit it if I thought I was the only one—or if I thought it was possible to be a thinking person without such baggage.
Happy Cinco de Mayo! Someone on Facebook remarked, “I hope you know we don’t make as big a deal about it down here in Mexico.”—which makes a strange sort of sense—since Napoleon would have gone on to invade North America, if he hadn’t been stopped in Mexico.
The video is more to show you my garden pics than for the music—not my day, musically.
I’m still feeling off-balance today. When I’m happy the beautiful things in life make me want to sing but when I’m sad the beautiful things in life make me want to cry. There’s a little of both in today’s piano videos.
I’ve just learned that Gilbert Freeman has been injured at the Grand Canyon. He is presently in the Trauma Hospital in Flagstaff, AZ—I wish him a speedy and complete recovery. Gil is a retired music teacher responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of music-lovers, many professional musicians, and even a few virtuosi. We all have fond memories of our days in his choir and in his theatrical productions. I do hope he’ll be okay.
My George Gershwin songbook has always been difficult for me to play. Those Tin-Pan Alley harmonies make absolutely no sense, if like me you’re used to Bach, Mozart, or even Contemporary Pop—until I play them—then they make perfect sense. Gershwin’s music reminds me of Mozart in the way that he seems to find the perfect sound, right on the knife-edge of dissonance, or even just plain noise, but in its narrow escape from that, sublime in its perfect fitness.
This makes it all the more frustrating that, as sheet music, it is an obstacle course of illogical and unexpected twists and turns. I know, if I could only play it properly, how gorgeous it would sound, as I flub and fluff my improper way through it. And it’s fairly gymnastic playing, too, by my standards—physically on the edge of possibility, for me. So I was surprised yesterday when everything seemed to conform fairly easily to my hands—so ‘doable’ as to make singing along a possibility.
Today, I resolved to do a Gershwin Covers recital—I figured if yesterday’s sudden windfall ran true, I’d better take advantage while the advantage-taking was good. I decided it would be called “Gershwin is Sweeping the Country”, since “Love Is Sweeping The Country” is one of his peppiest, happiest tunes and I really like it.
I played four or five songs with semi-decent results (they comprise the video below) but when I got to “Love Is Sweeping The Country” my luck and/or energy had run out. There’s this damnable chromatic sweeping up and down in the course of the song—beautiful stuff, but murder on my brain and eyesight—so that recording went into the trash-pile, and all that’s left is the play-on-words of my title. I’ll work on it for later. It’s a really cool song.
Prior to playing, just to get the blood flowing, I took a walk. I meant to go all the way around the block, but when our driveway appeared, midway, I took the easy way out. Hence the title of today’s little piano improv “Short Walk”. I brought my camera along on the walk, though, so short or not, I got some striking photos of the local color. I hope they make a more picturesque background video than my ugly mug—once again, I’m relegating the video of me to the corners of the screen.
There are plenty more in my Gershwin songbook, but I didn’t want to press my luck today. I look forward to a second or third Gershwin Covers video, sometime soon.
It’s been kind of a scatter-shot day. Didn’t rain much, but the sun didn’t shine much either. We’re all up in the air, living off take-out, waiting for the clock to run out on the big game. Shouldn’t be long now.
The new movies came out on VOD—or, I think they did—I didn’t see anything that really pleased me. Lotta stuff coming out recently in genres I don’t go for—horror, suspense—anything that raises my stress level, basically. I’ll go for a straight Action flick, but anything where the director’s goal is to manipulate the audience’s fear, or to go for shock-value—like those scenes where a truck comes out of nowhere and hits the car the people are in—I can’t take a rollercoaster ride anymore, not even a vicarious one. Shocking scenes crop up often enough in other movies these days—I don’t care for a movie that focuses on just that aspect of cinema.
It makes sense—I can’t expect Hollywood to crank out a new sci-fi or superhero film every day. Besides, if they dumped eight of them onto the VOD menu in one day, my head would explode and I wouldn’t enjoy the movies because of all the hurry. So, ‘every once in a while’ will have to do.
Here’s a couple of videos and some pictures from the yard:
Last evening was the fourth annual Students Concert that Sherryl Marshall hosts for her voice students—and she is kind enough to include me every year. This year I sang “The Way You Look Tonight” and got through it without any serious harm done. I didn’t have my trusty videocorder, so I’ve reproduced the effort today. Also, I threw in “Can’t Help Singing” because, unlike Sherryl’s stage last night, no one was watching this time. Both songs are by Jerome Kern.
“The Way You Look Tonight” has lyrics by Dorothy Fields. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1936. The lyrics for “Can’t Help Singing” are by E. Y. “Yip” Harburg. Kern and ‘Yip’ earned an Academy Award for Best Original Song for it in 1945. At the 1946 Academy Awards, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II won for Best Original Song for “All Through the Day”—the award was posthumous in Kern’s case as he had died on November 11th, 1945.
I’m not like ‘Baby’ from “Dirty Dancing”—I went ahead and stuck myself in the corner—of today’s two videos. I wanted to show off my photos of all the life springing up out of the ground ‘round here. I used them ‘straight’ in the Kern-Covers video, but I went for a more psychedelic version on my longer-than-usual Improv to Spring. Hope you like both of today’s videos—especially as I don’t think I get any better than this.
Herman Hupfeld , in his beautiful lyric to “As Time Goes By”, wrote:
“This day and age we’re living in / Gives cause for apprehension
With speed and new invention / And things like fourth dimension.
Yet we get a trifle weary / With Mr. Einstein’s theory.
So we must get down to earth at times / Relax relieve the tension
And no matter what the progress / Or what may yet be proved
The simple facts of life are such / They cannot be removed.
You must remember this….”
We’re pretty familiar with the rest—there are few people who have neither heard this song nor watched the movie, “Casablanca”. But like the vast majority of standards, the ‘intro’ is usually overlooked—if not left out altogether. In the case of many songs, the ‘intro’ is no great loss. Some are outright drivel, or the worst sort of doggerel, and the fame of such songs indicates that some smart performer realized he or she had better get right to the ‘burthen’, without any preamble, or they’d lose their audience. And, surely, this also accounts for the fact that most classic songs are considered as having been properly performed whether they include the official ‘intro’ verses or not.
However, in some cases lyricists positively shine so much in their wit and wordplay that it’s a shame to leave the ‘intro’ unrecognized—particularly with the great lyricists. Nothing upsets me more than a songbook that decides not to print the ‘intro’—taking the choice out of my hands for the sake of volume, I suppose.
“As Time Goes By” has a fascinating introductive verse, as seen above. Hupfeld bewails the hectic pace of modern life, it’s constant changes and new information. He gets “a trifle weary of Mr. Einstein’s theory” and wants to get away from all that. He seeks out bedrock principles on which to rest, safe from the shifting sands of cultural distraction. And, of course, he finds them in Love, that favorite of all bedrock principles.
How surprised Mr. Hupfeld would be to learn that his theory of days-gone-by would see eternal popularity in spite of such enormous changes in women’s roles and in relationships generally. A kiss is still a kiss—except when it’s a workplace harassment lawsuit or a charge of improper touching of a minor or the gift of herpes. And in a way, a kiss is now more than a kiss, assuming that Hupfeld wasn’t imagining two men or two women kissing.
Worse yet, we are no longer allowed to ‘weary of Einstein’s theory’—we have to remember our PIN numbers, our passwords, the usual computer Control-codes, game-controller button-sequences, et. al. We have to worry about our AC’s BTUs, our car’s MPG, separating our recyclables, our FICA, our prescriptions deductible, and whether we have time to find out what ‘streaming’ is, or should we just keep trying to program our VCRs. Neither Hepfeld nor Bogie could have envisioned a culture where everyone had to learn to type—and only with their thumbs.
Still, the most luxuriously nostalgic aspect of these lyrics is that they still hung on to the dismissive subtext of that word ‘theory’. Today, when we mention Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, whether Special or General, we hear the word ‘theory’ in its historical sense, not in the sense that no one yet accepts the truth of it—much like the ‘theory of evolution’. Only the fringe-dwellers in today’s society place any emphasis on the word ‘theory’ in these phrases. Back in the early nineteen-forties, though, Einstein’s theories could still be confined to cocktail-party gabbing—Hiroshima and Nagasaki were yet to come, as were nuclear power plants, nuclear subs, nuclear aircraft carriers, or nuclear-powered space probes.
Today we take Relativity for granted, just as we accept quantum physics, or the big-bang theory. Now string theory, dark matter, black holes, and the Higgs-Boson particle have come to be commonplace concepts among physicists and cosmologists—even discussed on popular science programs for the layperson. On top of that, we are in the midst a digital-technology revolution, an upheaval so great that it threatens the stability of global civilization with its sheer speed, while we try to adapt from the ‘generational’ pace-of-change enjoyed for all prior history, to change that now happens on a monthly basis.
What wouldn’t we give to ‘sit under the apple tree’ of the 1940’s whenever we got weary of all that? Oh, for the days when the ‘facts of life’ were not only simple, but they couldn’t be removed! Here’s me taking a stab at the old classic, followed by two more piano covers from my piano songbook, “AFI’s 100 Greatest Movie Songs”. (I also recorded “Evergreen” but left it out in the end—I’m sure I can do it better some day soon.) I left out all the video effects today—sometimes less is more….
This video of six song covers is seventeen minutes long—but it isn’t what I really wanted. I thought I’d dig up any John Denver songs I had the sheet music for, and do a recital of just that. But I couldn’t find “Rocky Mountain High” or “Annie’s Song”, his biggest hits—all I could find today was “Follow Me” (1970), “My Sweet Lady” (1971), and “Leaving On A Jet Plane” (1966).
Like many of my favorites from my high school years, “Follow Me” is one of those songs that has a great rhythm and spirit, but vaguely misogynist lyrics. In this one he actually sings, “..make it part of you to be a part of me..” (as if “Follow me, up and down…” weren’t enough).
It always freaked me out a little that song-writers of such a politically active and ‘enlightened’ era would shill for the barefoot-and-pregnant mind-set in lyrics to their otherwise-modern rock tunes. John Denver, Paul Anka, and Bobby Vinton were some of the worst offenders in this arena, but it was fairly widespread through the sixties and seventies. By the eighties I guess feminists were calling people out on some of this stuff to the point where other people started to hear what I’d been hearing, and things got a bit more ‘aware’ from that point on.
The only real trouble is, I like“Follow Me”—I enjoy singing it, even though I kind of gag on the lyrics. “My Sweet Lady” is likewise a bit much on the saccharine-macho side, but I still enjoy his recording of it. It is included here, however, only because I was desperate for John Denver songs—it’s not really in my wheelhouse, as it were. And “Leaving On A Jet Plane” always feels weird to sing because it was the song all the girls on the school-bus sang on the road during class outings—the most popular version was released by Peter, Paul & Mary, and Mary Travers’ vocals predominate on their recording, so it became a ‘girl’s’ song.
The other, non-John Denver songs are of the same ilk—popular music of the sixties and early seventies that managed to not be rock-and-roll—Tom Paxton, (“The Last Thing On My Mind” ) like Denver, was more of a folk singer/songwriter. The Bacharach/David team (“Look Of Love”) and David Webb (“Wichita Lineman”) were both of the sophisticated, atmospheric school—almost Jazz, but with enough Pop to hit the charts.
I regret that these covers aren’t my best work—but, as always, they’re the best I can do. However, I was very pleased with the piano improvisation “Spring Earth”. I feel like I got a real “Le Sacre du printemps”-vibe going on this one, in my own goofy way.
And I end with a few more photos of the spring bulbs popping up out of our yard….
Here are three more Cole Porter piano covers—true piano covers, this time. I tend to sound like a dog howling when you get these long-held notes. Besides, the playing is tricky enough on its own. I haven’t had a chance to listen to the improv(s) yet—they are two short quips, one from this morning, one from this evening. That’s true of the Porter, too—“Begin the Beguine” was played earlier, the other two this evening. Hope you like’em. And I hope you had a fine day, as well.
My apologies to all you who didn’t share this experience today—but I had a nice, quiet day. Turner Classic Movies showed Cole Porter musicals all day—I caught most of “Silk Stockings” (Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse) and the first half of “DuBarry Was A Lady” (Red Skelton, Lucille Ball). By that time, I felt an itch to do a little Porter of my own. I’d also felt a yen for this particular Jerome Kern song last night. Probably came into my head because it has ‘Spring’ in the lyric. Anyway, I had that all queued up, so you get one by Kern, two by Porter.
These scores are tough sledding—very thick chords, some of them. I’d give anything to just breeze them along in a nice tempo, but I work with the tools I have—my apologies. The improv is short today, but I thought it was kind of cute. You decide.
Again, source material credit for my graphics has to be given. Source graphics courtesy of : The Rijksmuseum Website. The Rijksmuseum Website, by the way, is a great site for at-home museum visiting—and if you’re digitally crafty, you can download anything you see, for free, and use it in a project of your own. It’s Gr-r-reat! https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en
Table cover, Christiaen Gillisz. van Couwenberg, c. 1650 – c. 1675
Gezicht op Derwent Water, in de richting van Borrowdale (Cumberland), Thomas Hearne, 1754 – 1817
I’m getting lazy about my videos. Today, I played two little piano covers but they only last for a coupla minutes, so I just left them tacked on to the improv instead of making a separate movie—so sue me. I’m still going to add “cover” to my YouTube tags, which is their criterion for posting something that’s copyrighted. I’m just excluding the song titles from the video’s Title and putting them in the Description instead. No big deal. I always include song titles in my cover-video Tags, and that’s how people find stuff nowadays anyhow.
Immediately following my improvisation there are two piano covers of classic popular songs,“I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine” and “In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town“, which I am reading from arrangements in the “Lawrence Welk Favorites” song book. Though hits in their day, they are rather obscure in the present-day popular memory, so I’m including these brief historical references from Wikipedia.
“I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine”[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]: a popular song, written by Mack David.
The most popular version was done by Patti Page in 1950. The Page recording was issued by Mercury Records as catalog number 5396, and first reached the Billboard chart on May 20, 1950, lasting 9 weeks and peaking at #8. It was her first Top 10 hit. The song was also one of the first recordings by Elvis Presley.
A Dean Martin version of the song was featured in the 1953 film “Scared Stiff” starring Martin and Jerry Lewis. The Patti Page recording is featured in the movie “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”. Actor Guy Pearce also briefly sings excerpts of this song in the film, as does Terence Stamp. The first Spanish-language version was recorded by Marco Tulio Sanchez, the precursor of rockabilly in his country Colombia during the 1980s. It was originally intended for Disney’s Cinderella, but not used.
“In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town” [From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]: a popular song written by Ira Schuster and Jack Little with lyrics by Joe Young in 1932.
Ted Lewis and His Band performed it in the film “The Crooner” in 1932. His version was released as a single and it went to #1, where it remained for 10 weeks.
Johnny Long and His Orchestra had a million seller of the song in 1946–a slight revision of their 1940 version. The ’46 version reached #13. Jerry Lee Lewis recorded a version in the winter of 1958/1959. Somethin’ Smith and the Redheads re-charted the song in 1956 where it reached #27.
The graphics are from our garden last May—which is only two months away—something to look forward to.