23 September 2016

Happy 99th birthday, El Santo!
Last night I did some more painting in the basement guest bedroom - I just have the closet interior to do now. When I paint I blast Kraftwerk's Tour de France Soundtracks CD on the stereo in the adjacent room. Okay. Tired of that. Time to select something else. I'm picking up a couple of Joni Mitchell CDs as inter-library loans tonight... perhaps those. "The Jungle Line," a song on The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975), features the warrior drums of the Burundi - that should sound good digitally remastered. Bra-rum-pa-bum-pa-bum-pa-bum-pa-bum-pa-bum-pa-bum.

I tried to listen to some more movements of Olivier Messiaen's Turangalîla-Symphonie last night... but I fell asleep. Clearly, this piece isn't making much of an impression on me. Not like Shostakovitch's Tenth did last week, anyway. And those ondes Martenot parts are about as subtle as a rhino horn up the back side. I'm sure that the instrument sounded novel and exciting in 1949, but now it just sounds... kind of goofy. The problem is that modern listeners have had decades of listening to good and bad synthesizer music, and that's conditioned us. (Well - it has me because I'm a child of the 1970's, the synthesizer's heyday.)

Take another early electronic instrument, the Theramin. When one hears it now one thinks of suspenseful parts in old movies (thanks largely to Miklos Rozsa, who pioneered the instrument in film scores). Or the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" from 1967.

And then there's the Flexitone (not an electronic instrument), which makes a sound much like a musical saw. Aram Khachaturian scored for one in his Piano Concerto - which I greatly enjoy - but nowadays conductors usually forgo the use of this oddball instrument. While it sounds exotic it must also be admitted that it also sounds somewhat intrusive.

The moral of all this being, if you are a composer be careful when introducing new and innovative sounds to the symphony orchestra!

(None of this seems to apply to the Celesta, which produces a tinkling, bell-like sound. When Tchaikovsky was first introduced to it he knew he had to feature it in a piece before Rimsky-Korsakov heard one and scored for it, so he orchestrated his "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" in the Nutcracker ballet for the instrument - and celesta players haven't looked back since. The Berlin Phil often wheels out their Schiedmayer celesta for pieces which call for it, which happens rather often.)

And then we return to... Kraftwerk, whom my son and I saw in concert last month. What are those cunning Germans doing at those plinths and what kind of synthesizers are they using? A partial answer is here.

Oh - wait - the topic at hand is classical concert music, not electronic pop. Sorry.

Changing the subject entirely, my grandsons Gibson and Hudson visited on Wednesday while Dad was managing a Cub Scout Bear Den at church. So we fed them and told stories in the "tent" - the highlight of the week. (My YouTube video is somewhat long at just over seven minutes, but twenty years from now their parents will be very happy I took it.)

Aesop... his stories are over 2,500 years old, but they still fascinate.

That's it for today, then. The weekend forecast is nice... we're planning to go to the Virginia State Fair tomorrow.

Have a great weekend!

22 September 2016

Scheherazade.1
My current book is Thomas B. Costain's The Last Love, which is an old-fashioned (1963) historical novel. It describes Napoleon's time on the island St. Helena. I think I read it back in 1973 or 1973 when my dreamy gal pal Angela was obsessed with Napoleon Bonaparte; I seem to recall the book cover. It fills out the Costain section of my bookshelf. Thomas B. Costain, of course, wrote The Pageant of England, a four volume series about the Plantagenet kings of England that I was obsessed with when I was fifteen. He consequently became a favorite writer.

Here's my complete Making Sense of the Digital Age presentation, about scrapbooking.

Last night's Berlin Philharmonic concert was involved with modern pieces:

John Adams: Scheherazade.2 - Every orchestra knows and can play Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade; it is in what's called the Standard Repertoire and pretty much has been since it premiered in 1888. It's a lovely piece of music and a favorite of mine, just as Rimsky is a favorite composer. The part at the end when the violin (representing Scheherazade) maintains that very high note while the orchestra moves through the ending chords is incredibly beautiful. So my interest was piqued by John Adams like-titled piece, a clear reference to the earlier work.

The theme of the work - what would a modern day Scheherazade be like? - couldn't be more politically correct or feminist. (A New York Times piece gives you the full flavor of it.) It's an answer to male brutality and this Scheherazade, in the current Amazon heroine movie style, is empowered, spunky, courageous, beautiful, capable, brave, intelligent and strong-willed. Gee, aren't all women? Giving some preparatory comments before the performance, Adams made reference to the woman's assault by "True Believers" (THOSE HORRIBLE RELIGIOUS PEOPLE), bearded males and other Deplorables, blah, blah, blah. But there's more - and I could see this one coming - Scheherazade may be a lesbian: "In his comments, Mr. Adams suggested that in the second movement, 'A Long Desire (Love Scene),' his heroine’s romantic interest could possibly be another woman. 'Who knows?' he said." In the NYT piece Adams also slights that awful well-known hater of women Rush Limbaugh - clearly, the composer is one of those dreary California Libs. But! I was prepared to consider the piece on purely musical terms, so I listened.

I made it through the first movement and quit. There isn't a melody anywhere and the violin part, far from elegiac as the NYT claims, is harsh and unpleasant. (Scheherazade, it seems, is somewhat bitchy.) Perhaps I'll listen to the other movements some other time. But, in general, I think I'm done with John Adams' music. I didn't care for his Fearful Symmetries, and his Harmonielehre, which I heard last weekend, was just plain boring. When it comes to the moderns I think I'll stick with Ives, Berg, Penderecki, Weill, Stravinsky, Crumb and Schoenberg. And, for the sake of my pal Avery, Karl-Birger Blomdahl.

And Olivier Messiaen, maybe. I listened to the first three movements of his ten movement Turangalîla-Symphonie last night. (The piece lasts about an hour and a half.) I was introduced to it via a mention in a Robert Greenberg survey of classical music - he called it a modern masterpiece - and have always wanted to hear it. This piece features parts for a instrument called a ondes Martenot, which is a sort of forerunner of a synthesizer. It makes swoopy sounds that cause me to recall the oddball sounds in one of P.D.Q. Bach's humorous concert music parodies, which is unfortunate. (It's a bit like watching a very serious epic movie set in medieval England and thinking of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.) So far, so good... but I find myself hankering for a Haydn symphony.

As far as classical music is concerned I fear I may be labelled a rube in eschewing what seems like academia or political propaganda. Well, no matter. I likes wot I likes.

21 September 2016

Sir Simon Rattle: Hair of the highest order.
Last night we watched another episode of Turn: George Washington's Spies - we're making our way through the second season. This production is like a camera crew landed in the midst of a Revolutionary War reenactment, replaced the reenactors with real actors and gave everyone a dramatic script. The filming locations are all in and around Richmond, VA - the outdoor sequences look great! And why they decided to make Robert Rogers a Scot, I do not know.

We're also watching the IT Crowd; my wife hasn't seen any of these.

I still have some painting work to do in the extra bedroom... the closet. I suspect the last time it was painted was in 1985 when the house was built. Anyway, it needs some fresh paint. Last night I had a dream about maintenance activities piling up faster than I could take care of them; I'm clearly feeling pressured.

That presentation I did last week, "Making Sense of the Digital Age," is here. Videos were taken: Introduction. Longer version. Wow, I look awful in presentations...

Last night I made the mistake of listening to Sibelius' First symphony, second movement. Now the music is buzzing around in my head relentlessly. I also watched the Berlin Phil perform Sibelius' Seventh Symphony - what a remarkable work! It's in C major but it certainly doesn't sound like C major. And it's light years away from his first symphony in terms of tonality and form...

I got started on all this Sibelius because I listened to an hour long interview of Sir Simon Rattle and a Finn discussing the composer and his works. What a fascinating world a conductor inhabits! It requires musicology, scholarship and artistry of the highest order. I think it's my dream career but I know I do not possess the mental prowess to accomplish it.

I certainly do not possess the hair.

20 September 2016

Clifton Fadiman, friend of cheese, inventor of words
Did you know that a "turophile" is a connoisseur of cheese? That's what my word-a-day calendar tells me today, anyway. The "phile" part I get, it's from Greek and means "friend of." "Turo?" I don't recognize that at all. So I checked the online Oxford English Dictionary at oed.com. Guess what? No entry for "turophile." Uh-oh. The OED is definitive. Or is supposed to be.

The back of the calendar page, probably for the benefit of skeptics like me, has this: "From an irregular formation of the Greek word for cheese, tyros, plus the English -phile, (meaning lover") ... "turophile" first named cheese aficionados as early as 1938. It was in the 1950s, however, that the term really caught the attention of the American public, when Clifton Fadiman (writer, editor and former radio host) introduced "turophile" to readers of his eloquent musings about cheese."

Ah, I see what's happening here. It's an American term that the OED has refused to grant the dignity of word status. Upstart Americans. Clifton who?

Now that I am a PUBLISHED AUTHOR I shall have to have my image struck a la Mr. Fadiman, surrounded by piles of books displaying my superior literary attainments. But here's the thing: I'll make them all Mad magazine paperbacks... hahahaha!

Last night's Berlin Philharmonic concert had a decidedly Iberian air:

Joaquin Rodrigo: Concierto Aranjuez - A piece for guitar (Spanish acoustic guitar, not Fender Strat and Marshall stack) and orchestra, this piece is considered the very pinnacle of Spanish concert music. And no doubt about it, it is a very beautiful piece. The guitar parts are virtuosic, and the heart of the piece - the adagio - is well-known and loved. So much so that the Chrysler Corporation ripped it off in the Seventies to sell Cordobas, the car with the "rich Corinthian leather" that Ricardo "Khan" Montalbán cooed about. Surely, this was the most famous car ad, ever. (I blogged about it two years ago.)

(If go to the YouTube link check out my comment from two years ago: "Yes, it was a fine day when I was invited to Senior Montalban's mountaintop estate. After a fine Mexican food meal prepared by his graceful wife Rosalie, he invited me to ride his Cordoba with him to the ocean overlook, where he confessed he often mused upon the Spanish presence in the Americas. The Adagio from Albeniz' Concierto de Aranjuez played on his stereo. As he spoke in his mellifluous measured tones, I sensed his regard for his heritage - and for the Corinthian peasants who produced the fine leather for the seats in his car (available at a most pleasant price). It was a memorable occasion." I got ten thumb's ups for that literary gem.)

Wait! Joaquin Rodrigo died in 1999! He could have owned a Chrysler Cordoba! But did he? (It's a sure bet he didn't drive it - he was blind.) Alas, there is no indication of this on the Internet. I bet he was turo-ed off, however, about Chrysler using his music for a commercial.

I know what you are thinking, "If Rodrigo was blind, how did he compose on paper?" He wrote his compositions in Braille, which was transcribed for publication.

Manuel de Falla: The Three Cornered Hat - A very vividly-colored piece. It starts off with a bang: a soprano, dressed in a scarlet gown, sings a few lines of Spanish and the orchestra claps their hands rhythmically and shouts "Hey! Hey! Hey!" You don't see that in Berlin, Germany very often. The concert-goers were much amused, and murmured. The conductor, Juanjo Mena, is a fiery Spanish fellow who hopped and danced on his platform as the mood took him. As he is now the BBC Philharmonic's chief conductor he is taking some Latin spirit to that cold climate. A very fun performance.

Last night I watched a special entitled The Man Who Killed Richard III, the man being Rhys ap Thomas, a Welsh knight. Having read about English history on and off since 1971, I had never known that the fellow who dealt Richard III his death blow was ever identified. Wikipedia gives the source of this assertion: "...The king was unhorsed and surrounded. The poet Guto'r Glyn implies that Rhys himself was responsible for killing Richard, possibly with a poll axe. Referring to Richard's emblem of a boar, the poet writes that Rhys "killed the boar, shaved his head" ("Lladd y baedd, eilliodd ei ben"). However, this may only mean that one of Rhys's Welsh halberdiers killed the king, since the Burgundian chronicler Jean Molinet says that a Welshman struck the death-blow with a halberd." Hmmm.

The fun part: seeing great numbers of English War of the Roses reenactors in this production, I texted my English pal Anthony and asked if he was in this. (He does medieval reenacting.) Yes, he was - but he doesn't appear in the finished product. A pity.



19 September 2016

John Adams. (The composer, not the 18th C. Patriot) 
Here's my yard sale video from Saturday. As you can see, all I bought was a DVD of Midnight Special performances. The Midnight Special was, of course, a pop musical concert series which aired on NBC-TV from 1972 to 1981. It was filmed in the NBC Studios in Burbank. And why didn't I remember to include mention of his in the musical chapter in Lost Burbank? GRRRRR.

Speaking of Lost Burbank, a promotional kit from the publisher arrived in the mail over the weekend: posters, business cards, "autographed copy" stickers, etc. Nice, but... we need them in California. I may have to mail them to my co-author's house.

I baked another cake, this time a spice cake with a caramel frosting. It's a bit puzzling because it's a cake that tastes like a pumpkin pie (as my grandson announced last night). Not a 100% success. It's good, but a bit odd. I must have had spice cake when I was a kid. I don't know... I just had a yen.

As promised, I did some painting in the spare basement bedroom. I'm nearly done - I ran out of paint. I have to buy another gallon today to finish. McCormick Paint Cool Platinum, aka Builder Beige!

My trip to Burbank in November is going to be a bit different: I canceled my reservation at the Safari Inn and am trying a stay with a family as an Air BnB reservation for about half the price. This house is in the flight path south of the Burbank Airport, but planes are not allowed to take off prior to 7 AM or after 11 PM. I'm renting a wing of a house but all I really need is a bedroom and a bath.

I finished Heinlein's Starship Troopers. It wasn't at all what I expected it to be. As it covers military doctrine a lot I'm wondering if it's on the U.S. Marine Corps Commandant's Reading List. (Time passes.) No, it's not. Perhaps it ought to be.

Now I'm reading a book about how to create a Family Trust in order to avoid having our kids go through the probate process. We may want to do this.

Over the weekend I've been listening to Shostakovitch's Symphony #10 while painting. I am really coming to like that work. It has a mysterious quality in common with his 15th Symphony, my favorite work by that composer. On Saturday my wife and I watched a live feed from the Berlin Philharmonic Hall. They streamed John Adams conducting his Harmonierehre from 1985. We were not impressed. Adams is a composer known for minimalist works, and Harmonierehre is a piece in the minimalist style. At times I felt myself thinking, "Okay, John, you can use another note now!"

The weekend was over way too quickly.

16 September 2016

My five author's copies of Lost Burbank arrived yesterday in the mail and so now it's official: I am now a published author! I suppose considering the countless hours I have spent in libraries and reading books all my life it was inevitable.

These books are somewhat heftier than I thought they would be... five of them weigh just over five pounds. We're having 200 of them shipped to California for book signings - you do the math. I am happy to note that the editor made about 98% of my corrections - he missed a couple of minor ones that, probably, nobody but my wife will catch. It's nettlesome, but, that's the publishing industry, I guess. I haven't double checked the footnotes yet. The publisher's house style is to put them at the end; I intended them for the bottom of the page. Consequently I removed some. I hope the numbering still makes sense.

Last night's Berlin Philharmonic concert:

Frederick Delius: Brigg Fair. This is an adapted English folk song from 1907, and is quite pretty. I have a few CDs of Delius music and I like it. His Florida Suite is a favorite.

Dmitri Shostakovitch, Symphony #10: A major work from 1953 and one I've kind of avoided. I needn't have - this is a very accessible and easy to like work. It avoids the painful, strident tone of the Fifth ("a Soviet artist’s creative response to justified criticism") - I find that one very hard to listen to. The Tenth is by no means a happy or peaceful work, but it is a very interesting one. The second movement is celebrated because it is martial, harsh and brutal; Shostakovitch has stated that it is a musical portrait of Joseph Stalin, who died the year the symphony was premiered. From the book Testimony: "I did depict Stalin in my next symphony, the Tenth. I wrote it right after Stalin's death and no one has yet guessed what the symphony is about. It's about Stalin and the Stalin years. The second part, the scherzo, is a musical portrait of Stalin, roughly speaking. Of course, there are many other things in it, but that's the basis." This is disputed, however, often by perverse left wing academics who can't stand for communism or totalitarianism to come under criticism - the nitwits.

The third movement, a nocturne, is a sneaky sort of reference to a musical student with whom Shostakovitch fell in love. It's quite nice.

Ah, Friday. My only plans for the weekend are to paint a basement bedroom. And yard sale - toujours yard sales.

Have a great weekend!

15 September 2016

Jay in May.
Happy birthday grandson Jay Hofer! Two years old today! A Face Time conversation will take place tonight...

My lesson for the church women went well last night; I understand there is a video somewhere. If and when I find it I'll post a link here, in case you decide you can't exist without seeing it.

Last night I finished watching Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). It was okay. It's hard for me to generate much enthusiasm for comic book movies these days... I suspect my all-time favorite comic book film was the very first Spider Man (2002) movie, which seems to have been especially well made and likable. Other than that it's been kind of same-o same-o. Frankly, I find the animated television shows like Batman: the Animated Series (1992) and Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008) a lot more fun than the movies, which all seem to be overblown and tedious. I keep wondering if the entertainment industry will produce a decent CGI version of the Metal Men, or the Legion of Super-Heroes, but I'm not holding my breath nor do I care greatly.

Well, this took me a bit by surprise: Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers has a lot of philosophical discussions about civics in it. I was expecting a straight-ahead science-fiction novel, but no. There's more to it than that. In the society of this book, only citizens who have served in the military can vote. My friend Don votes, "My standards are low. I'd like voting restricted to citizens and those still alive." Exactly.

The Coolest Lunchboxes Through the Ages. I had the 1957 Red Barn lunchbox in Kindergarten, I think. I like that 1935 Mickey Mouse one. I may have had this Supercar one (I loved Supercar), but I forget. The Disney Schoolbus was popular...

Arrrggghhhh. Is it only Thursday?

14 September 2016

I'm about half way through The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015); this being a two hour and twenty minute film it overstays its welcome, which is a general fault with films of this type. (Comic book movies.) Other than that, it's okay. I think it's better than the first Avengers film I saw, what I remember of it. But for me there seems to be more entertainment value in Bad Lip Sync Redneck Avengers: Tulsa Nights.

I've also been working my way through Turn: Washington's Spies, the AMC series about, as the title suggests, George Washington's spies. The actor who plays George Washington, Ian Kahn, is excellent. He has real gravity and charisma in the role - when he's in a scene in that production he dominates it. He reminds me of Charlton Heston in that way.

And, surprise, Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers isn't just a good science-fiction novel, it's also an excellent war/military novel. It's less of a sci-fi work than a military genre work with sci-fi trappings. Reading it causes me to wonder: was Heinlein ever in a branch of the military? Indeed! From wikipedia: "He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland with the class of 1929 and went on to serve as an officer in the Navy. ... Heinlein also served aboard the destroyer USS Roper in 1933 and 1934, reaching the rank of lieutenant. In 1934, Heinlein was discharged from the Navy due to pulmonary tuberculosis."

I sent off a check to cover 100 copies of Lost Burbank; my co-author, mike, is buying another 100 copies. These are at an author's discount - we then sell them for more, and my literary financial empire begins. (Heavy sarcasm, there... unless your name is Clive Cussler or Stephen King or something like that, you will not make a killing writing limited distribution books. But you do get to call yourself a "published author.")

(Interesting factoids from Ann Coulter, who knows a thing or two about it: The average nonfiction book sells 5,000 copies; the average New York Times bestseller sells 30,000 copies.)

Tonight I'm giving three classes/lectures for the women in my church, "Simplifying Life in the Digital Age," about preserving photographic and video memories. Well... I don't know what they intended but that's the sort of thing I plan to talk about. As it turns out, I'm something of an expert on the subject since I have 36 years of paper scrapbooks which have been scanned into digital files, put on DVDs and given to the kids; over 111 hours of family videos (originally on VHS and 8mm tapes converted into files) and put on YouTube and over 800 newer family videos, also put onto YouTube. All of this material is accessible on the Internet on PCs, laptops, tablets or smart phones and backed up on hard drive and optical media.

My main message, despite the "digital age" title of the lecture, is Get your memories on paper. Why? Isn't doing things purely with computer files easier? Yes... but it's almost certainly not as permanent. I have original paper photographs that are over a hundred and twenty years old. (I am thinking of a circa 1888 image of my grandfather at age four or so.) Do we have any assurance that any of our digital media will be retrievable in a hundred and twenty years, given format and media changes? Will .jpgs still be around? Will a CD or a DVD still give up its data? Moot points!

(And yes, I understand that digital media needs to be kept "fresh," that is, transferred to newer forms of storage as technology changes. Some of my genealogical data first existed on archival form as 6" floppy disks in the 1980s.)

I hope it goes well. I tried to make my slide show as visually interesting as possible. Perhaps I'll post it somewhere when I'm done...

13 September 2016

Al Capp
Our publisher sent us a link to a Lost Burbank promotional youtube video: here it is. Also, they sent us a Press Release. I dutifully linked these on Burbank-related Facebook pages. Things are moving along for the October 31st publication date!

Google tells me that today is Peruvian songbird Yma Sumac's 94th birthday; she died in 2008. Born Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chávarri del Castillo (what a cool name!), she was celebrated for having an unusually wide five octave vocal range, from B2 to C#7. But it wasn't just the range of her voice that made her famous, it was what she could do with it. Deep growls, sinister laughs, impossibly high, whistle-like trills and double tones were all part of her performing bag of tricks. A video demonstrates. Also interesting: the government of Peru in 1946 formally supported her claim to be descended from Atahualpa, the last Incan emperor. I've always liked the Gopher Mambo from 1954.

My current book, Starship Troopers, is starting well. I recall reading a segment about space infantrymen in the illustrated science-fiction series Heavy Metal - it was quite good and memorable. I thought at the time that it was too good not to be derivative; I now believe it was strongly influenced by Heinlein's book. In other words I am now reading the source material. It was written in 1959; I came across the word "cybernetics" and thought that this must have been one of the very early usages of the term. According to the dictionary it was coined in 1948 by U.S. mathematician Norbert Wiener (1894-1964) from Greek kybernetes "steersman" (metaphorically "guide, governor") + -ics; perhaps based on 1830s French cybernétique "the art of governing."

Last night I watched Imagine: John Lennon (1988), the John Lennon biopic. There's one sequence where cartoonist Al Capp, a rude and arrogant man, visits John (a formerly rude and arrogant man) and Yoko in their hotel room and makes a complete ass out of himself. Interesting.

Bands and acts I have seen live: Weird Al Yankovic, the Blue Oyster Cult, Kraftwerk, Beach Boys, Aretha Franklin, Jerry Lee Lewis, Natalie Cole, Ute Lemper, David Bowie, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Detective, Tears for Fears, Clannad, the Commitments, Dick Dale, Leo Kottke, Herman’s Hermits, the Killers, the B-52s, Heart, Donny Osmond, Donny and Marie, Eurythmics, Kansas, Be Bop Deluxe, Stereophonics, 1964: The Tribute, Riders in the Sky, The Pajama Club (Neil Finn), P.D.Q. Bach. About the only act I'm interested seeing live anymore is Paul McCartney - and I'm not willing to pay the former Beatle premium.

Finis.

12 September 2016

An event-filled weekend!

On Friday I baked a cake when I got home from work. I haven't done that in 21 years! I don't know why I wanted to bake a cake, I just did. It's a yellow cake with milk chocolate frosting and it came out well. It's as tasty as a box cake can be. The next one shall be a spice cake with some frosting to be determined. The yen is still there. I can't account for it.

Saturday: Yard sales. (VIDEO.) We went to an Apple store to look at Apple Watches, but they don't have the newest ones in yet. I did a survey among my friends and family: should I get a black case/black strap one, or one with a gold case and a cocoa-colored strap (which is what I like). Most prefer black on black, but my wife (whose opinion I weigh more than others) says gold/cocoa.

I wondered: how accurate are Apple Watches? The claim is that the phone keeps time to within 50 milliseconds of the definitive time standard with the same precision as GPS satellites, and that the second hands of Apple Watches all over the world will always be in sync - which is about as accurate as a watch can be for all reasonable demands. And it's also a pretty amazing horological achievement, when you think about it.

We had a great pool party on Saturday afternoon. The pool closed early at 6 PM, and the weather cooperated by supplying an appropriately hot day. It was a lot of fun - we saw the summer out in high style.

My new book is Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers, a 1959 sci-fi novel recommended to me by a friend. I haven't begun it yet. He says it's as good as Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End, which is a tall order. That's the best sci-fi novel I've ever read.

Captain Gibson throws his inflatable shield. (They sell these costumes at Costco.)

Watch this self-proclaimed idiot hop freight trains to Montauk. I'd like to try freighthopping for the adventure of it, but it'll never happen. It's illegal, too dangerous and I'm too old. And this guy hops moving trains, which is a swell way to get your legs amputated.

Politics: I always follow the opposition media, because they're the ones doing the investigative journalism. A perfect example of this occurred over the weekend, when Hillary Clinton became sick and had to leave a 9/11 commemoration ceremony yesterday. The Drudge Report, which can be considered the opposition media for the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton, has been asking: What is the health problem with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton? The Washington Post (which endorsed Obama twice) has been pooh-poohing the story, indicating that it's merely an example of a right wing press out to get her. ("Can We Just Stop Talking About Hillary Clinton's Health Now?") Until yesterday, that is. Now their story is, "Hillary Clinton’s health just became a real issue in the presidential campaign." Gee, thanks, Washington Post, for belatedly telling us what Drudge has been asserting all along!

If Donald Trump wins the presidential election - and I think he can -  I will go back to following the Washington Post, ABC, CBS and NBC, who will suddenly wake up and realize that they're the media and supposed to be doing investigative journalism. For now they're content to do what they can to get Hillary into the Oval Office.

I was telling people yesterday that were I a newspaper editor, the first thing I would do is to get a reporter on the story, "What happens if Hillary Clinton has to drop out of the race?" I see somebody did that. But notice that it's Heatstreet - what may be termed alternative media - and not one of the main players. In fact, I've never heard of Heatstreet. But, as they have now been linked on Drudge, they just made a name for themselves. Well done. My favorite passage: "The DNC might naturally lean towards Joe Biden who said he didn’t want to campaign, but has never said, openly, that he’d prefer not to be President. Biden is neither Clinton nor Trump, making him an easy favorite in the Presidential contest (though, it’s likely any number of cartoon characters, inanimate objects and D-list celebrities would also easily pull into the lead)..." Hahahahaha!

2016: What an election year! You couldn't script the weirdness that has actually taken place.

And finally, at the end of church yesterday we got a call from my son: a friend of a friend is giving away Weird Al Yankovic tickets at Wolf Trap... do you want to go for free? YES. So we went. Great concert! Cari bought a "Word Crimes" tee shirt. (VIDEO)

12 September 2016

An event-filled weekend!

On Friday I baked a cake when I got home from work. I haven't done that in 21 years! I don't know why I wanted to bake a cake, I just did. It's a yellow cake with milk chocolate frosting and it came out well. It's as tasty as a box cake can be. The next one shall be a spice cake with some frosting to be determined. The yen is still there. I can't account for it.

Saturday: Yard sales. (VIDEO.) We went to an Apple store to look at Apple Watches, but they don't have the newest ones in yet. I did a survey among my friends and family: should I get a black case/black strap one, or one with a gold case and a cocoa-colored strap (which is what I like). Most prefer black on black, but my wife (whose opinion I weigh more than others) says gold/cocoa.

I wondered: how accurate are Apple Watches? The claim is that the phone keeps time to within 50 milliseconds of the definitive time standard with the same precision as GPS satellites, and that the second hands of Apple Watches all over the world will always be in sync - which is about as accurate as a watch can be for all reasonable demands. And it's also a pretty amazing horological achievement, when you think about it.

We had a great pool party on Saturday afternoon. The pool closed early at 6 PM, and the weather cooperated by supplying an appropriately hot day. It was a lot of fun - we saw the summer out in high style.

My new book is Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers, a 1959 sci-fi novel recommended to me by a friend. I haven't begun it yet. He says it's as good as Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End, which is a tall order. That's the best sci-fi novel I've ever read.

Captain Gibson throws his inflatable shield. (They sell these costumes at Costco.)

Watch this self-proclaimed idiot hop freight trains to Montauk. I'd like to try freighthopping for the adventure of it, but it'll never happen. It's illegal, too dangerous and I'm too old. And this guy hops moving trains, which is a swell way to get your legs amputated.

Politics: I always follow the opposition media, because they're the ones doing the investigative journalism. A perfect example of this occurred over the weekend, when Hillary Clinton became sick and had to leave a 9/11 commemoration ceremony yesterday. The Drudge Report, which can be considered the opposition media for the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton, has been asking: What is the health problem with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton? The Washington Post (which endorsed Obama twice) has been pooh-poohing the story, indicating that it's merely an example of a right wing press out to get her. ("Can We Just Stop Talking About Hillary Clinton's Health Now?") Until yesterday, that is. Now their story is, "Hillary Clinton’s health just became a real issue in the presidential campaign." Gee, thanks, Washington Post, for belatedly telling us what Drudge has been asserting all along!

If Donald Trump wins the presidential election - and I think he can -  I will go back to following the Washington Post, ABC, CBS and NBC, who will suddenly wake up and realize that they're the media and supposed to be doing investigative journalism. For now they're content to do what they can to get Hillary into the Oval Office.

I was telling people yesterday that were I a newspaper editor, the first thing I would do is to get a reporter on the story, "What happens if Hillary Clinton has to drop out of the race?" I see somebody did that. But notice that it's Heatstreet - what may be termed alternative media - and not one of the main players. In fact, I've never heard of Heatstreet. But, as they have now been linked on Drudge, they just made a name for themselves. Well done. My favorite passage: "The DNC might naturally lean towards Joe Biden who said he didn’t want to campaign, but has never said, openly, that he’d prefer not to be President. Biden is neither Clinton nor Trump, making him an easy favorite in the Presidential contest (though, it’s likely any number of cartoon characters, inanimate objects and D-list celebrities would also easily pull into the lead)..." Hahahahaha!

2016: What an election year! You couldn't script the weirdness that has actually taken place.

And finally, at the end of church yesterday we got a call from my son: a friend of a friend is giving away Weird Al Yankovic tickets at Wolf Trap... do you want to go for free? YES. So we went. Great concert! Cari bought a "Word Crimes" tee shirt. VIDEO.

9 September 2016

Black or Cocoa? What do you think?
Ah, Friday, I thought you would never arrive.

Yesterday I watched a live concert stream from the Philharmonie in Berlin, the first time ever. (Normally I watch archived concert performances.) The Konzerthausorchester Berlin performed a piece by a composer named Hans Werner Henze (1926-2012), whom I had never heard of.

The piece was composed in 1977 and entitled Il Vitaliano Raddoppiato (whatever that means) for solo violin and orchestra. It started out just fine, and almost sounded to me like cinematic music. It was very melodic and easy to like. And then... hey, wait, what's going on, here? That violinist started sounding what American Idol's Randy Jackson used to call "pitchy"; is she playing wrong notes? As the piece progressed the violin and the orchestra started drew further apart harmonically and the whole thing became cacophonous. So I looked it up on the Internet: "Il Vitaliano Raddoppiato takes Vitali’s famous chaconne as the starting point for a half-hour journey in which the baroque and the late 20th-century at first co-exist and later collide and merge. Sometimes acerbic, sometimes achingly beautiful, in many ways it’s the epitome of so much of Henze’s music." Ah, so it's supposed to sound pitchy. Okay. Whew. I was wondering about the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, there. (They were all keeping straight faces.)

Who was Hans Werner Henze? From wikipedia: "An avowed Marxist and member of the Communist Party of Italy, Henze produced compositions honoring Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara. At the 1968 Hamburg premiere of his requiem for Che Guevara, titled Das Floß der Medusa (The Raft of Medusa), the placing of a red flag on the stage sparked a riot and the arrest of several people, including the librettist." A piece honoring Che Guevara? Schmuck. How about a piece memorializing Che's victims?

I showed Donald in Mathmagicland to my grandsons, but it's a bit too advanced for them. During the parts illustrating the Golden Proportion, Gibson kept asking, "Where's Donald?" I'll store it away for a few years and show it to them again. It really is a perfect introduction to mathematics in the humanities.

It's time for me to get an Apple Watch, I think. The price has come down to about my assessment of its value. The larger 42mm Series 1 with an aluminum case is $299 (come on, Apple, just make it $300). I'm attracted to the gold case with the cocoa strap, but my son thinks this is too feminine. I don't think it looks feminine at all - it just looks like a traditional brown-toned watch to me. The black case and strap model is pretty safe, but I'm guessing that everyone has one. What do you think? Black or cocoa? I suspect the wearable life for one of these is about five years...

Normally the idea of a plastic watch strap turns me off, but I have handled these in an Apple store and that fluoroelastomer they use has a very nice, soft, velvety feel. It doesn't feel like plastic at all. I get the same tactile enjoyment touching it that I do with those Green Toys manufactured from recycled water bottles. And I called yesterday just to make sure: all of last year's Apple Watch faces are available in the newly-released Series One, including good old Mickey Mouse. (They added Minnie.)

And Apple really, really needs to let third party manufacturers make watch faces for the Apple Watch. For watch lovers like me that would be the icing on the cake. As usual, however, people have figured out a way around the restriction. Software...

I'm trying to figure out how to buy pre-publication copies of Lost Burbank. It's not straightforward. We intend to bring some to book signings to sell in late November (I don't really have dates yet.)

It's supposed to be hot this weekend and the pool will be open for the last time tomorrow and Sunday, so we're planning on a pool party tomorrow. Get those boys in the water to tire them out... and yard sales.

Have a great weekend!

8 September 2016

Hudson and Gibson
The week drags on.

Thunderstorms moved through my area last night, providing interest and about 143 automated e-mails messages from weather.com warning me of it. Have I ever revealed my philosophy about garages in this forum before? I don't think I have. It goes like this: Garages are for cars, not storage. Last night, as the rain was coming down in buckets, it was so pleasant to pull in to the garage and unload the groceries under a protective roof. What a blessing!

Addendum to Clark's Philosophy about Garages: If you have the right kind of roof bracing, garage attics can be for storage.

Last night I played with my grandsons just before they went to bed, and introduced them to the coconut. (We bought one at the store and I brought it over along with a drill and a hammer.) They were not fans of the coconut water; Gibson spat it back into the glass. They were amused that you have to take a hammer to the coconut in order to break it open, but Hudson made disconcerted faces as he chewed on a piece of coconut. Okay, fine, but were you trapped on a Pacific island you'd have to get used to it! Anyway, the next time I'm with them and we see some reference to a coconut I'll remind them of opening one: experiential learning.

I think the German word for it is Erlebnispädagogik, which I like because it has an umlaut.

A text conversation between me and my daughter-in-law yesterday:

Me: "I am in the Chinese food place across the street from where I work. There are eleven customers here. All males."

DiL: "Hahaha - male lunch place. Maybe women just pack a lunch more often."

Me: "It may have something to do with the quality of the food and the attractiveness of the venue. I like how the pineapples with my sweet-and-sour chicken have no tartness at all. Any citric acid has been relentlessly boiled out of them."

DiL: "Haha or they were canned."

Me: "Certainly not fresh. Not ever. This is not a place you go for freshness. I am now leaving the restaurant. My spirit has been invigorated and refreshed with the presence of middle-aged, tubby bearded information technology guys and their merry ways. After I am retired, I want to dine here sometimes to remind myself of how delightful work was."

Fifty years ago today Star Trek premiered on NBC, and I was tuned in. I loved it. It was SO much better than Lost in Space, which was my favorite space-themed TV prior to that... Details here.

I'm posting an interesting report the City of Burbank did seven years ago, an historical survey called City of Burbank Citywide Historic Context Report (Sept 2009). It's basically a collection of anything of preservationist interest in town. I am happy to see that neon signs are included. I love neon signs. 

The Sun and the Ceiling Fan - Sometimes I do weird stuff like this. 

8 September 2016

Hudson and Gibson
The week drags on.

Thunderstorms moved through my area last night, providing interest and about 143 automated e-mails messages from weather.com warning me of it. Have I ever revealed my philosophy about garages in this forum before? I don't think I have. It goes like this: Garages are for cars, not storage. Last night, as the rain was coming down in buckets, it was so pleasant to pull in to the garage and unload the groceries under a protective roof. What a blessing!

Addendum to Clark's Philosophy about Garages: If you have the right kind of roof bracing, garage attics can be for storage.

Last night I played with my grandsons just before they went to bed, and introduced them to the coconut. (We bought one at the store and I brought it over along with a drill and a hammer.) They were not fans of the coconut water; Gibson spat it back into the glass. They were amused that you have to take a hammer to the coconut in order to break it open, but Hudson made disconcerted faces as he chewed on a piece of coconut. Okay, fine, but were you trapped on a Pacific island you'd have to get used to it! Anyway, the next time I'm with them and we see some reference to a coconut I'll remind them of opening one: experiential learning.

I think the German word for it is Erlebnispädagogik, which I like because it has an umlaut.

A text conversation between me and my daughter-in-law yesterday:

Me: "I am in the Chinese food place across the street from where I work. There are eleven customers here. All males."

DiL: "Hahaha - male lunch place. Maybe women just pack a lunch more often."

Me: "It may have something to do with the quality of the food and the attractiveness of the venue. I like how the pineapples with my sweet-and-sour chicken have no tartness at all. Any citric acid has been relentlessly boiled out of them."

DiL: "Haha or they were canned."

Me: "Certainly not fresh. Not ever. This is not a place you go for freshness. I am now leaving the restaurant. My spirit has been invigorated and refreshed with the presence of middle-aged, tubby bearded information technology guys and their merry ways. After I am retired, I want to dine here sometimes to remind myself of how delightful work was."

Fifty years ago today Star Trek premiered on NBC, and I was tuned in. I loved it. It was SO much better than Lost in Space, which was my favorite space-themed TV prior to that... Details here.

I'm posting an interesting report the City of Burbank did seven years ago, an historical survey called City of Burbank Citywide Historic Context Report (Sept 2009). It's basically a collection of anything of preservationist interest in town. I am happy to see that neon signs are included. I love neon signs. 

The Sun and the Ceiling Fan - Sometimes I do weird stuff like this. 

7 September 2016

Two Burbankers.
I am so bored, tired and dispirited I don't even feel like blogging, but, nevertheless, here's what's on: 

We watched a biopic about a young Walt Disney last night,  Walt Before Mickey (2015).  It was... okay. Jon Heder, aka Napoleon Dynamite, played Roy Disney. He was... okay. 

My current book: Richmond Noir, a collection of short crime stories set in and around Richmond, VA. There's an entire series of these: D.C. Noir, Los Angeles Noir, London Noir, Paris Noir, etc. (I am of a mind to try writing a Burbank Noir. Crime in the entertainment industry and in the sleepy little residences nestled upon the Verdugo Hills.) Richmond Noir is... okay. A drowned man in the James, shoot outs on Oregon Hill, passion in the Fan District, Edgar Allen Poe's perfume bottle, etc. 

A good, somewhat-associated quote: “Wonderful what Hollywood will do to a nobody. It will make a radiant glamour queen out of a drab little wench who ought to be ironing a truck driver's shirts, a he-man hero with shining eyes and brilliant smile reeking of sexual charm out of some overgrown kid who was meant to go to work with a lunch-box. Out of a Texas car hop with the literacy of a character in a comic strip it will make an international courtesan, married six times to six millionaires and so blasé and decadent at the end of it that her idea of a thrill is to seduce a furniture-mover in a sweaty undershirt.” - Raymond Chandler, The Little Sister

I'm posting notice that Lost Burbank may now be pre-ordered on amazon.com and people are reporting ordering copies. Great! I have a few more Burbank-related Facebook groups to hit...

Hermes Equipage Geranium: Awful stuff. It's a good thing I test sprayed a bit of my Nordstrom sample on my arm before doing a general spray or it would have made for a long, long day. The top notes have a piercing, cloying floral note that smells like the world's worst scented candle - or unbearably soapy, I'm not sure which. This pungency only lasts for a half hour or so and then the scent settles down, but I don't care for the floral drydown, either. (Suspicion confirmed: geranium is not for me.) This is one of the least attractive Hermes scents I've ever smelled. A scrubber.

That's all. Let's get through Hump Day. 

6 September 2016

We are the operators of our pocket calculators.
AAAAUUGGHHHH... I hate the dreary back to work day after the Labor Day three day weekend. It went by way too fast. I want to retire. NOW.

On Friday I met my rugby pal Kelly for lunch - that was cool. Long time no see. Then, for "Lazy Mom Day" I bought my daughter-in-law lunch and dinner.

We went to COSTCO and bought my grandkids a DVD of Donald (Duck) in Mathmagicland (1959), the all-time best educational video Disney ever did. It makes math fun and comprehensible.

I did yard sales on Saturday... VIDEO. That image displaying Christmas ornament I bought for 75 cents? After a brief, promising spell working it quit working. So I trod upon it with my feet. 75 CENTS DOWN THE DRAIN. My grandsons loved that tool set, however. Hudson loves hammers.

On Saturday night my son and I watched Kraftwerk in concert at the Strathmore in Maryland... it was a lot of fun. Good concert. It was in honest-to-goodness 3-D! That is, the images displayed on the jumbotrons were three dimensional - we were given polarized glasses with which to watch the concert. I loved the introduction: a deep, omnious electronic voice blasts through the hall, "Mein Damen und Herren, die Mensche-Maschine, Kraftwerk..." everyone cheered.

They ended their concert as they always do: during a song called "Musique Non Stop" one by one they do a little electronic solo and then bow and walk off in the style of Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony (#45). The "Musique Non Stop" music plays for a while then fades away. Very clever.

On Sunday we had a big social after church. It was intended to be a light "munch and mingle" sort of thing, but with a ward our size it turned into a fairly major event. We had to set up more chairs and tables and the Springfield Ward ate every single bit of food on the tables. In the process of cleaning up afterwards the white don't-wear-these-after-Labor-Day bucks I had on self-destructed. The soles came right off. (I'm hard on shoes.) So I have to get them re-glued.

Yesterday, desperately NOT wanting to stay in town doing the usual things, we drove to picturesque Havre de Grace, Maryland. VIDEO. Each time we visit a new little town like this we wonder, "Could we retire here? Would we want to?" Yes and maybe. Depends upon where all the grandkids end up. But it's a pleasant enough little burg. Housing is a lot more affordable than where we live.

Over the weekend I discovered this horrible tune playing on Sirius XM's Seventies on 7: The Salsoul Orchestra, "Magic Bird of Fire" (1977). I was fortunate enough to entirely miss it back then. It's a disco rendition of themes from Stravinsky's The Firebird. Even worse, it was turned into a disco ballet broadcast on the Carol Burnett Show. Ugh. And I thought "A Fifth of Beethoven" was as bad as it could have gotten.

But not all is lost. Over the weekend I discovered two pieces by Maurice Ravel (via Berlin Philharmonic archived recording) that I wasn't aware of: Tzigane, a great little piece for violin and orchestra, and a six minute piece entitled La vallee des cloches ("the Valley of the Bells"). That second piece was originally written for a solo piano, but the orchestral arrangement by Percy Grainger is amazing! There are instrumental sonorities you rarely hear... a real showpiece. I've listened to it about six times this weekend. (Listen.) I've heard the celesta before, but it never sounded quite this impressive.

Over the weekend I also listened to the Berlin Phil play Gustav Mahler's Seventh Symphony. I'm not a fan. I like the scherzo, but that's about it. One movement is called, by the composer, "nachtmusik," but I couldn't discern anything nocturnal about it at all. It's certainly not "night music" in the sense of Bartok's music is, eerie, quiet and evocative.

That's all. Can I have another three day weekend again real soon, please, like starting tomorrow? Watching the Berlin Phil perform, I keep getting the impression that somewhere in my life I made some wrong choices with the result that I wound up in entirely the wrong career field. I should be happier and I should be more satisfied with my career choices... but I'm not. I do not feel any real sense of accomplishment. Where did I go wrong?

2 September 2016

Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth, 1946
As my friend Susan would say, all right, then: My book about my hometown (Burbank, California), Lost Burbank, is now available to pre-order on amazon.com! Here's the link. I'm now engaged in publicizing it on various Burbank-related Facebook pages and we have even made our first sales. Cool! $21.99, softcover. There will be a Kindle version as well, but that's not up yet. Co-author Mike is going to present it at a Local Authors event in the Burbank main library in town on October 17th; he'll have a poster made up with some tri-folds to give away. So here we go... I fly out there in November or December to do slideshows and book signings. I think.

I washed my 2007 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible last night. It has nearly 80,000 miles on the odometer. I do believe this has been the best car I have ever owned. It's very fun. And there's one more thing/I've got the pink slip, Daddy.

Last night we watched a charming but mostly un-historical production entitled A Royal Night Out (2015), about Princesses Lillibet (now Elizabeth II) and Margaret out on the town (London) on VE Day, 1945. Dancing, getting into trouble, first romance, etc. (Here's what really happened.) My wife summarized it as I knew she would, "That was cute." And so it was. We were amused. It also follows Clark's Law about movies about the British Monarchy: 95% of the time you will have a successful film. Of all the films I've seen on that subject I can only think of two clunkers: Alfred the Great (1969) and Edward II (1991). The rest of them are all highly watchable and interesting.

A funny incident, as related by the Queen: “We were terrified of being recognised – so I pulled my uniform cap well down over my eyes. A Grenadier officer among our party of about 16 people said he refused to be seen in the company of another officer improperly dressed. So I had to put my cap on normally.”

Hm. A sequel to the Blair Witch Project (1999) is about to be released, Blair Witch. Will it be as good as the original film (which I liked, BTW) or The Witch (2015)? I rather doubt it. I'll catch it on DVD.

A week ago the Berlin Philharmonic did a live stream of its first concert of the season: Pierre Boulez' Eclat (I didn't care for it) and Gustav Mahler's 7th Symphony (never heard it). Conductor Sir Simon Rattle did a preface where he described why he featured such an odd pairing in the concert, but... I didn't get it at all. I didn't see any similarities or points of comparison between the two pieces. Yet. The Mahler is almost an hour and a half and I only got through the first movement. Eclat is a strikingly modernist work and Mahler is Mahler - firmly within the boundaries of late-Romantic music.

In recent decades Mahler has become quite popular - but not really with me. I find his symphonies too long, actually, and too... oh, I don't know... schmaltzy? It seems nowadays music critics consider that there are two towering symphonists, Beethoven and Mahler. I much prefer Beethoven. He's more foundational. If you get his symphonies you also get much of what followed him. If you get Mahler's symphonies... you get Mahler. Well - that's my uneducated take on it. Were I to share this with professional musicians I'd probably feel like a rube and be made to blush.

Ah, three day weekend coming up. Excellent. No plans.

Have a great Labor Day weekend!

1 September 2016

Benny, Jets. 
Last night I took a swim in the neighborhood pool. While there, I heard the Elton John song "Benny and the Jets" playing over the public address system. (The lifeguards - ages 15 to 18 - have wildly varying taste. Sometimes it's Sinatra, sometimes country-western, sometimes horrible rap.)

So I asked the kid in the office, "Do you like that song?" "Yeah," he replied. I told him, "I used to hear it played on the radio every morning during the last months of my senior year in high school - 42 years ago." He had a blank look on his face like he thought there was no such thing as radio 42 years ago.

Let's compare generations for a minute and set the controls of the Wayback Machine to 1974, when I was a high school graduate. (I was never a life guard, but we'll let that detail slip.) My story above, set in context, means that as an eighteen year old I would have been listening to a song recorded in 1932 in 1974 (42 years prior). So... was I? The big hits of 1932 were "Brother, Can you Spare a Dime?" (it was the Depression, remember), "Night and Day," "It Don't Mean a Thing (If it Ain't Got that Swing," "Dinah," "I've Got the World on a String," "Willow, Weep for Me" and so on. As it turns out I know these songs because Sinatra recorded them and they are now from what is called The Great American Song Book - but I wasn't listening to these in 1974. They were considered terminally un-hip and out of style.

1974, let us recall, was the year of "Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas.

However... as it turns out I was indeed listening to music from 1932 back then, and a lot of it. A local television was playing Our Gang comedies every day, and all of these are suffused with 1930 LeRoy Shield dance music used as cues and incidental music. Twenty years ago a Dutch musical ensemble calling themselves the Beau Hunks arranged these and came up with performing versions, which they recorded. There is no catchier, more easy to like music on the face of the earth than this stuff. Here, listen.

Getting back to Benny for a moment, were you aware that this song, despite how it sounds, was not recorded live? I only learned this a few years ago! It's a studio recording meant to sound live, a bit of trickery on the part of Elton John's producer Gus Dudgeon. And it has a Mondegreen beloved as lore by my graduating class. From wikipedia: "The song contains the line 'She's got electric boots, a mohair suit,' which is often misheard as "She's got electric boobs, and mohair shoes.'" Ha! I wish I had thought to ask the lifeguard, "And, tell me, what does Benny have that is electric?"

But consider, for a moment, the musical implication of an eighteen year old lifeguard listening to, and liking, "Benny and the Jets" in 2016. (And he is by no means unique. Last night I watched a female lifeguard mouthing the lyrics to "Dance with Me," the 1975 Orleans hit, played over the PA.) It strongly suggests, to me, that rock music is finally dead. Or moribund. Oh, sure, there are various new recordings of songs, and many of these become hits, but young people, by and large, are listening to stuff that is more than twice their ages. They all know and like Beatles music. Why is this? I think it's because this music is filling a void not filled by the recording industry nowadays. What's your explanation?

My Berlin Philharmonic concert last night:

Johannes Brahms: Symphony #1 - a.k.a. "Beethoven's 10th." (When it was released, critics thought it represented the natural progression of symphonic music after Beethoven's 9th.) Brahms didn't get around to writing this until he was a somewhat older man, age 43. His explanation? "You have no idea how it is for the likes of us to feel the tread of a giant like him (Beethoven) behind us!" The introduction of the Big Theme in the fourth movement was goose-pimply. Just before it's announced by the strings there's a pause that would later be called a Bruckner Pause ("I must pause before I say something important.") Sadly, however, whenever I hear this noble melody I now also think of an awful German easy listening adaptation I have on a Shure audio test record called "Musik zum Verlieben" ("Music for Love"). Auggghhhh. Thanks, loads, Shure.

Isaac Albeniz: Tango in D and Cordoba - Someday I'd like to visit Spain. I fear this will never happen.

31 August 2016

Teufelsberg
Here's one more virtual tourism site: Teufelsburg, Berlin, Germany. I worked there for a couple of months, total, in late 1990 and early 1991 - at the very end of the Cold War! The NSA had a listening station there (Field Station Berlin); they used to monitor air traffic in East Germany.

While a defense worker at E-Systems (Melpar Division) I was there to support the electronic devices used to capture audio. Teufelsberg - "Devil's Mountain" - is so called because it was built from the rubble of Berlin after World War II; it's a man-made hill of approximately 98,000,000 cubic yards of debris. You can see now that's it's abandoned to graffiti artists. (Or, I should write, "artists.")

Last night I attempted to watch Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker (1979), a science-fiction work, sort of. (There are no aliens depicted.) I made it about a half hour in and saw that it was two hours and forty minutes of people discussing existence. In short, dry. So I bailed. I also tried to watch Tarkovsky's 1966 Andrei Rublev (medieval Russia - normally right up my alley), but gave up on that, too. I liked Ivan's Childhood (1962), probably because it dealt with World War II and was only 84 minutes long. Okay, no more Tarkovsky for me. I'm done.

So I watched instead what my son claims is the worst Pixar film, Cars 2 (2011). He's right. It was watchable and pretty in the sort of way animated graphics usually are, but the idea of combining the Radiator Springs characters with a spy plot resulted in a muddled mess. Actually, I dozed off during a part. The original was a much better film.

My current book is Richmond Noir, a collection of crime short stories based in and around Richmond, VA. (There's a whole series of these, based in other cities.) I'm trying to develop some interest in reading it.

Or doing much else, actually. Ennui - or, rather, depression - has struck again. Right now it's difficult to do anything, including finishing this blog update.

30 August 2016

Nothing is real.
I was in the pool last night; I do believe that this is going to be one of the hottest Augusts on record in the D.C. region. How do I know this? Because when I was doing Civil War reenacting I observed that June and July were always far hotter than August. (You tend to notice stuff like that when you're running around outdoors wearing navy blue wool.) And this August has seemed more like a typical July than a typical August. "Everyone talks about the weather but nobody ever does anything about it." - Mark Twain.

It's vacation time, so let's do a virtual tour of Beatles sites in Liverpool, England using Google maps. I've never seen these... have you?

Where it all began: Mendips (John Lennon's boyhood home). A couple of bicycle tourists sit outside the security gate. You can see the blue circular plaque they put on the wall commemorating the place. (London is full of buildings with those, commemorating the occupancy of some famous person.) And then there's 20 Forthlin Road, which was Paul McCartney's childhood home. As boys they lived about two miles from one another as the roads go, or they could have cut across the golf course - that's less than a mile. Then there's George Harrison's boyhood home at 12 Arnold Grove, nearly four miles away from Mendips. It's that flat to the left of the one with the "for sale" sign. George has an interesting quote about the place: "Try and imagine the soul entering the womb of a woman living at 12 Arnold Grove, Wavertree, Liverpool 15. There were all the barrage balloons, and the Germans bombing Liverpool. All that was going on. I sat outside the house a couple of years ago, imagining 1943, nipping through the spiritual world, the astral level, getting back into a body in that house. That really is strange when you consider the whole planet, all the planets there may be on a spiritual level. How do I come into that family, in that house at that time, and who am I anyway?"

And then there's Ringo's boyhood home... the Google car couldn't or wouldn't go down to 10 Admiral Grove, but it's that white-fronted flat where the people are taking photos. Beatles tourism is alive and well in the U.K.! Ringo lived about five miles from John, closer to the Mersey River.

How come only John gets a circular blue plaque?

Then there's Strawberry Field, the evocatively-named former orphanage that John made famous. The main site here, on a skinny street in the middle of trees, are the gateposts with "Strawberry Field" painted thereupon - and once again there are photo-taking tourists, and graffiti. Lots of graffiti. That gate is not the original. If you'd like a replica gate, contact Jim Bennett. Yoko and Sean Lennon once visited there.

Of course, no trip to Liverpool is complete without a visit to Penny Lane... Here's the "shelter on the roundabout": Sgt. Pepper's Bistro (now closed). When the Beatles lived there it was a bus shelter, nothing more. And Tony Slavin's barbershop (formerly Bioletti's: "In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs, of every head he's had the pleasure to know"). Funny thing about Penny Lane. From wikipedia: "In July 2006, a Liverpool Councillor proposed renaming certain streets because their names were linked to the slave trade. It was soon discovered that Penny Lane, named after James Penny, a wealthy 18th-century slave ship owner and strong opponent of abolitionism, was one of these streets. Ultimately, city officials decided to forgo the name change and re-evaluate the entire renaming process. On 10 July 2006, it was revealed that Liverpool officials said they would modify the proposal to exclude Penny Lane." Well, that was wise. No sensible jurisdiction cites political correctness to rename something that helps to make them famous.

For the Beatles as a band, the Cavern Club, a dank, sweaty underground teen hangout, was where they achieved local notoriety and where, famously, Brian Epstein discovered them. At the end of the street you can see The Gallery (a Beatles Store). Very fitting - capture some of the tourist trade. But before that, in 1959, there was the Casbah Coffee Club, the basement of a large Victorian home at 8 Hayman's Green. The original Beatles drummer was Pete Best; his mother Mona opened it as a hang out for Pete and his friends. The Beatles, then the Quarrymen, played there - and that story is neatly recounted here. I like this: "While there, all four helped Mona finish decorating the club. Cynthia Powell also helped, and painted a silhouette of her future husband John Lennon on the wall; it can still be seen there today." (Cynthia died last year.)

End of Liverpool tourism. Have I missed a spot?

29 August 2016

We tried to have a pool party on Friday, but it seemed the fates were against it. I bought a Costco pizza and we arrived at my neighborhood pool only to find out that because of a "contamination issue" it was closed. So we schlepped over to the pool that comes with my kids' townhouse HOA payments, pizza cooling. It was only open for a half hour or so (it closed earlier than we thought), so the kids didn't get to swim long. And when my son jumped into the shallow end he painfully scraped the top of his foot. Sheesh.

That night I watched most of an overlong feature length documentary Whatever Happened to Pink Floyd? The Strange Case of Gilmour and Waters (2011). Okay, I get it: Roger Waters got a big head, alienated the rest of the band and they split up. That story could have been told in about an hour.

On Saturday I did yard sales, or tried to. There were only a few and another ridiculously high-priced estate sale. (Video.) Not only will they not get $25 or $30 for old VHS tape players - they'll find that they can't even give them away. 

Saturday afternoon I had lunch at a remembrance party - more like an Irish wake - for a rugby player in my club who died, and saw a bunch of people I haven't seen in many years. It was a sad occasion, but rugby players are not really sad people and when they get together, generally, that's not really sad, either. That night we took a temporary bachelor friend out for hamburgers (his wife is out of state).   

That night I watched a documentary about Chinese pianist Lang Lang and Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic recording Bartok's Second Piano Concerto and Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto, The Highest Level (2013). Now I want the recording! 

Sunday, after getting up early to make a promotional video for some church leaders (which they didn't like and must be re-done), I watched the Berlin Philharmonic perform Bela Bartok's First and Second Violin Concertos, both excellent pieces I've never heard before.  

My wife is doing the most remarkable thing: Back in the 1980's she knit herself a sweater out of wool, and has been wearing it off and on ever since. She decided that it needs to be altered some, so she completely took it back to balls of wool and she's knitting it back, altered, to wear once again. I find this sort of thing remarkable, and it puts me in mind of a quote I came across somewhere: "Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she'll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she'll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she'll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she'll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her.” - Erick S. Gray (I have removed the potty-mouthed last part of the quote. He could have stopped where I ended; it's a better quote that way.)

Anyway, if you give a woman a skein of wool she'll return a sweater.

I came across this song this weekend and include a link here for no good reason than to highlight an interesting song sung interestingly: Tammy Wynette's first big hit (1967), "Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad." I found it when I was doing a youtube search for Lynn Anderson's "I Don't Wanna Play House." (It was originally a hit for Wynette - I didn't know that. I was only used to the Lynn Anderson recording which my mother used to play.) 


I don't wanna play house; I know it can't be fun
I've watched mommy and daddy
And if that's the way it's done
I don't wanna play house; It makes my mommy cry
'Cause when she played house
My daddy said good-bye.

If you give Tammy a fifth of whiskey she'll give you a good girl gone bad.

26 August 2016

Gyorgy Ligiti (looking somewhat like Klaus Kinski)
Friday at last! What a BORING week this was. Everyone is on vacation; I hate that, when I'm at work and nobody else is.

I watched Pitch Black (2000) last night, a horror/science-fiction hybrid. It was like 1979's Alien, a film I have never cared for: aliens with big teeth chew up humans. It starred Vin Diesel and the usual assortment of Hollywood mannish females (to keep feminists happy)... oh, and everyone has a potty mouth. How on earth did this get on my Netflix queue? Some time ago I saw a list of "overlooked science-fiction movies" and this must have been on it. (A few months ago, based on the same list, I saw Prometheus, a 2012 Alien prequel, another mistake.)

Clearly, I shall have to be much more discerning about what I put in my Netflix DVD queue!

Genetic genealogy is complicated! (I've been getting e-mails on the subject.) I am a "Peach" Clark, that is, my branch of my father-to-son Clark line are categorized in a "peach" branch. Stating it another way, some man surnamed Clark and known as Peach Clark (we do not know when he lived - he may be my great-great-great-great-great grandfather or something like that) is a common ancestor to a number of us who have had our YDNA classified. Chart. Another chart. I cannot pretend to fully understand this stuff... I think I'll leave that for retirement. But I do know that my inferred haplogroup is R1b1a2a1a2a (called "DF27+" for short).

Here's what we know about the people with the DF27+ YDNA mutation: They appeared about 3900 years ago.  A large number of these migrated around the western Mediterranean into Spain and Portugal, and continued erecting stelae. Some of them went by sea up to Belgium and to the British Isles.  They may be what is known today as the maritime Bell-Beaker people.

My folks!

Last night's Berlin Philharmonic concert:

Gyorgy Ligeti: Atmospheres - A work entirely without melodies, this is a series of tone color blocks. Its most celebrated use was in the "infinity and beyond" freak out section towards the end of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). From wikipedia: "A 2006 performance of Atmosphères by the London Philharmonic was noted for its direct transition without interruption into Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, which Sunday Times music critic Hugh Canning described as a "stroke of programming genius." No, no, no, no, no! If conductors want to be mix artists or dee-jays they should procure a couple of turntables and a microphone instead of a philharmonic orchestra, and cease playing fast and loose with composers' works. There is zero indication that Stravinsky would want this piece as a prelude to his. Orchestras and conductors exist to serve the composer and the work - not the other way around.

Franz Josef Haydn: Symphony #101 "The Clock" - So called because of a tick-tock figure in the slow movement. This is one of my favorite Haydn symphonies.

Neil Young's house in Redwood City, CA: "Broken Arrow Ranch." The all-seeing eyes of Google satellite imagery are upon you, Neil.

Pool tonight, maybe, and yard sales tomorrow.

Have a nice weekend...

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