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Monday, December 18, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

An eternal favorite. Judy Garland's performance of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is, for me, so iconic that I can barely stand any others. (Insert my usual rant about Frank Sinatra destroying the song's meaning by changing the lyrics here.)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

Well, seeing as how nuclear annihilation seems to be back on the table as an option, here's Weird Al and "Christmas At Ground Zero".

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

I first heard this piece by John Rutter performed by the local high school choir at a Christmas concert a few years ago. It is, quite simply, one of the most achingly beautiful pieces I have ever heard. Here is the Candlelight Carol.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

Several different versions of "The Little Drummer Boy". Which do you prefer?









Monday, December 11, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

This piece isn't performed by the Canadian Brass, even though it's titled "A Canadian Brass Christmas Suite". Nevertheless, it's pretty cool.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

A few Christmas selections by Yo Yo Ma (and whichever friends he brings along)!





Saturday, December 09, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

Here's one I play each year in acknowledgement of Christmas's way of making us think, amidst the joy and light and gift-giving, of the loves that might have been, the lives we might have lived, and the dreams that sometimes we barely remember dreaming.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Bad Joke Friday (Christmas edition)

Apologies! I genuinely thought I had already scheduled this to post, but it turned out that I didn't do anything at all with it. So....

BWAAA HAAA HAHAHA oh never mind.

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

The United States military is home to some really good musicians, and they do a lot more than just play "Hail to the Chief" and "The Stars and Stripes Forever".





Thursday, December 07, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

A Christmas Overture by John Rutter. Rutter is mainly known for his melodic and lyrical choral music, but this is quite nice. (Rutter will likely turn up again this month.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

I love John Williams, obviously, but I do have to admit that I prefer his music to have a darker tinge to it. When he gets into full-on "happy" mode, I find that...well, it's like eating a very rich and very sweet dessert. A little goes a long way.

This is a suite someone cobbled together out of several Christmas-related tracks from Williams film scores. And just in case you need some "darker" Williams after that, well, go to YouTube and dig up any track from Revenge of the Sith. That should do it!

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

A break from the Christmas music! Here we have the Welsh Rhapsody by Sir Edward German, a composer who lived from 1862 to 1936. He is most well-known for several of his light operas, as he was seen during his career as something of a successor to Sir Arthur Sullivan. German lived a long enough life to see the musical style that he favored fall out of fashion, and like many fine composers, his work fell into neglect and obscurity. This piece does not deserve that fate, though -- it is a thoroughly enjoyable work of late-Romantic orchestral writing, thrilling and lyrical and muscular. Enjoy!

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

One of my every-year favorites. Here is Tchaikovsky's Suite from The Nutcracker.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

In Generations, the first Star Trek movie to feature the cast of The Next Generation, the plot involves an evil scientist whose goal is to do whatever he needs to do to get back into "the Nexus", which is some kind of alternate dimension where wishes are fulfilled or some such thing. The whole thing doesn't make a lot of sense, but late in the movie Captain Picard finds himself there, and his temptation to remain is a Very English Christmas that looks like something out of one of the rich family scenes in a Dickens novel. Not much to write home about, really, but Dennis McCarthy's scoring of this dream-like sequence is interesting ethereal.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

I don't know anything at all about the band Sixpence None the Richer, but I gave a random listen to their rendition of my favorite Christmas hymn, "Angels We Have Heard On High", and...well, hear it for yourself. I quite fancied it.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

Baroque composer Arcangelo Corelli wrote this wonderful concerto grosso and inscribed it: "Made for the Night of Christmas. It's not known exactly when he wrote it; it survives because of its publication in a posthumous collection of all of Corelli's concerti grossi. In a concerto grosso, the music alternates between being performed by a group of soloists within a larger ensemble and by the entire ensemble itself. At this point in music history the concerto had not yet developed into a showpiece for soloist with orchestra.

There are no familiar Christmas tunes here, but I always find that the intimate sound of various chamber ensembles lends itself to the more peaceful and contemplative aspects of Christmas.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Bad Joke Friday (Christmas Edition)

All of this month's Bad Jokes will be themed to the upcoming holiday. Enjoy! (Or not. Because the jokes will still be bad.)


Your Daily Dose of Christmas

It's December, so here we go with our daily roundup of Christmas favorites old and new!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Something for Thursday

The twelfth anniversary of Little Quinn's passing came, and went, the other day. This song always makes me think of him, and other things.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

AHHHHHHH

AHHHHHHHH!!! #amwriting #writersofinstagram #writerinoveralls #NaNoWriMo

Late last night, I dragged myself, weary and bloodied, across the NaNoWriMo finish line.

Well, not bloodied, but I was quite tired when I got there...especially since at one point Scrivener had my word count at 50,200 but when I plugged my text into NaNo's validator, it came back with a result of 49,850. So I had to stay up a bit and do a little extra work to get myself over that line. I could have just done it today, but when I'm that close, I just want to kick it into gear and get it done.

So after three consecutive years of falling short during NaNoWriMo, I've resumed winning. Huzzah!!!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Bad Joke Friday

This has been going around Facebook lately so if you're over there you've likely seen it already, but it still made me laugh, so:


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Something for Thursday: Thankfulness Edition

If anything, the months since the last Thanksgiving have certainly reestablished in my mind how important it is to be centered before one goes forth to fight the good fight.

Here's a bit of Mr. Copland (I don't usually like to excerpt longer works, but this is an exception).

Thankfulness 2017

I remember it being very difficult to summon up true thankfulness a year ago as it seemed as if a darkness was settling over everything. And it has, to be honest--but it's not an all-encompassing darkness. There have been encouraging signs, though. People are showing up with lanterns to fight the darkness. After all....


Here's a list of things for which I am thankful this year:

Carla, the new dee-oh-gee
Cane, the not-as-new dee-oh-gee
Lester and Julio, the really-not-new cats
Rum
Bourbon
Scotch
Gin
Sparkling wine
Paula's Donuts
Ithaca, NY
Autumn Leaves Books
The Rochester Lilac Festival
Knowing where a bunch of gluten-free restaurants are between here and the Finger Lakes
The Finger Lakes
Letchworth State Park
Taughannock Falls
The Ontario County Antique Mall
Fountain pens
Fountain pen ink
Making waffles
Popcorn with butter
Kettlecorn
Corn dogs
Chiavetta's chicken barbecue
The Erie County Fair
Hot dogs at Taffy's
Hot dogs at Ted's
Hot dogs at home, on the grill
Star Wars
Casablanca
Hayao Miyazaki and the rest of Studio Ghibli
The Scarlet Pimpernel
88 Cups of Tea (podcast)
Functional Nerds (podcast)
Sword and Laser (podcast)
Our backyard firepit
All my various methods of making coffee (pourover, French press, Moka pot)
Mississippi Roast
The Instant Pot (which I still don't even use as much as I should)
Art and craft shows where I can buy gifts right from the person that made them
Picking out jewelry for The Wife
The Great Lakes region
Pittsburgh, PA (honorary Great Lakes city in my heart)
New York City
The two friends of mine who are finding a lot of new purpose in their lives of late
Chestnut Ridge Park
Sprague Brook Park
Emery Park
Canalside and the Outer Harbor
Knox Farm State Park
The Mill Road Overlook in East Aurora
Roads: US 20A, NY 240, NY 39, Girdle Road, Two Rod Road
Fried chicken
Chicken and waffles
Hot sauce
John Oliver and Last Week Tonight
The Resistance
Hector Berlioz
Sergei Rachmaninov
Alexander Borodin
JS Bach
Ludwig von Beethoven
John Williams
Jerry Goldsmith
Max Steiner
Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Howard Shore
James Horner
All the new authors on my shelf whose works I an thrilled to read
The emergence of so many authors of color and the opportunity to read them and learn from their experiences and perspectives
Goodreads
Twitter (the parts without Nazis)
Harry Potter
My Fair Lady
The Chilling Killing Wind
The Song of Forgotten Stars
Princesses Tariana and Margeth Osono
Lieutenant Penda Rasharri
The characters you haven't met yet
The characters I haven't met yet
The days when the writing is easy
The days when the writing is hard
Pies on the table
Pies in my face
Well-worn bib overalls
Stiff raw-denim bib overalls
Vintage bib overalls
The Daughter
The Wife
The world
Our universe

That's not so bad, is it?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

I've been exploring with some fascination the American composers of the late Romantic era, the ones whose music is rarely heard these days because none of it really goes beyond the stylings of what was going on musically in Europe at the time. Everyone was basically writing European-style music in America, with no real nationalistic material to incorporate as a way of standing out. American music didn't start to break out until the arrivals of Modernism and jazz, but there was still important and meaningful work being written, and a lot of it is undeserving of its obscurity.

Case in point: the tone poem Hero and Leander by Victor Herbert. Herbert was primarily known as a composer of operettas in the earliest days of the American musical theater (which, again, didn't really start to catch fire until jazz showed up), and his name is still slightly familiar to audiences because of his work Babes in Toyland, which still shows up in excerpts around Christmas each year (especially the "March of the Toys").

Hero and Leander is an impressive work, dreamy and Wagnerian, telling the story of two doomed lovers from Greek myth. Guided by a lamp she lit for him, Hero would swim to Leander's island tower each night. But one day a storm arose, blowing out the lamp and leaving him at sea to drown. When Leander saw Hero's body floating in the waves, she threw herself into the sea to be with him forever. Herbert composed this half-hour symphonic poem for his own Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and hearing it now I'm struck by its skill even if the musical language is straight out of the Liszt-Wagner-Strauss lineage.

Here is Hero and Leander by Victor Herbert.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Something for Thursday

Heavens, was today busy! Lots of stuff going on between my NaNoWriMo efforts and a seasonal uptick in things at The Store that need my attention.

And dogs. Mustn't forget the dogs. For one thing, if you do, they bark.

Anyway, here's a bit of Lerner and Loewe. It's always good to return to Lerner and Loewe.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

Urg.

It's been a busy and hectic several days here, what with The Store ramping up for Thanksgiving and an annual visit from the people whose name is on the front of the building, to pounding out words for NaNoWriMo (I'm on track, yay me!), and having a cold the last few days. So I forgot to post anything at all.

It's not a tone poem, it's a waltz. But it is a tone poem. I'd explain, but I've had some rum and I'd rather just listen to the music. So here is the greatest waltz of all time, On the Beautiful Blue Danube, in the wonderful video from the New Years From Vienna a few years back when they intercut the performance with video taken from the Danube from source to where it empties into the Black Sea.


There's not a single day of the year when I couldn't listen to this piece and not feel better about the world.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Final Victory of JR Ewing, and other thoughts on one year of Trump

One year ago today the American people, by virtue of the country's very odd system of voting for President, committed what might wind up being known as the greatest act of electoral malpractice in the country's history.

I.

Donald Trump ran a cynical, mean-spirited campaign that was almost perfectly designed to appeal to the id of every angry white voter in this country. He was the perfect candidate at the perfect time for a party that had been trending this way for decades. Many prominent Republicans have started to notice the rot at the heart of their party, but even now those same prominent Republicans are not coming to any kind of grips with the fact that Trump's emergence (or the emergence of someone like Trump) is something that many on my side of the political fence have been expecting for years. This past weekend, former President George HW Bush went on record as not approving of Trump or what he represents, but for anyone who has paid attention for years, there's a line to be drawn connecting Trump to the Lee Atwater-run campaign that got Bush the Elder elected twenty-nine years ago.

I'm reminded of a line from Aaron Sorkin's script to A Few Good Men, when toward the end of the movie Lt. Kaffee (Tom Cruise) is putting Col. Jessup (Jack Nicholson) on the stand in something of a Hail Mary move:

Lt. Weinberg: And now you think you can get him to just say it?

Kaffee: I think he wants to say it. I think he's pissed off that he's gotta hide from this. I think he wants to say that he made a command decision and that's the end of it.

[Starts imitating Jessup]

Kaffee: He eats breakfast 300 yards away from 4000 Cubans that are trained to kill him. And nobody's going to tell him how to run his unit least of all the Harvard mouth in his faggoty white uniform. I need to shake him, put him on the defensive and lead him right where he's dying to go.

That's what Trump did to the Republican field, and then to the Republican party, and then to a lot of Americans. It's hard escaping that conclusion, given the sheer glee with which so many people are embracing the ugliest strains of thought that have been bubbling beneath the surface of American society pretty much since the beginning. Trump shook them, put them on the defensive, and then he led them right where they were dying to go.

II. 

Donald Trump knows nothing at all. Nearly every time he opens his mouth about policy, one of three things becomes clear: he knows nothing about it, or he doesn't give a shit about it, or both. And that's it. Any policy discussion coming from this man is a nonstarter, and he is enabled in Congress by both houses in control of his own party that has been more and more firmly embracing ignorance across the board for years. It's clear to me that we're witnessing a slow unraveling of a lot of what Americans have spent the better part of the last century building. How far this process gets is a matter of concern, but things will be worse before they get better, and all Democrats can hope to do is contain some of the damage. But having one of the two main political parties in the most powerful and richest nation on Earth in the total grip of pure ignorance is a deeply dangerous state of affairs. Right now the main reason that things haven't fallen off a cliff is that in addition to being a know-nothing, Donald Trump is not especially competent. But this poses dangers of its own. Just looking at the averages, we are due for a recession any year now. When things start going south to a degree that genuinely affects Americans' livelihoods in a big way, look out.

III.

No, it's not Hillary Clinton's fault, either. We're the ones who make the decision. We're the ones who cast the ballots. We're the ones who call the shots, in the end. It's our fault. Saying anything else reduces elections to the political equivalent of Olympic figure skating, with us as the East German judges: "Sure, she's more qualified, but she didn't campaign in Wisconsin enough and she fell on that very last triple Salchow, so what can we do?"

Voting is an action, and actions have consequences. The consequences of America's vote in 2016 will be felt for decades, and there's no getting around it.

We screwed up. Everything that happens as a result is our fault.

IV.

As a writer I look at the world through the prism of fiction much of the time, and I can't help thinking that the rise of a Donald Trump figure is predictable in a country whose popular culture thirty years ago--when today's adults-in-the-prime-of-life were kids--was so deeply dedicated to celebrating the rich, the powerful, and the businesslike. I can't help thinking that Donald Trump's every move should be accompanied by a voiceover by Robin Leach, and I also keep thinking about JR Ewing.

I was a huge fan of DALLAS back in the 80s, and let me tell you, even as you winced at some of the shit JR Ewing pulled, it was really hard not to like the guy. For one thing, Larry Hagman's portrayal of JR is one of the great marriages of character and actor in teevee history, and for another thing, JR was often the focus of some really good writing. If you're a writer and you want tips on creating a delicious villain, you could do a lot worse than study JR Ewing (during the show's first seven or eight seasons, anyway).

But JR Ewing also seems to me redolent of the kind of "businessman" Donald Trump seems to portray himself as, which is the kind of person a lot of Americans seem to think is the way a real businessman is. Business in this view is all about maximizing one's money, and it doesn't much matter who gets hurt along the way. Business isn't about making a thing and selling it, so much as about buying things for no other reason than to sell them again sometime down the line. JR Ewing would cheat and swindle. He would do unethical things, make shady deals, and trick partners into giving him money only to wind up with nothing. And he was a womanizer who repeatedly cheated on his wife.

Did we elect Donald Trump because we loved watching JR Ewing on teevee thirty years ago? I'm not saying that, but it is illustrative to note that Americans have, for most of my lifetime, tended to equate money, and the having of lots of it, as a gauge of intelligence. At one of last year's debates, Hillary Clinton noted with disdain Trump's apparent success at avoiding paying taxes decades ago. One would expect that people would find that sickening; I know that I did, since I pay all my taxes. Trump's caustic reply, though? "That makes me smart." A lot of people approve of that.

For an awful lot of people, it was not a mark against Trump that he bankrupted a casino, or that his roster of utter failures in business far outstrips his roster of successes, or that his retail brands involved products made in China, or any of that. I suspect this is because of how we view money: we all want it, and in America we seem to inherently respect anyone who has it. We view money as a measure of success, and the lack thereof as a measure of failure. And if Donald Trump has ever done anything, it's convince lots of people that he has worked himself to the bone in order to pile up gobs of money.

But for all that, Trump has always been playing a part. Yes, he has all that money, but he started off rich, and he has always been adept at failing upwards, using various oddities in US bankruptcy and tax laws to make sure that even when his ventures implode he comes away with more money than with which he went in. I suppose there's some kind of perverse competence at work there, but for an awful lot of Americans none of that matters. All they see is a filthy rich man who has failed a lot and is still filthy rich, and they think that merely being filthy rich is a qualification in itself for office. It's the same impulse that drove a lot of people to support Ross Perot in 1992, despite his lack of policy knowledge (and he seemed like a total wonk in comparison to Trump). It's what led to Mitt Romney's odd stint at the top of Republican circles -- yes, he was a governor for a single term, but he won that by virtue of being a rich guy with a lot of money. This is why the pledge to "run government like a business" seems to carry so much weight with Americans, despite it being pretty much utter nonsense.

My own representative in Congress, Chris Collins, is pretty much worthless from a policy standpoint. He ran for Erie County Executive some years ago, literally entirely on the basis of "I'm a successful businessman," and he pledged after winning to do some weird business thing called "Six Sigma" in Erie County government, which was going to make everything better. Exactly how was never clear, but hey, he was a businessman! He must know a lot and be really good at running things! Except he wasn't, and he was defeated after a single term of not getting much done at all except pissing people off.

Of course, this being America where lots of people are impressed by businessmen, Collins was able to turn his failure as County Executive into several terms thus far in Congress (with, I am sure, more to come because his seat is incredibly safe, unless it gets redistricted out of existence).

JR Ewing (and other depictions of business people in the 1980s) shaped our idea of what business looks like and what kind of person is successful at business. This, couple with our idea that business is in itself the finest of callings (remember all the talk of George W. Bush being our "first MBA president"? Remember how well that turned out?). We see being successful at business as having the necessary skillset for anything, and since we also view our government as largely sluggish and incompetent, well then, what better sort of person to cut through all the nonsense and make it all better? Why, a businessperson! That is what we need. Businesspeople are all about getting shit done. They take no crap. Screw up and you're fired. There's no time for bureaucracy. (Which will come as news to anyone who has ever tried to cancel cable service.)

Thus we get President Donald Trump, a president who acts like he is the fictional head of a Texas oil company. We don't expect thoughtful, deliberate process; we expect quick and decisive action of the type that only a businessperson can provide. President Donald Trump is not just the unfortunate (and, it is to be hoped, ultimate) expression of our nation's sometimes-latent, sometimes-overt racism, sexism, homophobia, and general authoritarianism. He is also the expression of a nation that worships wealth and forgives nearly any sin committed to get it.


Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

I heard this work a few weeks ago while driving home, and made sure to make note of it. Ernest Farrar was a British composer born in 1885, but his life and career were ended in September 1918, when he was killed in action in World War I, less than two months before the war ended. So many young people of promise, snuffed out in those trenches and on those fields.

This work, an orchestral rhapsody titled The Open Road, seems to be a musical portrayal of a walk through Scotland (or so I assume, from the bagpipe-like sound of the work's open bars and a motif that recurs). It's vigorous music in the Romantic mode, unsurprising and melodic and competent. In short, it's a pleasurable work, maybe not a masterpiece but not everything needs to be.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Something for Thursday

Here's a piece to which I return many times throughout the years. I'm actually finding that the onward lurch of current events from one awful thing to the next (seriously, humanity, why are we building such an awful future?!) particularly lends itself to the reexamination of great works of art and music from earlier periods. It's a constant effort to remind myself that humanity isn't just capable of staggering acts of being terrible.

Here is The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams. (By the way, make note of the album cover pictured in the video, and if you ever see that album in a store, buy it. It's one of the great classical albums.)

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

NaNoWriMo begins!!!

Here we go, people!!! #amwriting #NaNoWriMo #writersofinstagram

Time for my sixth attempt at writing 50,000 words in thirty days! Can I do it? Stick with me and we'll find out! The project this year is The Savior Worlds, which will be Book Four of The Song of Forgotten Stars. I succeeded at hitting the 50K mark both of my first two years of NaNoWriMo, but the last three years all ended in failure: 2014 had some plot struggles with what ended up being Amongst the Stars, and then 2015 was a truncated month in which we traveled to New York City, so I wasn't able to cross the finish line despite a valiant effort. The less said about last year the better, but basically the results of the 2016 election sent me into a creative tailspin that had me unable to write anything at all for several weeks.

This year, we'll see. I'm optimistic, but you never know. At least we're not on the cusp of doing something so wildly bizarre as electing Donald Trump to the Presidency this year, right? Right?

America?

Hello?

Anyway, hopefully onward and upward! Zap! Pow!!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Friday, October 27, 2017

Bad Joke Friday

A classical music joke:

Was Mozart's posse called...

...his Wolfgang?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Something for Thursday

Wow, Jerry Goldsmith really did score a lot of bad movies, including The Haunting. Nevertheless, his music is always worth a listen. Here's the final scary music selection of the month!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

Antonin Dvorak wrote this work, The Noon Witch, after his return to Europe from the United States. It is a musical telling of a horrible story:

A mother warns her son that if he does not behave she will summon the Noon Witch to take him away. He does not behave, and the witch arrives at the stroke of noon. The witch, described as a horrible creature, demands the child. The mother, terrified that the witch has actually come, grabs her son, and the witch begins chasing them. Finally the mother faints, grasping her child. Later that day, the father arrives home, and finds his wife passed out with the dead body of their son in her arms. The mother had accidentally smothered their son while protecting him from the witch. The story ends with the father's lament over the terrible event.

Yikes!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Symphony Saturday

The American composers of the Romantic era are an interesting bunch, because they exist in a kind of musical purgatory. Their music is not heard much, mainly because it's all pretty firmly ensconced in the European symphonic tradition, and thus isn't terribly interesting in any nationalistic sense. But a lot of their music is still quite good, and the trouble with musical purgatory -- especially as time passes -- is that it captures works that might not rank with the greatest masterpieces, but which also don't deserve the sad obscurity that awaits most works of art.

This symphony popped up as a recommendation for me on YouTube a while back. I had never heard of John Knowles Paine before that moment, and I listened to his Symphony No. 1 on a whim and found it quite pleasing, muscular and dramatic and at times very lyrical. The knock on the American music of the time -- that it is too essentially European -- is in evidence here, quite strongly. There is nothing about this symphony that sounds the least bit uniquely "American", but that doesn't mean it's bad, just that the American voice had not developed yet into its own sound. That would not happen until the early 20th century, when jazz finally came along. Instead, the work should be heard as a fine piece in the Brahmsian tradition (Paine was almost an exact contemporary of Brahms).

Here is John Knowles Paine's Symphony No. 1 in C-minor.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Bad Joke Friday

From a newspaper in 1859. I'm so glad that bad humor is timeless!


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Something for Thursday

Continuing with scary music! Or music for scary movies. Or...you get the idea.

Here is a suite from Wojcech Kilar's wonderful score to the rather uneven film Bram Stoker's DRACULA. While the film is uneven, the score is a classic of the genre.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

When things collapse....

This past weekend was...an adventure.

The groundwork started the previous weekend, when a large puddle formed at the corner of our street and the street that leads to it. It had rained a bit that weekend, so I didn't think anything of the puddle, except it persisted all week, through dry days. Never shrinking. Just...there.

Turns out it was a water main break.

I got home from work Friday afternoon to no running water as the crews were starting the repair right then. I don't know what made them choose Friday night, but I'm guessing that something happened which forced their hand. So no water that night, which wasn't a huge imposition (we keep water bottles filled and have jugs of water on hand at all times), except that I couldn't shower. I shower after work, not before, because the nature of my job doesn't always leave me particularly clean. Plus, showering after the job helps me make the mental switch from Day Job Me to Writer and Homebody Me.

But Friday? No water until 10:00pm, so no shower. No big deal, really; I figured I'd just shower Saturday morning, after The Wife showered and went to work and I got the dee-oh-gee's walked. Fine.

Except The Wife leaves and calls me from the road, two minutes later. The water main is now broken again, and impressively so: it's making a little geyser and flooding the street in ankle-deep water.

Welp. Water main break on my street. Supposed to go to a party later, but if I can't shower.... #argleblargle

Ayup.

A cop is already there. Within minutes a Water Authority guy is also there, and within the hour the water is back off and the crews are working. This time there are even more big machines and big trucks involved, and the water doesn't get turned back on until between 5:30 and 6:00. Again, not a gigantic deal, except that I was now two days removed from my most recent shower, which led me to conclude that I should not attend the work party that had been scheduled for that afternoon.

That sucked. But, the water was back.

Onward to Sunday. Hiking at Hunter's Creek Park with Dee-oh-gee 1.0. Pretty autumn day, nice colors, warm weather if a bit windy.

Vaguely ominous spot in the trail #hunterscreekpark #wny #eriecounty #autumn #EastAurora #nature #hiking #trees #forest

Hunters Creek. Maybe my last creek-walk of the year? #hunterscreekpark #wny #eriecounty #autumn #EastAurora #nature #hiking #stream #runningwater #forest

Another week, another adventure #hunterscreekpark #wny #eriecounty #autumn #EastAurora #nature #hiking #trees #forest #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound #overalls #dungarees #denim #biboveralls #zacedenim

But later on that day? A wind and thunderstorm barreled through, knocking out power to Casa Jaquandor (among a LOT of others).

For seven hours.

Yuck.

The worst part of this was that our power company's website is supposed to post updates as to status of outages, with estimated restoration times, but they never posted any such information. Every street was listed as "assessing", which they say means that they haven't even figured out what work needs done.

This went on and on and on. At least I got some writing done by candlelight...

Night time power-outage longhand by candle. #amwriting #writersofinstagram #writerinoveralls #longhand #fountainpen #candlelight #overalls #vintage #Lee #bluedenim #dungarees #denim #biboveralls

...but still, not fun. Especially when we discovered that our back-up sump pumps, which had been working fine, were now overwhelmed and our basement was starting to flood.

Luckily that's when the power came back on and the main sump pump engaged and cleared the rest of the water pretty quickly.

Everybody lived and nothing was lost, but the entire weekend was, for the most part, one headache after another.

At least it's over.

Harumph.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

Another hallmark of scary classical music: A Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Sub-optimal function

As a rule, the underground pipe that supplies water to your domicile should not be doing this:

Welp. Water main break on my street. Supposed to go to a party later, but if I can't shower.... #argleblargle

Ayup.

Showering is postponed indefinitely. Luckily for you all, who are reading this on a screen.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Bad Joke Friday

It's not a bad joke, actually. Seen on Twitter:



Thursday, October 12, 2017

Something for Thursday

(Oops...as often happens, saved as draft and forgot to actually publish.)

Continuing our month of spooky, scary music...here is a suite from Bernard Herrmann's seminal filmscore, Psycho. No intro needed other than that!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

At least THAT happened in 2017!

Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker himself, tweeted my name.

Here's how it happened.

It began with, surprisingly enough, William Shatner:



Mark Hamill, cited by Mr. Shatner, replied:



Funny reply! Until, that is, a Star Trek geek from the Buffalo, NY area felt the need to point out that Mr. Shatner never faced the Borg on Star Trek. They came along for Patrick Stewart's tenure as Enterprise captain.

Sayeth the Trek geek from Buffalo:



And then, replyeth Mr. Hamill:



Squeee! Proof for eternity that for a period of time--who cares if it was mere seconds long--Mark Hamill was aware of my existence!

I, of course, couldn't allow Mr. Hamill the last word, so:



And as of this writing, there we stand.

Sometimes the future is kind of cool, in amidst the moments of existential dread and the ongoing awareness that everything is terrible.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

Here's something I've never heard before: The Mask of the Red Death, a work for harp and string quartet by Andre Caplet. Caplet was a French composer and a contemporary of Claude Debussy, and in fact his most noted work seems to have been orchestrations of the great master's works. Caplet's work here is based on the famous story by Edgar Allan Poe, and it is an eerily effective piece of mood music, employing a number of sonic effects throughout in addition to tonal moods that suggest atonality.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Something for Thursday

For the month of scares, here's one of John Williams's rare forays into the world of horror: a suite from his score to the movie Dracula.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

On the Pleasures of Raw Denim

Obviously denim is one of my favorite things on Earth. Few things are more comfortable than well-worn denim that has been broken in over years.

Reviewing my notes. Parts of this book flow wonderfully; others, not so much. #AmWriting #overalls #DoubleDenim

But lately I've discovered another pleasure: raw denim. I know, I know -- raw denim is stiff and unforgiving. Its color is uniform, with none of the wear of use. Wearing it, raw denim doesn't hang correctly and doesn't conform to your body the way broken-in denim does.

Raw Lee overalls


That, however, is part of the charm.

I have, of course, discovered this by several lucky purchases of raw denim overalls.

You can find raw denim overalls pretty easily. Any Tractor Supply store or other workwear establishment will have them. (A good local place is McKay's Work Clothing in South Buffalo.) Vintage raw denim overalls are another matter. They often go for princely sums that are way higher than I'm willing to pay for such things, but it's always the case with places like eBay that you never know. You might go months without seeing a good deal on the thing that you want, and then one day, there it is, and for a decent price, too. This happened for me twice in the last year, when I was able to buy two different pairs of raw denim Lee overalls for a song (both for less than what a new pair of Carhartts would set me back these days).

The Lee overalls of the "vintage" era, roughly the 50s through the 80s, have always been my "platonic ideal" of what overalls should be. I love the shape of the bib pocket, the shape of the back part, even the shape of the back pockets and the brass hardware. When I think of overalls, this is what I tend to picture.



(Photos chosen via a Google image search.)

I've owned several pairs of Lee overalls for years now, two in blue denim and one in hickory stripe.

Detail. This outfit made me happy. #ootd #overalls #vintage #Lee #bluedenim #scarf

Red and blue: classic combo! (Waiting for my grilled cheese sandwich to heat. Also, I read a fascinating article yesterday that suggests that humans might NOT have been able to perceive the color blue until fairle recently. Science! #overalls #vintage #Le

Another good writing day in the books. G'night, world! #amwriting #overalls #vintage #Lee #HickoryStripe

These were all nicely broken-in when I bought them, but now I've acquired two in unworn, pristine raw denim. They even came with the tags attached:

/PHOTO_20170710_231219

What's so great about raw denim? Its deep blue is almost black, and the fabric is stiff. Oh my, is it stiff! But the denim is a wonderful super-dark blue with no fade at all, and no creasing anywhere. The pleasure, here, is in the working with "raw" material (hence the name!). It's the denim equivalent of cooking from scratch, or building a piece of furniture not from a pre-cut kit but from uncut lumber. As another writer puts it:

Raw denim is a true nerd’s category of clothing, the rare subset of fashion that is the domain mostly of men, and thus overrun by complicated terminology and geeks eager to tell you you’re doing it wrong. Basically, though, what “raw” amounts to is denim that wasn’t washed to soften it up (and remove excess indigo dye) before it was sent out into the world — though mine had been Sanforized, or soaked, to pre-shrink them. Raw denim is also usually made of nearly pure cotton — so minimal-to-no Lycra or spandex or what have you, the stuff that gives stretchy jeans their elasticity. What you lose in immediate flexibility, you gain in durability: They’re harder to stretch, but also harder to stretch out. My pair arrived on my doorstep deep blue, stiff, and difficult. Then it became my job to find the patience and persistence to wear them into shape.

There's a process with raw denim, it turns out: you're actually not supposed to just toss them into the washer and dryer right off the bat, nor are you supposed to wash them frequently. An initial soaking-and-drying, without soap, followed by wearing a lot with intermittent re-soakings and gentle washings (hand-washing in a tub with a bit of soap is recommended) followed by line-dryings only, is what's called for. In this way the denim will slowly break in and wear in exact ways that correspond to your body and the way you wear it.

Here's how the ran denim overalls compare, side-by-side with one of my long-broken-in pairs:

Raw Lee overalls

Step one is to put them in the bathtub and hose them off to rinse out as much of the extra dye as possible (I'd have done this outside but the weather was crappy on the day in question):

Raw Lee overalls

Raw Lee overalls

Then I soak them in a bucket for most of a day, periodically wringing them out and changing the water.

Raw Lee overalls

(I was doing to same treatment with a new pair of hickory-striped Dickies.)

Last, they hang on the line to dry. This takes forever. When you thoroughly soak denim, it holds water for a long time. This is not a process for the impatient.

Raw Lee overalls

The result of all this? Well, once dry, you can wear them. The look is great, in my opinion: the denim is still new and dark, with some new wrinkling already starting after the initial soaking and rinsing of the dyes.

Raw Lee overalls

Think Pink! The pinkification of my wardrobe commences! I've been looking for a pink dress shirt and finally scored this banded collar one on eBay. Score! Pink is awesome! 😊 #pink #thinkpink #overalls #vintage #Lee #bluedenim #dungarees #denim #rawd

New overalls V: Head to toe! #overalls #vintage #Lee #bluedenim #dungarees #denim #rawdenim

From the back #overalls #vintage #Lee #bluedenim #dungarees #denim #rawdenim

Remember the raw-denim Lee overalls for a great price on eBay that you were all supposed to talk me out of getting? Yeah. Heckuva job, Internet. #nofilter #lovethem #overalls #vintage #Lee #bluedenim #dungarees #denim #rawdenim

Now, if I could just get the weather in my neck of the woods to dip reliably into the 60s, I'd be all set!

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

It's October, which is usually my favorite month of the year. We're off to a rocky start this year, aren't we...but life still must go on.

I'm doing a theme to the Tone Poems for this entire month, starting today. Since we're approaching Halloween, we'll be doing spooky music, or music that meditates on life's darker aspects. Here is one of my favorite works of all time, by one of my very favorite composers of all time: "The Isle of the Dead" by Sergei Rachmaninov.


(The performance and sound are terrific here, but the accompanying movie may or may not work, depending on personal taste.)

Friday, September 29, 2017

Bad Joke Friday

Seen on Facebook and now stolen.


Visit the cartoonist's website! His name is Kaamran Hafeez. I've probably seen his work before, as he has been published in LOTS of places.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday (the Happy Birthday edition)

Happy birthday, George Gershwin!


And also, Happy Birthday, Jim Caviezel!


And Happy Birthday, Olivia Newton John!


Also, happy birthday to me, but that's not so important.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Three Years!!!

Three years and a couple of days ago, someone joined our family.

I do not know what to make of this development. #NewDog #greyhound #RetiredRacer #HolyShitThatIsABigFrakkingDog #omg #aieee #OhNoes

The dee-oh-gee. #Cane #DogsOfInstagram

I continue to be a big fan of "inside with the cats". #Snowmageddon #Cane #DogsOfInstagram

This dee-oh-gee can give coolness lessons to The Fonz. #correctimundo #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound

Muddy dee-oh-gee needs to realize that when he gets muddy, he can't come in right away. #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound

Cane found the lake bed a bit rocky for his liking. #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound #BuffaloNY #lakeerie #greatlakes #outerharbor #wny

Mud freckles. He gave himself MUD FRECKLES, you guys! He's a bad dog. #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound

Two adventurers crossing the Dumas Bridge #KnoxFarm #EastAurora #wny #autumn #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound #overalls #vintage #Lee #HickoryStripe #dungarees #denim #biboveralls #doubledenim #ootd

Obligatory me and the dee-oh-gee #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound #ChestnutRidge #wny #OrchardPark #overalls #Dickies #vintage #bluedenim

He may be welcome to stay now. I mean, the jury's out, but I'd say that things are leaning in his favor.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Thursday, September 21, 2017

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."

THE HOBBIT at 80! My current collection of copies. Bilbo lives! #thehobbit #lordoftherings #lotr #tolkien #books #bookstagram #reading #fantasy

I didn't know this until I saw it online today, but The Hobbit was first published 80 years ago today.

At no point have I not loved this story (except for the handful of years I was unaware of it), and I don't expect that I will ever not love it. The Hobbit and its more noted follow-up, The Lord of the Rings, are on my shortlist of the stories that have shaped me the most: we're talking Star Wars territory here, to be honest.

I knew the story of The Hobbit -- well, most of it, anyway -- several years before I actually read the book. That's because my first encounter with this story was via the Rankin-Bass animated version that first aired in 1977. I don't recall if I saw it then or on a subsequent re-run, but it didn't matter: I loved this story quite intensely, and when I read the book a few years later, I was done for.

IMG_20170921_180611_553

The Hobbit is often seen as a children's tale, inessential to the greater work that followed it, but I've never viewed it that way. Reading The Hobbit is as essential to the experience as anything, and I never ever re-read The Lord of the Rings without reading The Hobbit first. There is so much in The Lord of the Rings that simply doesn't make sense, or at least has the impact blunted, if one hasn't read The Hobbit. The eagles arriving at the Black Gate; the tonal shift about halfway through Fellowship into a more heroic mode; the history behind Sting and the mithril coat.

More than that, though, the adventure story that comprises The Hobbit contrasts greatly with the world-wide import of the events to come. The focus in The Hobbit is intimate, and the focus never wavers from this little hobbit named Bilbo who is ensnared in events larger than he can comprehend, and his efforts to make his way in a world he doesn't understand and barely wants to. The Hobbit is an adventure story, but it's an adventure story that ends somewhat ambiguously with the treasure won but one of its seekers dead. This anticipates the moral direction of what is to come, when the fundamental quest is not to find something but rather to lose something that is already found.

And it is, really, one hell of an adventure story.


Long live The Hobbit! It's been a few years since my last re-read, so...I think that I may be quite ready for another adventure!

Something for Thursday

This is weird. I never knew this song existed until the other day when I heard it as part of the soundtrack to one of The Daughter's video games. It's a peppy, zippy pop song from the 1950s...singing the praises of uranium. I am not making this up.

"Uranium Fever". As the kids say, I can't even.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

On 'ownership'

In the course of a long post about Twin Peaks (of which I know nothing and cannot comment), Sheila O'Malley says this:

In today’s day and age, where every fan feels a sense of “ownership” over the thing they love – to an annoying degree – something like Twin Peaks was refreshing. Lynch/Frost knew the fan base was still there. That ground was set. But after THAT, they owed us nothing.

This is the proper attitude of artists. I realize that’s not a popular sentiment. But I am suspicious of popular sentiments, in general. More so now than ever.

I tend to agree with this. The most an artist owes is gratitude for good will offered their way, but that's about it. This sense of ownership can become deeply obnoxious when fans start to turn on their particular artist because they haven't been getting what they feel they are "owed". Of course, this goes the other way, too: the fans owe an artist not a hell of a lot beyond an honest attempt to approach and engage with their work.

I think that art is best when there is less feeling of being "owed" on both sides.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

Got a spare two minutes? Give this a listen, then. It's a very short bit of tone painting, in the form of a folk dance, by Percy Grainger. Here is "Shepherd's Hey".

Friday, September 15, 2017

Something for Friday: Farewell, Cassini

The Cassini mission has ended with the space probe's final plunge into the Saturnian atmosphere. We learned a great deal from Cassini -- and we will continue to do so as more and more analysis of its data is done -- and I find it somewhat of a bright moment in a world where science itself is being deeply undervalued at precisely the time when we need good science most.

Thank you, Cassini.


Bad Joke Friday