Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year music

Happy last day of 2007.

It's snowing again.

We've had... I dunno... maybe 17 inches so far this December. That's close to normal, but less than the past few years. I somehow think maybe I've forgotten how pretty it is when there's fresh snow, when there's snow all the time. It just keeps coming and coming. Instead of getting all depressed about it, I'm enjoying sitting here, staring out at the big puffy flakes as they drift down to join their mates.

Songs of the day, or rather song versions of the day:
Fields of Gold
Time After Time
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
What a Wonderful World

These are all Eva Cassidy's versions. Just lovely. That woman had some serious pipes. Really serious. Damn.

Here's some stuff from Nightline about her:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

More in the Songs of the Day category - the Minnesota Orchestra's versions of the Beethoven symphonies. I've heard and/or performed these things... I don't even know how many times. But these recordings are different. Non-musicians, and even some musicians, may wonder why on earth we need yet another recording of any of these. Non-musicians don't always get what any good classical musician knows immediately: there ain't ever going to be two interpretations that are exactly the same. I don't even know how many versions I own of the Bach 'Cello Suites, for example. So new versions of old pieces can be great. But just like any remake, you have to ask yourself - is it worth it? Is there anything new being said? I hate note for note, exact interpretation remakes. What's the point then? Studio time is expensive, and for an orchestra, out of this world (see the Mpls St Paul mag article below for deets). So do we really need another recording of the Beethoven symphonies? Oh yes. This one... mmm... I just purchased the 1 and 6 one, which is brand-new; don't yet own the others that have been released (4-5, 3-8, 9).

Nice stuff. Really nice stuff. Osmo has a tendency with his musical interpretations to stick close to the score. He has a reputation as a perfectionist and taskmaster. He pushes his musicians. Hard. Thing is, they like him, and they work for him, and you can really tell. It's hard to play softly well. It really is; much harder than louds. The piano quality the Minnesota Orchestra is achieving these days... really masterful. Unbelievable. I haven't been fortunate enough to hear a ton of world class orchestras live, but these days I think Minnesota is up there with the best of them. There's a just flat out LIFE to this recording I can't remember hearing from others. These people aren't going through the motions. They're laying it all out on the line with all they've got. I noticed things I never noticed before. Amazing.

Brief historical info
MN Orch Archives and pictures
Mpls St. Paul Magazine article
St. Paul Pioneer Press article
MPR Article - "Does the world really need another Beethoven's Fifth?"

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens, 1843

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.

Their faithful Friend and Servant,
C. D.
December, 1843.

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don't know how many years. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend and sole mourner. And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent man of business on the very day of the funeral, and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.

The mention of Marley's funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet's Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot -- say Saint Paul's Churchyard for instance -- literally to astonish his son's weak mind.

A Cup of Christmas Tea
Tom Hegg, 1981

The log was in the fireplace,
all spiced and set to burn.
At last the yearly Christmas race
was in the clubhouse turn.
The cards were in the mail,
all the gifts beneath the tree.
And 30 days reprieve till VISA
could catch up with me.

Though smug satisfaction
seemed the order of the day,
Something still was nagging me
and would not go away.

A week before, I got a letter
from my old great Aunt.
It read: Of course I'll understand
completely if you can't,
But if you find you have some time
how wonderful if we
Could have a little chat and share
a cup of Christmas tea.

She'd had a mild stroke that year
which crippled her left side.
Though house bound now,
my folks had said
it hadn't hurt her pride.
They said: She'd love to see you.
What a nice thing it would be
For you to go and maybe have
a cup of Christmas tea.

But boy! I didn't want to go.
Oh, what a bitter pill,
To see an old relation and
how far she'd gone downhill.
I remembered her as vigorous,
as funny and as bright.
I remembered Christmas Eves when
she regaled us half the night.

I didn't want to risk all that.
I didn't want the pain.
I didn't need to be depressed.
I didn't need the strain.

And what about my brother?
Why not him? She's his aunt, too!
I thought I had it justified,
but then before I knew,
The reasons not to go I so
painstakingly had built
Were cracking wide and crumbling
in an acid rain of guilt.

I put on boots and gloves and cap,
shame stinging every pore.
And armed with squeegee,
sand and map,
I went out my front door.
I drove in from the suburbs
to the older part of town.
The pastels of the newer homes
gave way to gray and brown.

I had that disembodied feeling
as the car pulled up and stopped
Beside the wooden house
that held the Christmas cup.
How I got up to her door
I really couldn't tell...
I watched my hand rise up and press
the button of the bell.

I waited, aided by my nervous
rocking to and fro.
And just as I was thinking
I should turn around and go,
I heard the rattle of the china
in the hutch against the wall.
The triple beat of two feet
and a crutch came down the hall.

The clicking of the door latch
and the sliding of the bolt,
And a little swollen struggle
popped it open with a jolt.
She stood there pale and tiny,
looking fragile as an egg.
I forced myself from staring
at the brace that held her leg.

And though her thick bifocals
seemed to crack and spread her eyes,
Their milky and refracted depths
lit up with young surprise.
Come in! Come in!
She laughed the words.
She took me by the hand.
And all my fears dissolved away
as if by her command.

We went inside and then before
I knew how to react
Before my eyes and ears and nose
was Christmas past, alive, intact!

The scent of candied oranges,
of cinnamon and pine,
The antique wooden soldiers
in their military line,
The porcelain Nativity
I'd always loved so much,
The Dresden and the crystal
I'd been told I mustn't touch.

My spirit fairly bolted
like a child out of class
And danced among the ornaments
of calico and glass.
Like magic I was six again,
deep in a Christmas spell.
Steeped in the million memories
That the boy inside knew well.

And here among old Christmas cards
so lovingly displayed,
A special place of honor
for the ones we kids had made.
And there, beside her rocking chair,
the center of it all,
My great Aunt stood and said how nice
it was I'd come to call.

I sat and rattled on about
the weather and the flu.
She listened very patiently
then smiled and said, "What's new?"
Thoughts and words began to flow.
I started making sense.
I lost the phony breeziness
I use when I get tense.

She was still passionately interested
in everything I did.
She was positive. Encouraging.
Like when I was a kid.
Simple generalities
still sent her into fits.
She demanded the specifics.
The particulars. The bits.

We talked about the limitations
that she'd had to face.
She spoke with utter candor
and with humor and good grace.
Then defying the reality
of crutch and straightened knee,
On wings of hospitality
she flew to brew the tea.

I sat alone with feelings that
I hadn't felt in years.
I looked around at Christmas
through a thick hot blur of tears.
And the candles and the holly
she'd arranged on every shelf,
The impossibly good cookies
she still somehow baked herself.

But these rich and tactile memories
became quite pale and thin,
When measured by the Christmas
my great Aunt kept deep within.
Her body halved and nearly spent,
but my great Aunt was whole.
I saw a Christmas miracle,
the triumph of a soul.

The triple beat of two feet and a
crutch came down the hall,
The rattle of the china
in the hutch against the wall.
She poured two cups. She smiled and then she handed one to me.
And then we settled back and had
a cup of Christmas tea.
A Visit From St. Nicholas
Clement Clarke Moore, 1822

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Jesu, joy of mans' desiring.

Or, to quote a favorite former physics teacher, I'll be dipped in poop.

I just through one thing and the other managed to run into an ex-boyfriend online. It's a bit of a long story involving idle curiosity combined with reading too many books combined with the wonder that is the Internet.

In other words, I managed to discover today that in the 14-15 years since I finally dumped this particular ex-boyfriend, he's gone from working in a dead-end job in a small grocery store in a college town in the Midwest to being a dive instructor in Grand Cayman.


If nothing else, this proves how easy it is to find someone online. It's not like I looked that hard, or have that much knowledge about where to look. Google, combined with hits on a message board he posts on, combined with my memory and brain power put things together. A little scary, thinking about it further, about how a stalker could easily find a person if they knew a little bit about them to begin with. Makes me a bit afraid of message boards. And blogging, for that matter.

*waves at all my exes*

It also proves a bit about how, although my friends were too nice to say it to me at the time, I should have ditched him long before I did. He was a decent person and all, but we were never a good match and I was slow to see it. But really. Talk about divergent life paths. And what can happen in a relatively short period of time.

I'm glad for him, truthfully. He was on a path to nowhere in particular, last I knew. Smart, with a bachelor's degree, but down in the dumps because he couldn't get into grad school and couldn't get a decent job in his field with no grad degree. He had no sense of, to use a music term, directed motion. So he was a stockboy. Whose hobby - and passion - was sailing. Hence the connection. Good for him for finding a direction and reinventing himself. Most of my exes, with an exception or two, headed straight for Loserville.

*evil grin*

In other news, the cat is currently licking my leg to the point that my pants have a spot that's soaked. I'm not entirely certain why, and I'm a little afraid of whatever the answer might be. I need to change their litter box at some point today, which is hopefully unrelated. They've been so much trouble lately that it's like I have 10 cats. Constantly underfoot and in my face. I haven't been home much, which I'm thinking is part of it.


I have a week off. This makes me want to sing, rumba, Charleston, and tango. Today, I did little other than to revel in the fact that I don't have to go to work for another nine days. Ten, including today. Mmmm....

The cats have also provided me with a built in excuse for not exercising - like I actually need one. Dug out the resistance bands today and one was promptly stolen such that it could be dragged around the house, a bit like a kitten; although hopefully a kitten would not be dropped, batted around, chewed, and then picked up again for a repeat performance.

I have to do Christmas Eve dinner, plus am bringing the stuff for our particular branch of the fam to Christmas itself. Am also going to a concert tomorrow night. Somewhere. Am not done with my Christmas shopping, my cards, or anything else, really. Might want to get on that.

This is apropos of absolutely nothing, but I found a website today I must share: the T. Herman Zweibel Memorial Foundation. My favorite part, I think, is from The Life and Timeline of T. Herman Zweibel:

1885: Ulysses S. Grant dies and, after an elaborate funeral procession through the streets of New York, is buried in an unmarked grave; today, the exact location of his remains is unknown.

And that, right there, is why I have always loved The Onion; since college when they were headquartered across the street from my dorm. It always gives me some reason to chuckle evilly.

Last night went out with friends and colleagues. Was mostly very fun as got to hang out with some people I hadn't seen in quite a while. Stayed out longer than I meant to as there ended up being some drama towards the end of the evening and I wanted to make sure everyone made it home OK. I finally couldn't take the drama any more and had to leave. Why, oh why, are men so stupid? Blind, really, especially while having had WAY too much to drink. But then, the corollary to that is why are women so stupid that they actually listen to them. *sigh* T and I commented to each other at one point amongst the awkwardness that we were the only two normal people there. Not coincidentally, we were also the only two who were sober.

*double sigh*

Hopefully all will be well. At least eventually.

OK, this is plenty long for one post, and it's taken me all day, and I'm tired. Off to bed.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

ETA: This is my 50th post. Huh.

Monday, December 10, 2007

My concerts are done. I could sing.

OK, that's an exaggeration. One more. And then I'm done. I can hardly wait.

Normal people don't get how much December sucks for musicians. We're constantly on the run. I'm just tired in general of being stressed. And tired. And cold, come to that. But it's been that kind of year. I'm in a lull between major projects. Things should get truly hideous right around the first of the year, lull again in early April, then suck through to June. Or something like that. The writers' strike is killing me. It would be nice to be able to watch decent - for lack of a better word - TV to relax. But no. We get such crapola as Gladiator. Who thinks of this junk? And PBS, as much as I love them, is in the middle of a fund drive. So the Roadshow and This Old House get preempted for the likes of stinkin' Andre Rieu, who I hate. *sigh* When you can't count on PBS, you can't count on nobody.

Anyway, concerts are almost done, shopping is almost done, wrapping is almost done, decorating is almost done, baking is almost done... huzzah. Cards need to occur. But it could be a whole lot worse. That aspect of stress at least is under control.

Tomorrow will be a relatively easy day at work. Most of my projects should involve sitting on my derrière and listening to other folks. Little thought or preparation involved for me. Hallelujah. My brain is starting to shut down. OK, wrong tense there. But you know. Going to have a review on Thursday, so need to prepare for that. But shouldn't be too bad.

And then there's today's puzzler: why do the cats, who have a perfectly good water bowl mind you, insist upon drinking from the humidifier basin whenever I take out the tank to refill it? Not to mention the little one, who persists in ripping my Santa window cling down so she can chew on it. Not making me happy. At least they haven't knocked the mini tree over in a few days. And they haven't ripped down any of the Christmas lights. Granted, December is still young.

OK, 9 p.m. and therefore time for bed. I don't get to bed by 9, I regret it the next day. Granted, I've been yawning since 6. Oh adventure, be my wild partner.

Song of the week: Coffee Shop. Yes, I know it's in a commercial. In spite of that, it's lovely. Sorry to not be able to link to the real vid - this was the best I could find on You Tube. I think I like his other stuff too. His music isn't deep, but it's decent. For what I've heard, Coffee Shop is my fave.