Thursday, June 29, 2006
Sunday, June 25, 2006
After finishing a run of an opera, it was fascinating to me to discover how much the show changes. It's been a while since I've played in one, so perhaps I forgot the previous times I noticed this. In an art form that has to be carfully coordinated between conductor, ensemble, and vocalist, I was aware of how much variation sneaks in. Musicians entering on the wrong beat of the melody, throwing things out of sync. Singers forgetting their lines, and a beat of noticable silence before someone else's ad lib covers the mistake. Bars usually in four get turned into two on the spot to compensate for someone who's talking too fast. Someone sings softer than usual, forcing a quick rebalance during a performance. Rhythms that still aren't played correctly. Unisons that aren't.
She was the sort of person you wish everyone could meet.
"Good evening, stars!"
Friday, June 23, 2006
She was gesturing at the pick-up in front of her, and engaging in some sort of accusation. She seemed extremely frustrated. I'm not quite sure what the story was. Generally, if you make people mad on the road, they don't follow you into the drive-thru lane to keep talking at you, so that's off the list. The windows were rolled up on both cars, so nobody could actually hear anyone else. The truck only had one bumper sticker I could see, which was for something like "Young Protestants for George W. Bush". Quite frankly, I'm not sure this would create that much of a scene. At least, not this far away from the major universities in town.
Not content with pointing out his faults to a non-existant passenger, she then picked up her cell, used a one-touch dial, and spoke to someone on the phone about it. A friend? Who knows. I think she was even leaving a message, because from the time she picked up her phone to when she closed it, her mouth never stopped moving. It would have been difficult for the person on the other end to get a word in; words like "hello," for example.
I'm not sure what this fellow had done to this lady in a past life; perhaps a shark the color of his car killed her parents. I couldn't say. But people like this really need to learn how to let some things go, especially when driving a two-ton vehicle.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Just in the last couple of weeks, Wendy's has started a big advertising push. Big weather balloons tethered to the store, and girls dressed up like "Wendy" out front, holding signs. She may look cute up their on the store sign, but Wendy's hair does not transfer well to living people. It looks heavy.
Then I happened to pass by when their were TWO Wendys (Wendii?) out front. I'm really not sure what was going on. They were holding a sign between them, but just casually talking to each other. Strange. Also strange because whatever was actually on that sign, I missed it. Perhaps it has something to do with them changing french fry oils to something without trans fats (as I heard on NPR today), but I doubt they'd fly balloons and pay little girls for that.
And the Quart of Oil was back at the other stoplight. Only this time, when he turned sideways to I could see the man sandwiched between the placards, he was talking on his cell phone. Guess you need to kill time somehow.
Observe this: http://www.stopungunban.org/ Essentially, the N.R.A. is worried that the U.N. is going to do... something...that will take away all of your guns! And on the 4th of July, to boot! As Krusty the Clown says: "Guns are for self-defense, hunting dangerous and delicious animals, and keeping the king of England out of your face."
Let's leave aside the fact that I think this is out of the U.N.'s jurisdiction. On the above site, there's plenty of fear-mongering and consumerism. If you wish to learn more, they'll be happy to sign you up and take your money, in exchange for a book.
What's the U.N.'s response? We're going to be watching the Fireworks! That's right, the U.N. has a holiday on the 4th of July and will be conducting no business. "Well, that just means they're going to take our guns on the 5th!" Sorry. As the above article states, the proposed treaty effects only illegal weapons. The U.N. has no plans to try to take legitimate and legal firearms away, as it considers that an issue for sovereign nations to discuss.
Well, I'm sure the N.R.A has the heart in the right place. After all, what other political lobbying group gives you $10,000 in accidental death/dismemberment insurance for being a member? That sounds friendly, right? Well, too bad it only applies to accidents on the way, at, or leaving an NRA activity. Oh, and also if you're hunting. I suppose that's only to protect you from non-N.R.A. members, who may not have taken the safety courses. And the vice-president. And those deer that fight back.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Cohesive Argument Supporting the Ban: Citizen's Flag Alliance
Not Quite As Cohesive Argument Opposing the Ban: Cracking the Flag Burning Amendment
I consider this an issue that every American should know about and think about. Far too many people have no knowledge of important issues occuring around them. Of the people who have opinions, how many are just recycling the views of their parents, without bothering to think it through for themselves. I don't mean to say that your parents may not make decisions, but it is the duty (a word I do not use lightly) of everyone to examine their own beliefs. Just because your family or friends think something, doesn't mean you should automatically, too.
Flag burning is a stupid idea for a protest. It practically guarantees that no one will pay attention to your argument. It divides you immediately from acceptance by everyone who considers the icon of "the Flag" as more important than the freedoms and ideals "the Flag" represents.
A better way to protest might be to fly the flag upside down, which is a method of showing emergency and a call for aid. It used to be important, but now in the days of cell phones and 911, I'm sure that as a "call for help," it's fallen out of fashion.
So, yes, I think flag burning is stupid. But I think it will be wrong (another word I don't use lightly) to ban it. The whole point of enshrining the First Amendment in the government contract is that you can use the First Amendment to protest anything, even the government.
To me, the difficulty is that people think "the Flag" is what's important. It's not the flag. It's what the flag represents. When you lift the symbol beyond the importance of what it represents, then you've drifted into the realm of idolatry. For a similar situation, examine what people have done to the symbol of "Jesus", and what shallow Christians they've become when "Christ as Unchanging Marble Statue" becomes more important than "love they neighbor."
I respect my country. I love it. But if people aren't allowed to behave in ways I "don't like", then we move one step closer to the "Glorious People's Republic of Andrew and People Like Him". You can't legislate respect. You can't force me to love something. The people who protest with burning flags don't "hate America". If they did, they might be better off burning the Bill of Rights or the Constitution. Wouldn't be as eye-popping, I guess.
Monday, June 19, 2006
I'm reading Shopgirl, by Steve Martin. I have not seen the movie. It's obvious to me that it was written by a comedian. Not because it's funny, but because it bears all the marks of having been written by a person who has spent his life observing other people's behavior. Observation is key to a comedian.
I'm eating tasty ice cream, made all the tastier because it was on sale.
It was said to me recently that a man cannot be friends with a woman, unless he is attracted to her. I think that's utter stupidity, which branded me as being in "denial", or something.
When does the essential nature of "you" end up outside a window? When your head passes through? Shoulders? Heart? Torso? Feet? It's a roundabout way of pondering in which part of our bodies lies our nature, or soul (if you prefer)? The easy answer is "if I can close the window and catch part of you in it, you're not all outside." The hard question is: if I lose all brain function, am "I" still in there?
This afternoon, I came very close to throwing away the key from my keychain that doesn't go to anything I own. This is itself so monumental that I have devoted little time to thinking about it, for fear of coming to any kind of revelation and possibly newly knowing something I wish I didn't.
I'm disgusted by the concept that at the age of 70, I could have a 22 year old wife and a baby daughter, who may not get her driver's license before I die.
As I write more and more entries, I devote more and more time to trying to figure out if I've already written about certain ideas. Good thing there's a search button, and that I predictably use similar words to describe things.
Attractive and well-dressed people must have excellent time management skills, because I can't imagine portioning out more time to looking nice than some people I know.
"It takes a lot of guts to stand up in a room and come out in favor of the things that everyone else is against, like peace and brotherhood and so on..." --Tom Lehrer
I'm announcing my complete retirement, effective as soon as I can verify this fantastic sum. It's a testament to the extreme hard work I've put into the field.
FAKE EDIT: It tuns out that the price actually DECREASED to $63.75, representing a personal loss. I may need some debt help, after ordering several fancy cars and a great deal of fancy apples from Harry & David.
German director Werner Herzog visited the production on What Dreams May Come. He toured the sets and agreed to have a cameo. As Robin Williams' character searches through a Hell straight out of Dante's Inferno, he comes across the Sea of Faces. One of the faces belongs to this famous director. Herzog was heard to exhort Robin Williams to step on his face harder, which Williams politely declined. "Come on!" said Herzog. "You could break my glasses, maybe?"
Just the thought of Werner Herzog trying to get Robin Williams to step on his face harder, is the sort of thing that can only be imagined in the context of "Hollywood". Of course, this is the man who once publicly challenged that if one of his film students, Errol Morris, made a documentary about pet cemeteries, he'd eat his own shoe.
I point you to this.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
All this high-minded driving philosophy was made pointless, however, when he decided to come on over into my lane anyway. He was about halfway past me, putting the trailer hitch about equal with my front bumper. I didn't agree with his choice, but I had to respect his mass. I quickly slid my car halfway out of my lane onto the shoulder, meeting the "rumble strip".
For those of you who don't know, the "rumble strip" is the highway equivalent of the warning track. It's a strip of concrete that has been purposefully distressed for safety. When a car drives over it, it makes an alarming noise throughout your car. As I was already alarmed, I didn't pay it any attention, other than realizing I was just that much closer to ending up in the soybean fields.
From behind us, the semi truck behind him must have been paying attention to what was happening, because he laid on his air horn to shake the other driver awake. It worked, and he adjusted himself back into his lane, and I followed after allowing him a safe distance to make sure he wasn't going to come back and finish me off.
In retrospect, I wondered why I didn't have one of those "near death" experiences. I was certainly tense enough. After the traffic had regulated and I'd taken several breaths, I flexed my hands on the steering wheel and found out that I'd been gripping tightly. White knuckle, you might say. I also loosened the vynal coating on the wheel.
My only thought at the time was "Here comes that trailer into my lane." My second thought, very close afterwards, was "I'd better leave this lane!"
Whenever I've been driving when bad drivers show up, the passengers always gain their composure much faster than I do. They always say, "Honk your horn!" or just reach over themselves. In moments of crisis, my horn might as well not even work. I never remember or have enough presense of mind to sound my horn. After all, that involves either taking one hand off the steering wheel, or being able to perform complex motion with my thumbs. Both actions are beyond me in a crash situation.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
In one sense, it wasn't difficult at all. I'm sure somewhere, there's a blithe answer about it not being difficult to write one entry at a time. That's the way it works, of course. You don't write ten years worth at once. You write one single entry. The way I do it, a single entry usually covers a single topic.
When I first started, the entries were autobiographical. Much to do made up of where I went in a day, what I did, who I saw, etc. Looking back on them, they seem very clinical. There's value in those entries, though; much of the stuff I mention I would have lost to the fog of memory long ago, if it wasn't scribed into a computer file.
Gradually, I moved into a more emotion-concerned style. It mirrored a development in my own personal feelings about issues. Instead of merely reporting what happened, I started to have thoughts or reflections. Eventually, it became promises or outrages.
Was it hard to write? I already mentioned it was easy, so this is the time when I say it was difficult. Putting my emotions down on paper (or digital bits) was hard. It turned out I had to acually think about things before I could write about them. I needed to be able to form ideas up enough to at least get them out of my head, if not resolved. It needed to be coherant on paper, so that in the future, I'd be able to understand what I was feeling. That level of descriptive writing is hard, especially because you don't know what to include.
Is it hard? It was a particular brand of emotional "squeezing" I wasn't used to. Too often, whatever large problems I thought I was suffering from tended to feel a lot smaller after I'd bothered to write them out. They tended to sound like typical adolescent problems, which it turns out they were. You can imagine my brow furrowing in frustration after spending a while typing, only to find THAT out.
It's all completely worth it, of course. I don't keep the old entries in my standard bedside reading, but once or twice a year, it's fun to bring them out. It also allows me to see how close I am to repeating my mistakes. Those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it, but it's amusing to see myself trapped in cycles. Insulated by hindsight, naturally.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
It was funny, though. In high school, he wasn't someone I was particularly friends with. We'd drifted apart after grade school. But this evening, we were friendly and chatty, catching up on old lives and current situations. Funny how time and distance gloss over lots of things, and instead leave you with "How are you doing, man?" The sincerity was refreshing.
People end up in so many different places. Not just physically, but also situationally. I probably haven't given this guy a moment's thought in 10 years, but it was nice to see him again. It gave me a sense of satisfaction, somehow, to be able to see someone I know almost nothing about. It's...I don't know... reassuring to see that people's lives march forward.
Imagine a sheet of glass. Pick a point on the glass; that point represents a single event, a single choice. When you hit the glass with a hammer, it cracks. It fractures and spiderwebs into a hundred thousand cracks. They move outward, change direction sharply, meet other cracks, break off again, etc. Some lead you away from the center, others seem to but end up right back in the center.
I've always imagined every single choice as having a picture like this. With any choice I make, it leads me down one of the fractures. I have no idea where it may end, where it will proceed on its way there.
There's no direct correlation between that image and my friend, but I always seem to feel the idea of meeting an old acquaintances as somehow related to that mental picture.
"Who tops the Pope's list of the hottest bachelors?"
See kids, this is what happens when you read quickly, but without the required level of absorbtion. The actual headline is regarding "People" magazine, not his holiness Benedict XVI.
Of course, that didn't stop me from devoting prescious mental energy to figuring out why the Pope would be interested in the hottest bachelors. Unless it's some sort of "Da Vinci Code" retaliation campaign, possibly asserting that Jesus was still a bachelor, and not hanging out at home with Mary Magdelene.
That sounds a little hip for the Catholic Church, though.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
It's the things about people that they may not advertise. Or, they don't advertise them to ME. Finding someone's name on a message board and reading what they have to say in a completely different environment than I know them. Or stranger still, when (almost without trying) I'm able to find out more than I suspected about a person. Sometimes *too* much.
I've never had a particularly far-reaching social awareness. I know lots about my circle of friends, but the knowledge drops off dramatically the farther down the "six-degrees" they are. But in the space of approximately 15 mintues, I found three people I know who had recently broken up with their significant others. And remember, this is not something that they personally wrote to me; just information floating out on the electric current. Should I even know about this? Sure, they're putting the information out there, but still, I feel the guilty "tabloid" vibe.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Most of the communications involve lots of hoidy-toidy activities in inaccessible (for a student) places. Whenever I read these notices, I can't fail but to re-experience some of the awe and mystery I felt for the "Teacher's Lounge" back in grade school.
The "Teacher's Lounge" was this mythical place that the teachers often went when not currently teaching. Sort of a Shangri-La of the suburbs, it called to them while teaching, whispering its sweet promises. I used to wonder what could be so interesting. It must be home to the fabled free soda machine, or maybe a plate of neverending baked goods. I bet they play video games there, too. Anything that might be interesting to a third grader.
There's a lounge at the university, too. I forget what's on the door, but I do know that all faculty and staff have a key, and they always quickly close the door behind them. What could be back there, I wonder? Hmmm....
Gosh, doubtful. There'd be more noise and happiness, I'd think.
Cute, but again, not likely.
Umm, wow. Although it would explain all the unconscious mice I've seen in the hallways....
This is the one rubber stamp they can never bring themselves to use, no matter how much they may want to. "This one girl wrote a 10 page paper believing 'Mozart' was a type of fruit! Please, let me use the stamp! For the sake of humanity!"
In reality, it's probably just a few old tables, a microwave, and a fridge with a burned out lightbulb. But where's the fun in that?
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Obviously, it's people like this that keep the rest of us safe from alien abduction. If the green men come, they're definitely taking him first.
"Since, moreover, your Honor has been good enough to take great pains in my behalf, not only in the present instance, but heretofor as well, I acknowledge this with obedient thanks, and assure you that it shall ever be my greatest pleasure to call myself Your Honor's and my most especially Highly Honored Sir's most obedient servant,
Johann Sebastian Bach"
Monday, June 05, 2006
In this particular one, I found a CD I had forgotten I owned. A fantastic recording of the Asbury Brass quintet from Chicago. It has one of my favorite pieces, the sextet by Böhme. Beautiful writing.
It also has some exerpts of my writing. I had a habit of scribbling down thoughts on whatever piece of paper was close at hand. Some recital programs are saved simply because I scribbled on the edges.
I happened upon thoughts I had put down while I was contemplating one of the defining images in my life: a waterfall in Colorado. If I remember correctly, the bottom tier was only about 15 or 20 feet high, so this wasn't like Angel Falls or something intimidating.
I found some letters from an old friend. They're like journal entries...amazing. Every single one has memories attached to it, images, sounds, and smells that have long sense faded from my own mind. Picking up the paper is like opening a chest containing the moment. Folding the letters up again, the images and recollections fade almost as quickly. How bittersweetly wonderful...
I found a program to possibly the last funeral I attended. One of the first good men I ever met in my life. A man I am still proud of being able to have called 'my friend'. He was a teacher of mine, but I spent a great deal of time with him away from school, probably more so than any teacher. His funeral was hard. I attended it with a good friend, and it was nice to be able to hold on to someone's hand when the weight of reality closes in.
I still have a picture of him on a bulliten board. In fact, I believe it's the only picture of a human being I have out in the open in my house, and even this "picture" is from a celebration card they handed out at the service. I don't oppose pictures, but I seldom got them mounted or given to me as gifts.
On a different end of life's spectrum, I found correspondence and pictures of a wedding! But even this has a sad smile. The marriage ended in frustration and divorce, so I feel somehow guilty for looking at pictures of the happy bride and groom, smiling back at me and standing close. Although, I do get a kick out of the image of me being at least a head taller than everyone else in the wedding party; it makes for some strange lineups. That, and I can never hear the movie title "The French Connection" mentioned without smiling.
And I find a program and photos for a concert that occured almost exactly six years ago (June 4, 2000). A raucus and irreverent trombone quartet, as if there is any other kind. Six years...time to look up some of those people again.
Best wishes to the Young Maiden Wondrous Fair, Model T, and the Bit-meister, wherever you are!
From the Professor
Saturday, June 03, 2006
I enjoy this picture because it is proof of the stubborness of my own perceptions. When I first saw this image, I didn't believe the two patches were the same color. I loaded the image in a program and literally dragged the first panel next to the second. Identical. I still didn't quite believe it, so I printed it out and cut them out and placed them next to each other. The same.
To this day, when I look at the original image, I still don't BELIEVE they're the same color, even though I know and have confirmed that it's true. Every time, I get the urge to go through the proof again, just to quiet my mind. No doubt there's some deep psychological principle at work here....