Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Who needs Xanax?

Today's playlist consists of standards sung by Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, and more contemporary singers such as Diana Krall, Josh Groban, and Michael Bublè.* I am turning into my parents, clearly. (I also slipped in Adele's "Someone Like You." I'm not sure why.)

This is my Valium list.  Why take benzos when you've got "Unforgettable" by Nat King (and Natalie) Cole,  let alone Dianne Reeve's version of "One for My Baby"?

*And Lady GaGa.  She and Bennett did a fun version of "The Lady Is a Tramp" on his Duets album.  The girl can sing.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Good questions.

How do you keep the music playing?
How do you make it last?
How do keep the song from fading too fast?
"How Do You Keep The Music Playing?"  Lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman

The Rocket Scientist and I were married in 1983.  This was our song, of sorts.  It captured the fear of two people entering into the most intimate and emotionally charged relationship of their lives.

How do you lose yourself to someone
And never lose your way? 
How do you not run out of new things to say?

We married young, at least by today's standards.  We were engaged in college, and were married one  month after I graduated.  We didn't know what we were getting into.  We realized this.  We got married anyway.

We had to fight to get married.  His family, and my priest, were dead set against it.  We got married anyway.

And since we know we're always changing
How can it be the same?
And tell me how year after year you're sure your heart will fall apart
Each time you hear my name

Today is not an anniversary. It is not thirty-two years since we met, or twenty-nine since we got married.  The memories came to mind today because on iTunes I discovered a version of this song by Tony Bennett and Aretha Franklin which I love much more than the original by James Ingram and Patti Austin.  It is sung by people who are older and wiser both than we were at the time and even than we are now.  People older than us still asking those same questions.

I know the way you feel for me
is now or never
The more I love the more I am afraid
That in your eyes I may  not see forever

The fear is still there, at the back of my mind.  I don't think it ever completely goes away for most people.

Relationships change.  Ours is no exception. You cannot see forever in people's eyes; it is simply a good thing to see today.  The heart no longer falls apart at the mention of a name. But that does not mean the end:  the energy new relationships have mutates and deepens into a different sort of strength. Once you weather enough storms, you find equilibrium. And God knows, we have had our storms, our pain, our share of train wrecks.

I can't say we will be married forever.  Contrary to the fairy tales, I think that is an unrealistic thing for most people to say.  I know or have heard of too many couples that got divorced after being together even longer than we have.  Life happens; people change. The world around you becomes a different place. You become a different person.

I do know this, however.  If tomorrow I were to walk away, or he were, soon I would be on the phone or IM or sending emails seeking solace or counsel or just a laugh -- or he will.  He will probably always be my best friend,* and I his, regardless of our status as as partners or even a romantic couple.

If we can be the best of lovers
And be the best of friends
The music never ends

I don't think we've done half-bad.

Love you, babe.

*And hopefully traveling companion. Unlike a lot of couples, we travel very well together.  We both love seeing new places and having adventures, and have the capacity to roll with the punches.   I have often told him that if we got divorced, I would still want to travel with him.

Understanding Vincent.

My friend Cathy is in town.  On Sunday, we went to Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz.  Fortuitously, we arrived shortly before sunset, and were able to watch the sun sink into the west over the horizon.

It was amazing.  The sky was an array of reds and pinks and intense oranges that would be difficult to impossible to recreate with any brush. The sea was a patchwork of blues and pinks and gold reflected from the sky, and the cresting waves were golden white. Farther out towards the horizon, the dying sunlight disappeared, and the sea became once again a blue reflection of the deep blue sky overhead.

There were egrets walking the shoreline at the edge of the surf.  In the sunset, they turned a very pale golden pink from remnants of the sunlight and the light reflected off of the waves. If you described them, you might use the word "white," but they weren't, not really.

The photograph Cathy took, while beautiful, does not capture the experience.  In addition to the visual intensity, there was the chill breeze and the cries of the seagulls, as well as the companionship of friends watching the end of the day, and all made it special.

I have always had a theory, totally unsupported by biographical information as far as I know, that Vincent van Gogh killed himself because the disconnect between what he experienced in the world and what he was able to communicate became too great.  You can sense that in the whirling globes of "Starry Night," and in the restless waves of "Wheat Fields with Crows."

I understand this.  The words I have are even more inadequate than the colors at Vincent's disposal.  I can't capture what it is I see around me in any form that feels like it approaches my experience. For many people this would not be a problem, but for people like me who want to share the world, who want to be able to say "Look at that!" and know that other people see it too, this disconnect is intensely frustrating.

Sometimes the world is almost too beautiful to bear.

Entitled. Or maybe not.

I used to never put titles on my posts.  It seemed too much bother.  However, I have been trying to do better about this, because it seems to make the pages easier to read.

There is a post I am currently working on about my experiences this past Sunday.  The perfect title for it would be from the Nick Drake Cave* song, "There She Goes, My Beautiful World."  I was dismayed to remember that I had already used that title for this post.


*It does help to doublecheck the artist's name before you post.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Today's musical playlist is comedy.  I've been listening to enough depressing ballads lately, I decided to refrain from inflicting them on everyone else here.  I am sitting in the dining/living room, the Red-Headed Menace is on the sofa, and the Rocket Scientist is in the kitchen homebrewing (it is a small house -- 1100 sq feet,  5-6 residents).

One of my selections is Kip Adotta's "Wet Dream." I love this piece to death.  It drives both RS and RHM up the wall.  The reason in both cases are the simply awful puns.

It's like Tabasco sauce.  My eldest son has yet to find a food on which he will not put hot sauce -- except for possibly ice cream.  I really don't care for it -- my tastes tend to be more ... subtle.  (The Not So Little Drummer Boy says that they are not subtle but boring.)

Puns are like hot sauce. Certain types of minds (mine, for example), think they are screamingly funny. Perhaps people like me have simply never progressed beyond whatever age it is that revels in wordplay and silliness.  Perhaps we like them because they allow us to pretend we're smarter than other people. Those other people find them stupid.  Those other people find them annoying.

Oh, well.  I just need to find similarly warped minds to hang out with.

Edited to add: Speaking of warped, my favorite song on this playlist is Tom Lehrer's "Masochism Tango." Railfan and Red-Headed Menace hate it, which simply makes it even more lovely in my eyes, er, ears.

Just another sign of the times.

Listening to Weird Al's "One More Minute" (the best breakup song ever, and the reason Weird Al deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), I had to explain to the Red-Headed Menace what a Rolodex was.

I feel so old.


Then there was this exchange:

Me: "The legend you are about to hear is true.  Only the needle should be changed to protect the record."* [looking at RHM]  You have no idea what that means, do you?
RHM: No, not at all.


*From Stan Freberg's "St. George and the Dragonet."  That allusion is lost on all of my offspring as well.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Why I love Barney Frank.

From a New York Times interview with the representative for the 4th District of Massachusetts:
You’ve long argued for the decriminalization of marijuana. Do you smoke weed?
Why not?
Why do you ask a question, then act surprised when I give an answer? Do you think I lie to people?
I thought you might explain why you support decriminalizing it but don’t smoke it.
Do you think I’ve ever had an abortion? I don’t play poker on the Internet, either. 

For Barney Frank, I'd even consider putting up with Massachusetts winters again.

Take meeeee home...oh muddah faddah...

The problem with going to sleep listening to the "Dance of the Hours" segment of Fantasia is that you wake up with your brain stuck on Allan Sherman's "Hello Muddah Hello Faddah." 

"And the head coach wants no sissies, so he reads to us from something called Ulysses..."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I suppose it depends upon your definition of "fun."

A little over a year ago, I took a class on the newest iteration of MS Office. During class, I made an eight-slide presentation that had thirty-six animations in it.

Just imagine what I can do with fifty to sixty slides.  This is going to be fun.  At least for me.

Watch out, world.  I have PowerPoint and I am not afraid to use it.

Wow. That must be a pain.

The guy who just sat down next to me in Starbucks brought his computer.  Not a laptop, but a full-size iMac G5 with a tower and everything.  Guess he's planning to be here quite a while.

Which reminds me, I need to go home -- I've been here long enough myself.  Time to go make dinner.
Tuesday, during a discussion about the State of the Union address on Fox News,  Stephen Moore, usually a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, said “This idea of all the members, Republicans and Democrats sitting next to each other, that’s like date rape."

No, Mr. Moore, it's not.  This is what date rape looks like.*

*He is not the first to use this insanely offensive analogy: Grover Nordquist once said  "Bipartisanship is another form of date rape."  I sincerely hope that these men never have their wives or daughters learn first hand the meaning of the term. Edited to add: I have just had it pointed out to me that being male does not automatically shield people from being raped.  That is true, but I have to confess that being terribly human, I would not be as upset if Moore or Nordquist got raped as if their relatives did -- not because they are men but because they are poor excuses for human beings.  It has now been pointed out to me that that mindset views rape as punishment -- "they had it coming to them."  The person pointing this out is absolutely right, of course, and is on this issue a much better person than I am.  Of course, no one should ever have to experience being raped.


The nonprofit I volunteer at is planning their Spring Gala, which is our major fundraiser for the year.  This year's theme is "April In Paris." At our planning meeting, someone suggested that it would be cool to have movies about Paris playing in the background (sans sound) during the pre-dinner cocktail reception.

This is why I am sitting cursing MGM (who is, according to the Copyright Office records, the rights holder here) for my inability to find a place to write to request permission to show An American in Paris.  (It was so much easier to find where to get permission for Warner Brother's April in Paris.)* And wondering if the recent Supreme Court decision in Golan v. Holder means that even early silent films are off limits without permission.  Goodbye, Georges Méliès. (Even though his films are fantasies which would not show shots of Paris, his works are pretty well known and would be of interest following Scorcese's Hugo -- which is a wonderful movie I enthusiastically recommend.)

Our other option is to use a slide show of public domain pictures of Paris.  Fortunately, the Internet is greatly helpful:  I spent a couple of hours online yesterday and found easily 50-60 shots which I can use.  Everything from the Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa to Père Lachaise cemetery and Sacré-Cœur cathedral.  I have yet to locate a public domain picture of one of Hector Guimard's  Art Nouveau Metro station entrances, but I am sure one is out there.**

The problem for me is.... I want to go back to Paris.  NOW.

It's odd to be homesick for a city which I have only seen three times in my life, for a grand total of less than two weeks.  I have felt it before, that longing for somewhere far away, although it is usually centered on London or Madrid.  (And every time I see one of them, the Lord of The Rings movies fill me with a desire to be in New Zealand.) In both cases, I have spent even less time there than in Paris.

Maybe it is just getting older (my excuse for everything these days, it seems), but I am restless.  I want to roam, to feel that excitement of trying to figure out the signs in a language I do not speak or navigate strange roads where people drive on the other side. I want to see the misty hills of Scotland again.  I want to lose myself in the corridors of the Louvre.  I want to sit at a cafe on the Plaza Major and have churros con chocolat.*** I want to walk along the Keizersgracht and watch the boats carrying the tourists go by. I want to see the malachite room in the Winter Palace, and wonder what it must have been like for the czar to sit there while the Russian people rioted outside, and how in some ways those everyday Russians are the ancestors of the Occupy movement.

I want to leave here and... just go.  There is some outside chance I will go to Italy in the fall, and that will help. I will hopefully get to see Rome, Florence, and Milan. But even that is not an unmixed blessing.

I'll just have that many more places to long for when my eyes are discontented with the horizon in front of me.

*There are probably better movies to use; both of these were primarily shot on sound stages. I'm looking into it.
**If anyone reading this has .jpgs of these -- or any other Paris pictures -- that they would like to donate to the cause, you can email me using my profile.
***Actually,  the best churros con chocolat in Madrid are at Chocolateria San Gines,  5 Pasadizo de San Ginés.  Oh, my God. They are so decadently good.  And, according to Wikipedia, they also have a branch in .... Tokyo.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Phantom of the iTunes

How in the world did I end up purchasing "Heart of Glass" by Blondie? I don't even really like it.  And while I like the Fine Young Cannibals' "She Drives Me Crazy" okay, I can't remember buying it. Nor can I remember buying K.T. Tunstall's "Black Horse and Cherry Tree," although I do really like that one.  And there is the continuing mystery of how "Fade Into You" by Mazzie Star (a band I can never consciously remember even knowing about) ended up on my iTunes -- I did not purchase it, as far as I can tell.*

This bugs me.

*At least from iTunes.  I have been buying more music downloads from Amazon lately.

Never knew I was funny, did you.

There are a great many jobs out there that are done by freelancers.  Writing greeting cards is one of those.  Many years ago, I toyed with the idea of writing cards, but then something got in the way (most probably my realization that writing them was harder than I expected) and I did not follow up.  (The story of my life, really.) I also started writing trivia questions, which I found both easier and more interesting.

While cleaning on Saturday, I discovered the box in which I kept the few that I did attempt.  These are probably ten years old at this point.

While your mileage may vary as to whether these are amusing or not, these are some of my favorites (italics indicate interior text):

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way! Have you ever wondered, jingle all the way to where?

For your birthday, you should go out to dinner -- and for once, don't eat like a bird!  Besides, most restaurants don't even serve earthworms.

For your birthday, I would give you a perfect rose, gentle waves lapping on a Caribbean shore, a beautiful tropical sunset with cotton-candy clouds... None of those would fit in the envelope.

You know you've been in the hospital too long when you start trying to color coordinate your medicines with your hospital gown!* Get well soon.

I miss you! The dog misses you! The cat misses you! The goldfish misses you! Well, I can't really tell about the goldfish -- he's not very articulate.

I don't miss you.  I really don't  miss you.  I am also Napoleon Bonaparte III.

Mom, I wish I could say that, now that I have kids, I sound just like you, but I don't.  Hey, don't make that face! It might freeze that way and then where would you be?

Queen Victoria had eight children, all but one of them without anesthesia.  That could explain why she was so seldom amused.

The best things in life are green: shamrocks, beer, Kermit the Frog.... Gee, I didn't know he was Irish.

You're the top! You're the Coliseum! You're the double grande decaf mocha with extra whipped cream!  Okay, so I'm no Cole Porter -- you're still the best.

Graduate, remember, as Alexander Pope said, "a little learning is a dangerous thing."  Does this mean you're now a menace to society?

Son, as you graduate and move into the big exciting world on your own, there is only one thing I want to say to you.... I want all my earrings back before you go.

A college student is a bit like  a caterpillar. He spends four years growing and changing, turning into a beautiful winged creature that graduates to fly free upon the breeze... Only to be eaten for lunch by some large corporate bird.  Happy Graduation, anyway.

So you're engaged.  You're not really off the market, you know... You're just in escrow.**


Since there is nothing under the sun that is new, and people do tend to think alike, I would not be surprised at all if some variant of these has appeared on the card racks at Safeway in the past ten years. Still, I thought some of you might find them amusing.

And hey, if I can just find some stock photos that would match them...

*I am on a variety of meds, and once was sorely disappointed when my doctor changed the dosage of one of them to discover that the color of the new pill clashed with the color of the others. Right now, my meds all fall on the pale yellow -- pale orange -- tan spectrum., except for the iron supplements, which are an annoying shade of dark green that just does not go well at all with the rest.

**This actually was a conversation I had with a college classmate when I got engaged.

You can stop shuddering. Really.

My new favorite drink? Two ounces of Red Stag Black Cherry Bourbon (no, it's good! really!) and a can of Coke.  Sort of a bourbon cherry coke.

Gee, I never knew that....

On Sunday, I was listening to NPR, when one of the commentators stated that no detainee had ever been arrested on U.S. soil.  Funny, I never knew Chicago was not in America.*

*Seriously, Padilla's plight should give pause to anyone who is not bothered by the 2012 NDAA.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The making of a policy wonk

I just came home to find the Red-Headed Menace watching C-SPAN, which is playing the sound feed to the oral argument in the Texas redistricting case.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I have not written much about SOPA/PIPA, mostly because there were so many people being so much more eloquent about the dangers of the legislation than I would be.* I could not think of anything to say that would not simply be a pale imitation of others' words.

So this is just an observation: when people whose livelihoods depend upon the security of their copyrights start raising the alarm, it is a bad bill.** (See also.)

A friend of mine on Facebook pointed out, though, that every one of us who illegally downloads a song, who can't wait for that episode of their favorite show to come out on DVD, who gets movies off of Pirate Bay, contributes to the very real problem that these bills allege to correct. My hands are not clean, but more and more these days I am trying to be careful about where I get material.***  (I was relieved when iTunes started carrying Criminal Minds, because that meant that there was a way to see the episodes without waiting for reruns. I had not been watching the episodes I missed because there was no way to do so legally.)

I know artists, photographers and writers.  They are able to make a living doing what they do because they can control what happens with their work.  The same is true of those who make television, movies and music. They need and deserve to have their work protected.  All of us can help with that.

I am not naive enough to think that if all of us stopped swiping things the efforts to pass bills like SOPA/PIPA will go away; I'm cynical enough to think that these are as much about power and control as they are about protecting artists.  But we can stop being the users who prop up the drug cartel.

*That's never stopped me before, I know.
**And you have to read this.  I won't describe it, just... read.  I nearly snorted my Salted Carmel Mocha through my nose.
*** I actually bought Weird Al's "Don't Download This Song" for 99 cents from iTunes, which my children found incredibly funny.

Because I'm weird, that's why.

New playlist:

"Recruiting Sargeant"    Great Big Sea
"Number Six Driver "   Eddie From Ohio
"Margaritaville"    Jimmy Buffett
"I Don't Know How to Love Him" Yvonne Elliman (From Jesus Christ Superstar)*
"Willkommen - (Cabaret)"    Joel Grey
"Bleecker to Broadway"    Eddie from Ohio
"Tainted Love"    Soft Cell
"Sweet Baby James"    James Taylor
"Brown Eyed Girl"    Van Morrison
"Vivaldi The 4 Seasons (Winter) I. Allegro Non Molto"    Antonio Vivaldi
"Rocky Raccoon"    The Beatles
"Passionate Kisses"**    Mary Chapin Carpenter
"And So It Goes"    Billy Joel
"Water Colors"    Janis Ian
"End Of The World"***   Great Big Sea
"The Rainbow Connection"    Sarah McLachlan
"I Never Was to Africa"    Ferron
"I'm Yours/Somewhere Over The Rainbow"    Straight No Chaser

It's a playlist of songs that remind me of people for whatever reason, arranged alphabetically... by the first name of the person the song reminds me of.

Some of them, any regular reader of this blog will know (Vivaldi....hmmmm), but others... Let's just say that if you read this, and know me well, you may think you know to whom to assign each song .  You may be right, but more probably not.

There are some strange segues in here, but that's okay. The people I know are an eclectic lot.

* Edited to add: I changed this because I used "Helplessly Hoping" on yesterday's playlist.  Some people have more than one song.
**For the Rocket Scientist: no, this one is not about who you think it is.
***Neither is this one, probably. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"I've got this fear of falling I'm trying to overcome..."

I love Eddie from Ohio.  (Thank you, Cathy, for introducing me to them.) "Number Six Driver" is one of my favorite songs.*  Tonight, I was  listening to another song by them, "Gravity," when I had such a startling thought, I had to replay the song several times.

Is this a song about a woman considering suicide? Okay, fleetingly ("You and I both know I'd never jump"), but still...

Or is it an extended metaphor for fear of commitment?

Or, most likely, the woman is just batshit crazy.

I think I may need to go to bed at this point.  The fact that my mind equated commitment with suicide has me a bit worried.

*Although I think I may like Robbie Schaefer's version better.

Nope. Not me.

On tonight's Criminal Minds episode, Dr. Spencer Reid (played by the gorgeously geeky Matthew Gray Gubler) was lamenting the fact that he had  not changed the world, and he was already *gasp!* thirty.  "Do you ever have the feeling you haven't lived up to your potential?" he asked fellow agent Emily Prentiss (played by the stunningly beautiful and sexy Paget Brewster)  ..."By age thirty, Nikola Tesla had discovered alternating current."*

Oh, I don't know anyone who has ever felt like that.  Not at all.

And the Red-Headed Menace was wondering why I was laughing through that scene.

*With me, it was always "Alexander the Great conquered the known world by the time he was thirty."
As someone who has had her fair share of doctor visits, I am very familiar with that standard pain chart -- the one with the faces on it.  I can never figure out exactly how to use that to quantify pain.

Thanks to Hyperbole and a Half (the same person who brought you "The Year Kenny Loggins Ruined Christmas"),  I now have a better one.

Okay, so he had his own motives...

The Red-Headed Menace was so incensed by the Wikipedia blackout that he wrote his Representative and Senators about SOPA and PIPA.  I'm rather proud of him.

I did not see the text of the emails, though, so I am not sure if he mentioned that actually he won't be eligible to vote for another three years.

Today's playlist

What I am listening to in the car today, as selected last night:

"Cloudy"    Simon & Garfunkel
"Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight "   James Taylor
"Don’t Ask Me Why"    Billy Joel
"Down in the Boondocks"    Billy Joe Royal
"Drops of Jupiter"    Train
"Drift Away"    Dobie Gray
"Find the Cost of Freedom (Digitally Remastered LP Version)"    Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
"For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her"    Simon & Garfunkel
"For What It's Worth"    Buffalo Springfield
"From A Distance"    Kathy Mattea
"Gravity"    Alison Krauss & Union Station
"The Dangling Conversation"    Simon & Garfunkel
"Gravity"    Eddie from Ohio*
"Helplessly Hoping"    Crosby, Stills & Nash
"Hey Hey Whay Can I Say?"    Hootie and the Blowfish
"Hunger"    Voices on the Verge
"Fade into You"    Mazzy Star
"I Can See It Now"    Mary Chapin Carpenter
"I Never Was to Africa"    Ferron
"I'll Be Seeing You"    Judy Collins
"I'm Yours/Somewhere Over The Rainbow"    Straight No Chaser
"Preowned"    Elizabeth Gooen
"Send in the Clowns"    Glynis Johns**

Not the most cheerful set of songs.  I might want to opt for something more upbeat.  Then again, it could be worse: this playlist does not include "Hallelujah" on it.

*At some point, I keep thinking I should so a playlist of songs with the same title that are completely different.

**If the only version of this song you have heard is Judy Collins's, run right out and get this one.  Judy Collins has a sweet, pure voice, completely devoid of the emotion this song demands.  Judy Dench's and Barbra Streisand's versions aren't bad either.

Today is fired. And it's not getting a recommendation, either.

So this morning, I had to deal with a son who, by virtue of waiting to take his meds until 6 pm yesterday was up until 3.  I did manage to finally get him out of bed for him to be only a couple of minutes late to school, with no breakfast.

I  myself did not have time to get breakfast.  And I discovered after I had put it on -- and it was too late, as I was heading out the door -- that the shirt I was wearing had a grease spot on it.  Just a small one, and barely noticeable among the leaves of the pattern, but still... things like that bug me. I usually catch them when they come out of the washer, and deal with them, but this slipped through the cracks.

The reason I was so rushed was that I had a meeting with a job counselor to go over my information and my references. The organization has two offices, one in Palo Alto and the other in San Jose, about twenty minutes apart if I drive like a madwoman, and thirty if I drive in a rational manner.  I got to the Palo Alto office five minutes early  (because job counselors are sticklers for punctuality, as well they should be), only to discover that I had written down the wrong office on my calendar. (Not completely stupid: the last time I had met with her had been at the Palo Alto office.) She was tied up in meetings the rest of the day and can't see me until next Monday afternoon.

On the good side, she mentioned she has some leads that might be a good fit for me.  I also spent time downloading my recommendations from LinkedIn so that I could send them to her.  It gave me a chance to reread the glowing things my former supervisors said about me, and perhaps help ease my sense of stupidity and incompetence.

[Edited to add: Upon returning home, I noticed that the person responsible for putting the trash bins at the curb hadn't, and the truck had already been by.  That means that I have to arrange a special pickup.  Grrrr.]

Oh, what the heck. It's too late for lunch, but is anyone up for coffee this afternoon or evening? My day is thus far completely devoid of planned pleasant activities.

And boy, could I sure use one.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

So that's why I'm sneezing...

It does make a difference when you keep forgetting to get your anti-allergy medications  filled, when you are allergic to the cat which sleeps on your bed.

Monday, January 16, 2012

How did I not know of this?

I am, for the most part, a classical music illiterate.  With the exception of the odd piece here and there, if it wasn't in either of the Fantasia movies* or a Bugs Bunny cartoon, I likely haven't heard it.** (Okay, so you can add "Also Sprach Zarathustra."  I did see 2001, after all.) There is Pachelbel's "Canon in D Major," Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony," Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" (mainly from Independence Day concerts by the Boston Pops when I was in college), and the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah (mainly from Christmas church services), but really not much else to speak of. Oh, and you can throw in "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," by Bach, which was the processional for my wedding. (The "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth was the recessional.)

The Red-Headed Menace is developing a serious taste for classical music.  And he has introduced me to Vivaldi. Especially the "Four Seasons."  Especially "Winter."

Wow.  Just... wow.

*I would like to note that I heard "Rhapsody in Blue" many years before Fantasia 2000, and it may just be my favorite piece of music in the world.  I once commented that if it came down to a choice of never hearing it again (or Copeland's "Appalachian Spring," for that matter), or giving up sex, I would probably opt for celibacy. While I think I may have been exaggerating, it was not by much, and I still think it would be a tough call.
**I also know a lot of fifteen second snippets of famous classical music pieces that are used as ringtones.  (E.g., part of "Flight of the Bumblebee," something from "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik," fifteen seconds of the "Moonlight Sonata" ...) You can stop shuddering any time now.

Forever and ever and...

Me, while driving a very tricky road while taking the Red-Headed Menace and Railfan to a lasertag tournament:  "Pat, slow down.  You'll definitely be late if you get us killed."

Railfan: "And if you do, in the afterlife, we will spend eternity nagging you that you made us miss lasertag."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: Eh.

I love Sherlock Holmes.  I love the original Conan Doyle stories, and I love Jeremy Brett's iconic television portrayal. 

The way I coped with the first Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movie was to think of it as an entirely different animal totally unconnected with the books.  It worked.  I enjoyed it; the plot was relatively harmless and the homoeroticism between Downey's Holmes and Jude Law's Watson was amusing and, quite frankly, rather hot.

Once was enough, though.  This second time around I found the plot a bit confusing, and the interplay between the characters a little forced.  Sadly, the eye-candy, while as pretty as before, simply wasn't enough to hold my interest.* But what annoyed me most of all is something usually found these days in 3D movies.

I am tired of movies having with chase sequences featuring slow or stop-motion visuals that clearly exist only to show off the special effects.  There are only so many slowed bullet impacts or frozen explosions I can see before I get really impatient. Guy Ritchie could have easily cut the running through the forest scene in half just by not overindulging in showy "look-at-me!" shots.

Give me storytelling over empty flash any day.

*I do want to note, however, that Jared Harris was great as Moriarty: menacing without ever becoming a caricature.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Please indulge me, once again

I admit it.  I am obsessed, monomaniacal even sometimes.  But please, indulge me.  If you find this tiresome, please feel free to skip to another blog.* 

I am watching Sondheim! The Birthday Celebration.  Some observations:

I adore David Hyde Pierce.  Even given that someone else probably wrote his material, he presented the "let's do Sondheim in all the world's languages" bit perfectly. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Switzerland works for me. [ETA: Actually, looking at the show, he was one of the co-writers.  So he did write his own material.  Even funnier.]

The reason to love "America" is not Sondheim's lyrics, which are troubling, to say the least, or Bernstein's music, which is wonderful, but Jerome Robbin's incendiary choreography.  There's nothing quite like seeing a bunch of stunning women dancing and flipping their skirts.

I understand why the more risque lyrics for "We're Going to Be All Right" never made it onstage during the original run of Do I Hear a Waltz -- it premiered in 1965.  I'm not sure they would have flown. The line "Lately he tends to hit her" sung in such a jaunty manner would be jarring even today. (Which was probably the point.)

The "Sweeney Todd" running gag is amusing.

A lot of songs from Follies in this program.  The choreography on "You're Gonna Love Tomorrow/Love will See Us Through" is interesting, with the brief interaction between the Sally character and the Ben character, given what happens in the play.  Also, is Jenn Colella really barefoot? [ETA: No, of course not.  Those are just skin-colored shoes.  Can't say I care for the look.]

Chip Zein and Joanna Gleason are just cute together. There is an obvious affection between them which shines through the original production of Into the Woods (available on DVD).  (Joanna Gleason's Baker's Wife was the best thing about that production -- even more so than Bernadette Peters' Witch.) (And the intro comment: "[this play] explored the twisted pathways of the human psyche, and consequently is now performed by schoolchildren across America" made me snicker, because Railfan was one of those children.)

I understand that, at least in his television career, Mandy Patinkin is a diva. But man-oh-man, can he sing with nuance and meaning."Finishing the Hat" almost makes me cry.  The ache of a man forced to choose between the woman he loves and the work he is compelled to do is overwhelming. And "Move On" -- such chemistry between him and Peters. When at the end of the song Patinkin  whispers "I love you" to her, he clearly means it, and her "I love you too" is equally heartfelt.

And oh my God, is Michael Cerveris gorgeous.  Shaved heads generally do things to me, and those smoldering eyes... He was once quoted as saying, "Anyone who finds a murdering barber sexy is someone you gotta be kinda nervous about, but I'm grateful for any attention."  Well, then, be nervous about me all you want, but he just takes my breath away.

Hee hee, I love the interplay between the two Sweeneys, George Hearn and Cerveris. The latter pulling out the razor, and the look on Hearn's face is priceless. Hearn does a lovely job as Judge Turpin in "Pretty Women," and it would have been nice if they had done it in a production together.  Patti Lupone makes a great Mrs. Lovett, and "A Little Priest" is the funniest of Sondheim's songs.

David Hyde Pierce finally got his chance to sing in different languages.  Cute.  And "Beautiful Girls" is the one song that sort of works for.

All the divas on stage in red: stunning.

I have seen Patti Lupone sing "Ladies who Lunch" before, in the cinema version of Company.  The way she sings it is very different from the iconic Elaine Stritch version: her phrasing accentuates the jazzy Latinate beat of the piece, whereas Stritch's straight ahead delivery obscures it.  Very different takes, but both are great.  Stritch jumping up at the end to hug Lupone and say "I'm so proud of you" was heartwarming.

Again, a lot of songs from Follies -- three out of the six sung in this segment (four counting the "Beautiful Girls" intro). "Losing My Mind" might just be the best song about unrequited (or marginally requited) love ever written.**  Not that I have ever felt like this.  Nope, not at all. Marin Mazzie [ETA: helps to get the actress's name right] makes you feel all the pain and confusion that this state of mind carries with it.  Again, stunning.

Audra McDonald's classical training shines through.  The woman is an opera singer -- and while a lot of Sondheim's songs would be overwhelmed by that, those from A Little Night Music aren't (except Desiree's, which were written for an actor Sondheim and Prince had yet to hear sing (Glynis Johns) and whom they assumed had limited singing skills).  "A Glamorous Life" works well with McDonald's voice.

Follies again.  "Could I Leave You" may just be my favorite number from that show*** and Donna Murphy's version is the best I have ever heard.  Her performance here, as well as Alexander Gemignani's "Something's Coming"  and Bernadette Peter's "Not a Day Goes By" are the primary reasons I want a CD of this show. Murphy captures the bitter sarcastic humor (she had the audience laughing at a couple of points) before sucker-punching everyone with absolute rage.

Have I mentioned that when I die I want to be reincarnated as Bernadette Peters? No? That voice.  That hair.  That porcelain skin and hourglass, Gibson-girl figure. And that ability to convey emotion. "Not a Day Goes By" had me in tears.

Elaine Stritch doing "I'm Still Here":  incredibly appropriate.  I am sure that Stritch got the standing ovation in spite of a few flaws in her performance out of recognition of how the song reflects her realities and for all she has done over the years.  She is truly a beloved figure.

I am so glad they had actors sing these songs.  Not only was it nice to see people who had an actual connection with and obvious warmth towards Sondheim at work here,  but these songs are meant to be acted -- body language is so important in conveying their meaning.

The Broadway chorus singing "Sunday" clearly affected Sondheim a lot, which is totally understandable.  It is a gorgeous soaring piece, sung with feeling by a lot of people who know how to sing.

Finally: how like the honoree to say something sweet, short and on-point.  In his writings, he comes across as a rather reserved (if very funny) man, and this was clearly in evidence here.

I so wish I could have been there that evening.

*Maybe I should wait on those two other Sondheim posts until later in the year.  I mean there is boring and then there is booooring.

**Okay, so it is not unrequited, but she is trying to figure out exactly what it is.

***It is "my I'm so mad at someone I could kill" song. Even when it is no one I am in a relationship with where the words are at all appropriate, singing allows for the catharsis of a LOT of bitterness.

The Artist: a non-review

I have just returned from seeing The Artist.  Lovely movie, I think. I really liked what I saw, and was very impressed with the two leads.

However, I cannot review this movie because I did not see all of it. Unlike Black Swan, where I had to leave the theater because I felt so freaked out, during The Artist I .... fell asleep.

What can I say? A large dinner, pain meds, soft seats, nice music, and no dialogue create an atmosphere quite conducive to napping.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Personal PSA II

Calloo Callay! My cell was at Stanford Lost and Found.  I am now reachable by phone again.

I know it seems odd to blog about this, but there are several people in my life who, thanks to RSS feeds, may well see posts from here faster than FB posts.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Personal PSA

For anyone who needs to contact me, I have lost my cell phone.  Email is the only way to get hold of me (unless I am on YM and you know my user name).

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Maybe we do need some stinkin' badges

I like scientists, engineers and techie people.*  On my Facebook friends' list, I have a couple of rocket scientists (one of whom, The Rocket Scientist, is also a geologist), a former physicist, an Oxford-trained mathematician/engineer, a forensic scientist, a clinical psychologist, a research psychologist, someone who does not have a degree but who has done extensive fieldwork with NASA, another engineer who worked on the Hubble Space telescope, a former biomedical engineer, a veterinary student, and a whole bunch of computer designers/programmers/sysadmins. And a sociologist. And a paramedic/firefighter who used to work with large animals.

I think many of these friends would qualify for the Science Scouts.  Created by the Science Creative Quarterly (I really need to do a post just on it), The Order of the Science Scouts of Exemplary Repute and Above Average Physiques (OOTSSOERAAP) is composed of people** who meet the following criteria:

- not opposed to alcohol.
- fond of IPCC reports (especially the pictures).
- mostly in agreement with the"truth."
- into badges.
- grieving for the slow and miserable death of the Hubble Space Telescope.
- possibly possessed of supernatural powers.
- not in the business of total world domination
- committed to the constant and diligent presentation of science stories, be it to editors, producers, directors, educators, relatives and/or friends of various ilk, in an effort to lessen the gap that is this thing we call public scientific literacy.

I am not sure that any of my friends possess all the criteria, but some of them come close.  At any rate, all of them would qualify for at least one Science Scout merit badge.

The clinical psychologist? The "Sexing Up Science" Badge. The researcher without a degree? The "MacGyver" Badge.  The Paramedic? The “Knows How to Collect Semen From More Than One Species” badge. (Note: this is species other than human; in the paramedic's case, that would be at least horses and cows.) The Red-Headed Menace? The “Special Auxiliary Child Member of the Order of the Science Scouts” badge, for "children who are alarmingly smart about things of a scientific nature."

Both rocket scientists would be eligible for a large number of these, especially the "I AM Actually a Freaking Rocket Scientist" Badge. The Rocket Scientist who lives with me and I were going over the list last night, and he would be eligible for somewhere between fifteen and twenty of them, including the "I Have Gone an Entire Month Without a Bath for Science" Badge.

Many of the people in my life (including all three of my children) would either already own The “Has Frozen Stuff Just to See What Happens” Badge (LEVEL III) ("in which the recipient has frozen something in liquid nitrogen for the sake of scientific curiosity") or don't only because of a lack of access to liquid nitrogen. (Two of the three children would already qualify for LEVEL II, "in which the recipient has frozen something in dry ice for the sake of scientific curiosity.") Not to mention the “Totally Digs Highly Exothermic Reactions” Badge. (These same two children have at various times expressed interest in getting C-4 for their birthdays.)

Many of these badges get to the heart of what is so enchanting about scientifically-minded people: such people are, almost without exception and pretty much to a fault, curious about the world around them.  They want to know not just that things work but how and why things work.*** Sometimes they are even willing to break things to figure this out or to make things work better.

Definitely deserving of a badge or two, don't you think?

*I have hung out with scientists and engineers, and I have hung out with artists.  Although there are exceptions, generally speaking, scientists and engineers are more interesting and have better senses of humor than artists. Lawyers as a group are highly variable.

**It does not actually specify people. I suppose a sufficiently advanced robot could qualify.  Or a space alien.

***This is less than enchanting if the "hey, let's see what THIS does" people do not adequately clean up after their experiments.