Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Song You Wish You Could Play

I'm not sure how this differs from the previous topics, but I hate to give up so close to the end.

As I've said, I am not particularly talented at any musical instrument, but I've already had to ponder what I would play if I could play an instrument... so I suppose this topic is supposed to be a piece of music suited to something I can play that I just can't perform.

I started singing in the church choir when I was six and I've sung in a variety of different capacities since then. As more than one person has told me, sometimes kindly and sometimes not so kindly, I cannot read music and I audition terribly, which definitely limited the experiences I could have that might possibly have, you know, improved my ability to read music and perform better at auditions. There's nothing wrong with my voice (and I did have the lead in the high school musical, thank you very much) (the director knew I could sing, just not audition) but it's been next to impossible to find a situation in which I didn't have to audition but would be pushed enough to learn.

About two years ago, I switched congregations and joined the church choir. This I do not say lightly, on either point. The church appealed in part because I wanted a place with strong solid music, and I spent several months listening to the choir and thinking that there was absolutely no way that I would ever be able to pant behind the group, let alone keep up. Note that I joined *after* Christmas and well before Easter; I thought I would escape challenges for a while. Ha! They threw me into Evensong rehearsals right away.

This choir is hard core, work you hard, push you harder and then give you an extra shove. Because God is kind, the woman who sits next to me teaches music to grade schoolers. With a great deal of patience (I marvel at how many times she is able to calmly remind me of the same basic principles of music theory) I am slowly but surely learning stuff I wish I'd learned at six or sixteen or even twenty-six. I can often, though not always, hear a chord, and where I fit in it. I know what's a crunchy chord and why they can be good. When I mess up I am more likely to know that I have messed up, though that's not to say that I get it right the next time through.

By the by, I should say that this choir laughs a lot and that it's a really incredible group of people. All of this work is fun (work, but fun) because of them, and the director works hard to keep it that way.

Last year, because this is a hard core choir, we did Bogoroditse Devo as part of Christmas. Yes, that is High Church Slovonic. Yes, it is a bear of a piece, and we sang it about twice as fast. Really. Last year, I would have listed this piece as my goal, the Song I Wish I Could Sing.

We did it again this year - with the help of the endlessly patient teacher, I did it. Ha! Take that, High Church Slovonic sadists!

I suppose that my goal this year is to approach a Mag & Nunc, any Mag & Nunc, without fear and trembling. 'cos they last a lot longer...

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Song Your Wish You Could Play On an Instrument

I come to the conclusion that as this meme wore on, many people grew tired. I base this assumption on the many titles I have seen for today's question.

Despite effort and hopes, I am a terrible instrumentalist. To quote a report, I "lack subtlety, have no sense of emotion and play piano as though attacking the keys."


Anyway, were I able to play the piano, I would tackle either part (two pianos) to the Overture to the Fantastiks.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

a song you can play on an instrument

Back when Jimmy Cater was president, I took recorder lessons. I wish I'd stuck with them - recorders are lightweight, can be safely broken down into many pieces, and they make a cool noise. I moved on to the clarinet, at which I was pretty lousy, and my feeble attempt to learn piano in college merited only snickers and pity. (Musical subtlety is not my talent.) A year ago I held a clarinet again after twenty seven years and I didn't remember where to put my fingers.

However, I still remember all of the theme to Star Wars on the recorder, and play it when no one else can hear me.

I've also been known to play a little J.S. Bach Anna Magdalena Notebook but only when I cannot be heard.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Bill died.

Bill had cancer, beat it and treated every moment afterward as a gift. Bill wasn't the type to take up sky-diving or try to bed as many blondes as possible. Bill ate good meals, watched multitudes of documentaries, and enjoyed needling all of us.

The cancer came back. I didn't hear from him. I knew it was coming. I still wasn't ready.

You rested on your laurels at your own expense - Bill knew no respect. Bill's redemption? He knew that sometimes a person [b]believes[/b] and there is no justification; you believe with every fiber of your being. Bill held that in highest esteem. He pushed everyone, and he rewarded those who pushed back; he esteemed those who put their beliefs into deeds. He worked me harder than any other student ever will.

Since he did not believe in a higher power, I will not pray or light candles for Bill, though I wish him peace. I will miss saying, "yes, you think Zinn is wrong, but you need to know what he [i]says[/i] and Bill agreeing that I might be forty years younger than he, but that I'm right, liberals can be thoughtful, and that he should think about issues all the way through to present day, be it current events or tobacco planting in 1610.

Also his chicken recipe. It's tasty.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

review of Cold Comfort Farm

Review for the Invisible Friends Book Club -

While reading Cold Comfort Farm last night (it’s a good ‘one sitting’ book) I had a nagging feeling that the storyline and the main character, Flora, reminded me very strongly of another book and protagonist, but couldn’t quiet pin it down.

This morning, I realized – author Stella Gibbons is taking a leaf out of Patrick Dennis’ classic (In My Humble Opinion, and this is my blog) novel Auntie Mame.. For those of you whom haven’t read Mame and, no, the movie and the travesty of a movie musical are not the same, Dennis’ novel starts with the narrator reading a piece about an Unforgettable Character. The Unforgettable Character is generally a maiden aunt, gray haired and sweet, who suddenly acquires a baby, whom she then raises while facing a series of life challenges. Each chapter of Mame opens with an update on what the typical Unforgettable Character would do when faced with a challenge (unemployment, wartime, impending marriage of loved one, etc.) that would somehow make everything work out splendidly.

Naturally, Dennis’ heroine, Mame, is faced with challenges and meets them, but always in over-the-top style, her subtlety often shrouded in camp and dramatic flair, but all is right in the end and Mame’s wisdom proven yet again. (I think this was also the plot-line used for most episodes of the sit-com Cybil but I digress. Both Gibbons and Dennis did it better.)

Gibbons gives her readers an Unforgettable Character, in this case the nearly penniless and orphaned Flora. Flora, unwilling to take up a trade, elects to approach her nearest relatives for a home. Most Unforgettable Characters would appeal to such relations in a spirit of humility, mercy and desperation. Flora? She’s far more practical, almost mercenary, about this approach.

“I am only nineteen, but I have observed that while there is still some foolish prejudice against living on one’s friends, it is perfectly respectable to ask one’s relations to provide one with a one. Now I am peculiarly (I think if you could see some of them, you would agree that is the correct word) rich in relations, on both sides of the family.” (page19)

Naturally it is the dullest of her relations who offer to take Flora in, with the lone mysterious note that something that will never be told happened such that the family owes her a favor. The family turns out to be quite peculiar (milking cows in their sleep) and live in peculiar circumstances and in a peculiar house, surrounded by peculiar neighbors and a peculiar town. Everyone has an unmet need, and Flora, who feels that she is adept at creating order from chaos, sets about meeting each one in eccentric fashion. Note: she does take the precautionary measure of asking a friend to send her boots.

The Mame meme continues – from the names of the livestock to Gibbons’ manufactured bits of Sussex dialogue, Gibbons is determined to make the reader laugh along and recognize satire and, moreover, to enjoy them. Dennis would have approved, and Cold Comfort Farm is an enjoyable read, but I have to say that I think Dennis did it better. I never did figure out why so many people in Sussex did as Flora told them. Mame used her charm, her wealth and her love; Flora arrived at Cold Comfort Farm and immediately started bossing people about. Did they obey out of habit?

One aspect that drove me wild with frustration is that Gibbons gives no indication as to when this story is set. She would drop in a hint and I’d do some quick math, only to learn a few pages later that my guess had to be off by several decades, if not centuries.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book, I hasten to add, a really great romp, and I think that the best bits are the woodcut illustrations throughout the book. The one on page 44 “There’s no butter in hell!” (great line) looks like something from Lewis Carroll, but reminded me most of Uncle Andrew in The Magician's Nephew.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

A Song That Makes You Laugh

Plenty of music makes me smile. A song that makes me laugh is trickier - I love a good laugh, but Eddie Izzard doesn't sing.

Note: I have watched this Izzard routine over and over and over and it cracks me up every single time.

I haven't heard Gimme That Old Time Religion since my freshman year of college, but I still laugh at:

Let us pray with Aphrodite
let us pray with Aphrodite
She wears that see-through nightie
and it's good enough for me

We will pray with Zarathustra
we'll pray just like we usta
I'm a Zarathustra boosta
and it's good enough for me.

We will pray with those old Druids
They drink fermented fluids
running amuck in the woo-oods
and it's good enough for me.

I know who played me the LP of this song that I liked, but no idea who sang it. I'll have to ask him for details one of these days. (Um, yeah) Ah, the man who got away... wait, that's a different song.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

A Song You Want to Play at Your Funeral

I do not wish to play any song at my funeral.

First of all, I will be dead, and thus in no condition to perform in any capacity as relates to music.

Second, though I do like music, I'd rather have someone else perform. Preferably this person or persons would be good enough to raise a tear or two, and inspire people to say, "gosh, this church has some nice tunes." A lot of the people I would hope would consider attending my funeral aren't really church-goers, so I'd ideally get to share with them some of why I am.

Sheesh, but I sound preachy: sorry.

For the sake of argument, I'll assume that the question's intent is, "what song would you choose to have performed at your funeral?"

Serious answer: lots of good, loud, chestnut-style hymns. I tend to like some of the quirky ones ("Come Labor On" "God is Working His Purpose Out") that not a lot of folks know and fewer like. I want this music to be fun and moving for those who sing it yes, congregation, I mean you) so something such as For All the Saints, which goes on for many verses, would be ideal.

Note: I picked this YouTube version because it's a kid playing with mastery of the instrument, and you can his see feet and hands: way cool, very well done.

OK, so the funeral is over and some of my loved ones have no desire to set foot in a sacred space again - what now? Something pretty and soft, please - maybe a little Mozart.

Monday, October 03, 2011

A Song Your Want Played at Your Wedding

I know it's trite, but I love The Widor Toccata which, I know is properly known as the fifth movement. Don't get me wrong, I am a geek enough to know that the whole piece rocks, but I love this bit. If I had a long enough train, a huge bouquet and a grin the size of Belgium on my face, this would be my recessional.

However, I am a coward.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Song You Listen To When You Are Sad

I think the real question is, why are you listening to music whilst feeling sad?

If the answer is that you hope the music will improve your mood, then I choose something loud and obnoxious, such as:

Dancing With Myself because after a few moments of sentimentality for fraternity parties when I was in college and could stay up dancing until 3 AM, I'm laughing too hard to be sad.

Cast parties often last until well after 3 AM, but the music usually got turned off by then - except for the years when we could party in the theater, but that's another story that I won;t post on-line.

If, on the other hand, you want to have a really good wallow, sob for a bit and feel generally morose, then:

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas a family trying to be brave and feeling that all is lost. This is maudlin well done, and never fails to make me cry.

P.S. I maintain that I have shown great courage in holding off on Judy Garland this long.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"The Help" - book club observations

Our Invisible Friends Book Club has been reading The Help over the last few weeks. As per the rules of the club, here are my thoughts -

The Help: A Novel by Kathryn Stockett - Penguin - 2009

For the record, the waiting list at my local library was quite long, but my church library had a copy. As I say to the people who dislike the Harry Potter series, hey, at least people are reading something with plot and vocabulary words.

My apologies if I run on too long, but I have a lot to say... what else is new?

I fully expected Help to be a very readable story, told in a strong narrative voice, with attention paid to presenting the different points if view of each character. In this, I'd argue that Stockett succeeded in spades. It was very easy to follow the different points of view and understandings of a certain situation or relationship, and she did a great job at referring back to certain moments from time to time to let us see how they played out for different levels.

I also expected a few of the usual stereotypes to fall into play - I admit that I read a lot about this novel in People magazine and almost as much about the movie - with the clueless white woman, the nasty white woman, the tough African-American, the maid with a heart of gold, etc. I think Stockett did a good job at trying to make them multi-faceted, but the basic tropes still held.

That having been said, I think it's entirely possible to write novels that run the same tropes over and over again and do it well. To my mind, the romance novelist Victoria Holt did this brilliantly. One can use a formula over and over again with twists and keep it fresh.

My first problem with Help is that the formula didn't have twists. Stockett executed it well, but I anticipated every single one. Maybe this is due to my having read too much chick lit (I have another theory, but more on that in a second) but even if I hadn't read People I could have anticipated every piece of this plot from the get go. Now, is this a negative vote? Not necessarily - remember that Victoria Holt is predictable - but I did keep waiting for a surprise.

My second problem has less to do with Stockett than with the need that she is trying to address and some questions that I think she leaves unexplored.

1) Need - as a history teacher, I bang my head into my hands every day against the ignorance people have about American History. Stockett is making an admirable effort, with hindsight as 20-20, to shake people out of complacency about issues of race in the 50s and 60s - some of which endure. (Illegally employed nannies, anyone?) I think some (not all) Americans are finally able to look at the separate toilets issue as silly, but we're repeating it with headscarves today.

I've never lived in the south, but I have lived in apartments in Chicago that were designed with tiny bedrooms and attached bathrooms for the maid. Full bathrooms.

2)OK, speaking of history, here's where I think Stockett misses a truly amazing opportunity. She sets up the character of Minny as a well-intentioned but blunt woman who stays in an unhappy marriage because she has a man and that's status. She should have mentioned or referenced the findings of Daniel Patrick Moynihan's report on The Negro Family and how the single parent (and grandparent) households' experiences and needs tied in with the events of the book. The Federal Government did a lot to encourage single mother households - unintentionally, but the legacy dates back to the Great depression. (If you want a bibliography, I can oblige.)

Yes, I am demanding more. If this is a novel with a history lesson to people who hated high school history class, more history needs to be presented. DPM's committee's observations should have been pushed further forward.

OK, really, I'm almost done.

This group is a lot of fun to me because we bring a huge array of reading backgrounds - we all love books, but we have different preferences. Though I have compared Help to Holt's novels, I have to throw in the caveat that I kept hoping that this would be an Agatha Christie style text. Where Holt throws twists, if you read a lot of Christie, you discover that she throws tornadoes. I was hoping for a storm, but it never came.

I would love to listen to a panel of Stockett and Sharyn McCrumb, - McCrumb writes mysteries with many of the same issues Stockett addresses, but with a more deft hand. McCrumb addresses alcoholism, race and bias very well. What I think the two have in common is that they both examine the pecking order that starts so young and lasts a lifetime. We may pretend that the popular kids and the bullies don't win, but they do hold immense sway, particularly in small communities. I do not say towns, I say communities. Even in 2011, the game of knowing to whom you must be polite, with whom you must flirt, with whom you must be docile, etc. is still very much with us, "late and soon" and I do think that Stockett nails this angle.

All in all, I'd call this a mixed bag. The plot is predictable, but the narrative is engaging. There are missed opportunities, but the mantra that one lives on in the love and example set for children is truly awesome.

Friday, September 09, 2011

A Song You Listen To When Happy

"As Soon as the Sun Comes Down" by Animal Logic

Animal Logic

Animal Logic was something of a "let's get folks together and make an album" situation. Stewart Copeland of the Police is probably the name best known, but I love the sound of Deborah Holland's voice, and I think it's very noteworthy that she wrote most of the songs on the group's albums.

I had a boyfriend with the self-titled CD, but his brother "borrowed" it and it never came back. This prevented me from borrowing it and having a similar case of amnesia. A friend with the CD and without such a boyfriend's brother copied the album onto cassette for me (hey, this is what college students did before we worried about file sharing.) Now that I don't have a cassette player, this song only plays in my head, but I can still hear every bit.

This is a terrible recording of "Sun," obviously done live, but it's all I could find on You Tube.

As Soon as the Sun Comes Down"

Holland's voice is obviously tired - on the album, the notes of this song come out as a low purr.

Monday, August 29, 2011

a song you listen to when angry

I skipped "Song From Favorite Album" as I just couldn't pick a single album, and by the time I'd waxed on about all of the ones I love, I'd still be hard pressed to select just one song.

There's a lot of Sondheim that's great for being angry - "Could I Leave You" from Follies possibly being the best, even if I'm not angry at or with a person. I think this song is most effective when sung by a man, though it's written for a woman, so if I hear it in my head, I hear a second tenor gnashing through the rhymes, insults and nastiness.

"Good Luck" by Basement Jaxx is on the soundtrack to Queer Eye For The Straight Guy (oh, how I mourned when that show jumped the shark, so thoroughly, all in one episode...)

Good Luck

It is impossible to listen to this song at a low volume. It is meant to be played loudly. You don't just hear or feel the rage (or both) - it screams at you on all levels.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Song You Wish You Heard on the Radio

Years ago, one of the Indianapolis radio stations (best of the 80s - loved it) announced that in a week or so, their format would be changing. In the meantime they would play (obvious choice) television theme songs.

Here's the catch - they did this for three days with no disc jockeys. They'd play a theme song, but with no information. Half of the time I would hear the opening notes and know - "love, exciting and new" or it would be the theme music to Dynasty or to Unsolved Mysteries and I'd yell the name. Other times, I'd know that I knew the tune, but could not place it: drove me bonkers, but I loved it.

I listened to that radio station pretty much non-stop for three days. It was awesome. Then it started all Spanish content, and that was the end of my fun.

I won't want to hear a song on the radio - I want those three days of, "wait! I know this!" back. So instead of a song, I wish to have a station that only plays television theme songs.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Song You Always Hear On the Radio

Believe it or not, I have no answer for this question. Almost all of my radio listening is NPR and the BBC International News and I don't really count their theme music as songs, though I do hope that their composers were well paid.

Friday, August 05, 2011

A Song You Once Loved, But Now Hate

Tricky - I tend to be fiercely loyal beyond the point of reason or rationality, whether it be people, places, things ("so I unpacked my adjectives") or music.

"Have Some Madeira, M'Dear"

by the Limelighters struck me as very funny as a kid. As an adult, I realized that it is, technically, about date rape, hence much less funny.

Interesting how much the world has changed - in the sixties, a group that encouraged brotherhood, etc. got laughs with a song like this. As a history teacher, I get the humor, but it's a lot more creepy now.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

A Song That Describes You

Whew! I've been pondering this one for a while.

"Jesus Child" by John Rutter is one of the pieces that I have such joy and such fun in singing. I have posted this particular version partly because the choir has clearly worked at it... and partly because I love seeing the men come dashing in (having obviously not been aware that they were on) and yet they jump right it. May I add that this is not an easy piece to need said jump - it goes very fast, and there's enough repetition that you've got to stay focused, so it speaks to this choir that the late men could make that leap. (Also to the women that they didn't beat the men soundly with their music folders...) This is hilarious and spirited. Given that I love to sing, and I love to laugh, and that singing church music has been a large part of my life for (cough) years, this describes me.

Sort of fits me.

"Shy" from Once Upon a Mattress is also a good fit.

This was one of my big numbers when I had the lead in the high school musical. I honestly think that the director chose the show for this song for me, because he knew that though I'm an extrovert, I actually am very shy. For those not in the know, this is Carol Burnett in her break-out role, singing at the top of her lungs about being shy, which is pretty much what I do.

Sort of fits me.

As long as I'm on Carol Burnett, though, Sondheim's "Could I Leave You" should be mentioned.

There's a time and a place to be catty.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Day Thirteen - Song Meme - A Guilty Pleaure

I've been told that the new "30 Days Meme" is all about musical theater, a genre where I'm more likely to be focused in my replies, and that I am behind the times by only being on day thirteen.

So be it. :-) It's my blog.

Oh, and a recent student evaluation complained that I should not use smiley faces when I write comments. Again, it's my class. So be it.

Speaking of show tunes, I reserve the right to sing (quietly) "The Lusty Month of May" on May Day, and "June is Bustin' Out all Over" on the first of June. One song was written for a soprano and another for an alto, so I can pretend that it's vocal exercise, right? Well, maybe it is, but they're both damned fine songs and I know all the words, so why not?

I think that "guilty pleasure" means "a song you really like, don't know why, but that doesn't matter, you might feel vaguely guilty, or a bit silly, but you like the song anyway, and so what if you think I'm a bit odd." (Well, I am a bit odd.)

"What Fool Believes" by the Doobie Brothers - I'd post a link, but You Tube is being weird - is that guilty pleasure. I blush to think about how high up it is in my itunes frequent play list.

First of all, this is a great song to sing at the top of my lungs when it comes on the car radio, particularly on a sunny day when the windows are open. Secondly, though my music theory and arrangement music and sense of harmony is thin, this song has some great non-sung moments when I love to sing "bump-bump-bump" etc.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Day Twelve of Song meme

A song from a band you hate


The problem with this question is that if I dislike a band, I'm probably not going to know any of their songs well enough to remember a name of any individual one. To paraphrase Dave Barry, I've caused great pain to my car radio hitting buttons to remove "Maybe I'm Amazed" from my listening space, but I don't hate Paul McCartney.

Years ago, a very musical friend confessed that he hated everything Judy Garland had ever recorded. (I know she's not a band, but bear with me.) After a bit of chat, I went home and made him a copy of Garland singing "Purple People Eater." Friend now says that he hates almost everything Garland ever recorded.

This friend comes to mind because he's one of several people who have tried to make me enjoy the band Rush. Now, I've never heard them do "Purple People Eater" so I am willing to change my mind, but none of their music does anything for me... hence my not being able to name any of their songs.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Today is George's birthday.

George gave new meaning to the word "extrovert" - you could not say "Good Morning" to him without it becoming a fifteen minute conversation. It was always funny, detailed, smart and enjoyable. He cared deeply, believed deeply, and was the first person to stand up for what he thought was right.

Note that I say was. George died, peacefully, several months ago.

I'm staggering with the number of people who have wished George Happy Birthday on Facebook today. His family did post an update to say that he'd left us, but an incredible number of people seem not to have noticed.

George - I noticed. Happy Birthday.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day Ten - a Song That Makes You Fall Asleep

I've been alerted that there is a code that will let me embed You Tube links more directly to these posts. Stand by - I might actually learn some technology.

That having been said, no link this time.

At my alma mater, one of the fraternities had a music tradition that has always made me laugh. During Hell Week, pledges had to spend any time that they were not in class, in the library, at meals or in the shower in the fraternity lounge, where one song would get played over and over and over, 24/ 7, for the entire week. One year it was "Ice, Ice Baby" and another year it was "I'm Too Sexy." I confess that the idea that people were trying to sleep to, "I'm too sexy for my cat" still makes me grin.

On a very different note, Mozart wrote plenty of rousing and stirring music, but I confess that I've always preferred his quieter stuff. It's calm and peaceful, and probably has helped more than one student get a slightly higher grade on a paper or exam. Years ago, I picked up a CD called "Mozart For Morning Coffee." It's a collection of works, primarily for strings, that are downright soothing and happy.

There's no individual tune that makes me fall asleep from this disk, but it makes me feel so peaceful and calm that sleep is inevitable. I suppose composing a series of tunes called "A Little Night Music" does make this inevitable.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day Nine - A Song You Can Dance To

I loathe, abominate and despise Dumbo.

Put a baby in my arms, and I will automatically rock it and sing "Baby Mine."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Song You Know All the Words To

Ahem. This title should be "A Song to Which You Know All the Words" - but I digress. :-) Hey, it's my blog, I can digress if I want.

I have searched You Tube, but I cannot find a good recording, or at least one that meets my standards. "This Plum Is Too Ripe" from The Fantasticks is something I mumble under my breath all too often. Consider the opening:

"This plum is too ripe."
"Please, don't watch me while I'm eating."
"You're about to drown that magnolia."
"You're - standing - in - my - KUMKWATS!!"

Apart from my soprano envy (some really great bits for the woman's voice in this quartet) this song is such a great expression of frustration. I'm not a composer or musicologist, but my take on the harmonies and whatnot is that this is how many of us argue, be it with a loved one or with the idiot in front of us on the Interstate.

Kumkwats grow on trees. Sometimes I just get so frustrated that I need to think about standing in kumkwats.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day Seven - Thirty Days of Songs

A Song The Reminds You of A Particular Event

A great many possibilities here -

"Let the Bright Seraphim" (Handel)

reminds me very much of the Charles & Diana wedding back in 1981. Yes, I knew said tune at the time... I didn't get out much as a kid. I nearly dropped my breakfast when Kiri Te Kanawa got up and sang something I knew. Not just knew, but loved and still love...

I freely admit that some of this is probably soprano envy. Singing is great fun for me, but it's highly unlikely that I will ever stand in front of an orchestra and belt this piece out, let alone sound half as good as Te Kanawa does at it. She makes this performance all look and sound so effortless... and I'm sure that on that sunny July morning, even though she'd performed the piece countless times, Te Kanawa thought about the size of her international audience and felt at least a little nervous.

The way that the trumpet and the vocal trills come together thrills me no end. This is a piece I truly could listen to over and over again, Royal Wedding or no Royal Wedding. I'm still not entirely sure what it's about, but that doesn't matter.

As a slightly (cough) older person than the starry eyed kid with a bowl of Honey-Nut Cheerios in her lap who watched the wedding with her dog, I'm struck by this being a rather odd choice for a wedding - perhaps this is English tradition, or perhaps it's further proof that Charles didn't quite think through all of the details of marriage before jumping in.

No matter. There's nothing wrong with the occasional fairy tale.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Day Six

A Song That Reminds You of Somewhere

Oh, this is painfully easy.

As an undergraduate, double majoring and doing honors work in one of those majors at the same time might not have been the wisest academic decision on my part, but I'm damned proud of it, and would like it to be noted in my obituary. Oh, yeah, and I was in a long-distance relationship at the time. Consequently, I did not get a lot of sleep. The day I started hallucinating in class, I realized that I needed to shift a few priorities and get a bit more rest.

(I kept the boyfriend.)

I didn't sleep eight hours each night after that, but I did try to grab at least five. OK, maybe I didn't succeed, but I tried...

Sting's "Fields of Gold" always seemed to be on the radio when I woke up each morning that spring. My bed was next to the window, and I would look out at the basketball court (not very sentimental sounding, I realize) and the trees and the grass and the dew and the village waking up, and I felt so much at peace. This song puts me back to being twenty-one, feeling hope, enthusiasm, and joy - oh, yeah, and a bit of lust for that long-distance boyfriend.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thirty Days of Songs - Day Five

A Song That Reminds You Of Someone

The first few answers that come to mind are too personal to post in public. There's another answer that would lead me to write screens and screens of acidic horribleness that might be entertaining to read, but could lead to a lawsuit for slander. (Then again, it might be worth it, hmmm...)

When I worked as a camp counselor, the counselors had a song we listened to only when the kids (and the people in charge) could not hear it. It is the single most filthy song I've ever heard, and just thinking about it brings me back to the utter insanity and the sheer fun of that job, and being with that group of people. I refuse to post a link, but if you google "Eat, Bite" you'll probably find it.

One summer in my youth, my best friend and I, both quite broke, spent a lot of time doing whatever we could to get out of the house that might also be cheap. Loosely translated, this meant a lot of movies at the dollar theater and nursing cups of coffee for as long as possible. "Hands to Heaven" by Breathe

seemed to be constantly on the radio, and we went mad trying to figure out the words to the chorus. It took us far longer that we'd care to admit, but I will never forget being in the Burger King parking lot when he yelled, "tonight you calm my restlessness!"

I miss those days, and wish we now lived less than several thousand miles apart.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Thirty Days of Songs, Day Four: A Song that Makes you Sad

There are many songs that make me cry tears of sentimentality. I don't think that's what this question wants us to ponder.

Harriet's post about her (now deceased) friend from college I think may be the best I've seen on this topic. I've lost family and friends, far too early and far too soon, but no one with whom I ever so strongly associated any piece of music.

Many moons ago, my mother took me on a trip to Washington, D.C. The Vietnam Memorial was still new, and was among the places we visited. My mother went straight to the part of the wall that she knew would have the names of her high school classmates.

I have seen my mother cry. I have seen my mother sob.

My mother put her hand on the panel with the names and wept, the first and only time I have ever seen her do this. She ran her fingers over the name of every man she knew in high school who didn't make it back home. She stood, very still, and stared at the names, and then made rubbings of the names for their parents, people she hadn't seen in twenty-five years, but she knew that the rubbings would bring comfort when she mailed them to parents, keeping alive the memories, knowing that their names were not lost, would make a difference, that this recognition had been accorded to them in death.

I already knew the song "Goodnight Saigon" by Billy Joel, but it's had a deeper significance ever since seeing my mother, on that sunny day, weeping.

I didn't plan this (I'm not good with schedules) but as this is Memorial Day, thank you to the men and women who left this country to fight for the protection of what is good, and a particular thanks to the families of the ones who didn't make it home.

At eighteen one might be physically fittest, but that doesn't mean that you have the maturity to handle all that war entails. I felt pretty clueless at eighteen (and nineteen, for that matter) and my biggest challenge was getting to class on time. Faced with jungle, with a war no one seems to have understood, with an enemy not always visible... these men (and some brave women!) "clung to each other/ like brother to brother" and they did their jobs, they did their duty, they tried to do the best, even when it wasn't clear what "best" might be.

I like the opening of this song more than the conclusion - the opening suggests a man who is very much trying to find his feet, to know what to do, how to do it. The end of the song suggestions resignation, knowing that one will die, and however hard life might be, I refuse to give up.

As a slightly older person than I was when standing with Mom at the Vietnam Memorial, what grabs me now is thinking about this song in the context of World War I. I think about the charge at Gallipolis, and the men who left behind their personal possessions and wedding rings, knowing that they were about to die.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Day #3 - A Song That Makes you Happy

Again, I just get to pick one? Sheesh. :-)

When I was a junior in college I ended up in a dormitory with the best shower ever. I want to emphasize this point. Fantastic shower. Plenty of hot water, plenty of room for your shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc. - and this shower stall just cried out for you to sing in it. I probably annoyed the heck out of everyone else on my floor, but I sang in that shower every day, all year. This shower might have been the reason that I actually passed my biology class.

I am definitely NOT a morning person, but that shower got me up and moving six days a week. (Hey, Saturdays are for sleeping in, right?)

In my sophomore year, my college did a production of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Gondoliers. A year later, I was still singing this song in the shower. It's been (cough) years and I still sing it in the shower. I refuse to sing it in public, (let alone while dry) but it's an awful lot of fun.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day Two - Your Least Favorite Song

Again, there are many possible answers.

My first choice would be "Jesus is the Rock and He Rolls My Blues Away," a song I only sang because I was a camp counselor and was being paid to be chipper. This song is even more horrible than the title suggests.

It goes on for five verses. Five.

Harriet chose "And We Danced" by the Hooters for her answer to this question. This startled me. It might be a moral failing on my part, but the same part of me that hates the above mentioned song like a bit of mindless fluff to which one can dance. I liked the Hooters' MTV videos. I wish their music turned up on the radio. The funny sounding mouth organ-type instruments make me grin.

Second choice would be anything by Paul McCartney, with "Silly Love Songs" pretty high in the pantheon. He's trying too hard. He's better than all of us. Mock him if you will (and I will) but he's far above the rest of us. I will go grovel in shame and misery at the sheer thought of this song.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Thirty Days of Songs - Day One

Day One: Your Favorite Song:

OK, I'll start by saying that this meme will probably take me sixty days, rather than thirty. I don't blog every day, I'm going to be out of town for a week, I tend to procrastinate... but enough apologies. I've been challenged, so I'll jump in.

As has been said by so many, it's hard to pick just one song. There's a lot of music that is part of my soul, and that I will probably still be singing in the shower long after I have forgotten much else. I could list endless hymns, random anthems, and any number of lullabies.

I confess to having a weakness for Sondheim, so in the end I went with the song that always makes me cry and makes me feel brave - "Sunday" from Sunday in the Park With George.

Monday, May 16, 2011

grocery runs

I did the usual Monday morning run to the mega-grocery store today - bread, milk, pizza, pickles, all lemming staples - and noticed, yet again, just how many of the shoppers alongside me were Dads with toddlers. Said Dads obviously had not woken up, realized that today they had to bring snacks to pre-school and panicked, but had shopping lists and obviously planned to get everything their family needed for the week.

I'm all in favor of stay-at-home dads, but we all know that the economy has generated quite a few dads who now stay at home without ever having planned on doing so.

What really struck me this morning was how many of the dads were laughing and joking with their toddlers. None of the kids had a screaming fit when told they couldn't have fruit snacks, all wore clean clothes and most of the girls had ponytails, braids or other hair accessories. Some of the older children tried to make out letters on the grocery lists.

OK, I confess - I spent much more time people watching than finding pickles; it just struck me as a wonderful bit of humanity at a hard time in our history.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Lord, what fools these mortals be

Two people whom I know slightly seem to be headed toward a court battle. I've tried to clap on my "historian research hat" (sorry, Necromancy, but no feathers) in being aware of the situation, steering a clear path of being involved... but I admit that the part of me that loves People Magazine is fascinated by the mutual mess. Here are the lessons I have observed - already knew, but am now reminded of, yet again:

1) Always always always have a thoroughly legal contract. Do not trust anyone at their word. Write it all down, get it signed and witnessed.

2) For the love of pete, keep your mutual friends and acquaintances out of it.

3) Hanging up on people is immature and only exacerbates the situation. Take a deep breath, be adult enough to say that perhaps you two are misunderstanding each other, and try again.

Had these two people followed these three basic steps, their lives would be a lot less messy, and their legal bills much less expensive, than they are right now.

None of this involves me personally, and I'm hardly cut up about it - I'm just fascinated that three steps which, to me, seem like basic common sense, got so badly over-looked.

Monday, May 02, 2011


Sometimes you just have to square your shoulders and keep on going.

Monday, April 18, 2011


I am not a shoe person. One of the sopranos has a shoe collection to rival Imelda Marcos. I tend to buy one pair of black dress shoes and then wear them until they fall apart and buy another.

Yesterday, the choir did a concert. I realized within about five minutes that I needed different shoes; by the end of the concert, I could not feel my feet. The Imelda Marcos lady, wearing four inch heels, still had high notes and could dance. Clearly, I am missing something...

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

what do you need?

Years and years ago, I was at a women only gathering where we had to write down answers to a series of open-ended questions. I don't remember all of them, but one was, "which appliance do you need the most?"

I confess that I chose the hot water heater over the coffee maker. I can always go out for coffee, but cold showers, yuck.

On Sunday, a tree in the neighbors' yard fell down and knocked out a chunk of the fence and the Internet connection at lemming headquarters. With the Internet connected again, I'm trying to decide between hot water and the Internet...

Friday, March 25, 2011


The ATC (Alarmingly Tall Contractor) who put a new roof on lemming headquarters back in May of 2009 is due today to fix my upstairs toilet. Why is it that the bathroom is cleaner for him than for my mother?

Meanwhile, I cannot keep remembering the line from "Poor Judd is Daid" in Oklahoma! "His fingernails have never been so clean."

Monday, March 07, 2011

more on Seduction of Water

I've heard from a few of the book club people that you found Seduction entertaining, but that the strings of coincidences seemed a bit too implausible.

I agree that there are quite a few of these strings. Maybe it's because I have watched too many episodes of Doctor Who but I'm all right with suspending a little disbelief now and again. More likely, I think that I'm not bothered because I have experienced just enough random moments in life that I find such moments plausible. For example, running into my seventh grade English teacher a thousand miles from home and fifteen years later sounds completely impossible, but it happened. My honorary aunt running into my father at Westminster Abbey sounds beyond impossible, but it happened. Maybe it's the whole "believe three impossible things before breakfast" aspect of Alice in Wonderland/ Through the Looking Glass at work in my life...

Speaking of Doctor Who, the former writer for the show, Russell T. Davies, has remarked that he thinks that the relationship between mothers and daughters can be very complex and fascinating to explore. I am very grateful that my mother is still alive, and that I've had a chance to know her as adult to adult. Iris' struggle to know a mother she lost while still a child really intrigued me somehow...

Plus, I'm a history teacher, so I love reading about research and the headaches one gets from microfilm!

Monday, February 28, 2011

another death

Word just reached me of the death of a high school English teacher. Reading between the lines, I'm guessing heart attack.

Hindsight, as is so often said, is 20/ 20. I have a hunch that the year I had this teacher, he suffered from a very deep divorce-induced depression, and was very slowly putting his life back together. He taught us well, though not brilliantly, but I'm struck by the occasional flashes of amazing insight into Dickens and Wordsworth that stick with me several years later. A year or two earlier, a year or two later - I can only imagine what he must have been like. Beware the quiet and understated teachers who give you clever assignments...

I regret not having told him that I still quote some of the big classroom mantras years later to my own students. I really need to compile a list of great teachers and tell them now while I still can.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

book club update

I've heard from a few of you and I am much relieved to learn that you have liked the book thus far. :-) As I reread Water one of the pieces that strikes me is how well, IMHO, Goodman sets up descriptions of places, dresses, etc. that don't necessarily carry deep importance to the overall plot, but do give you an imaginary landscape within which to place the characters.

I'm a mystery addict - not necessarily murder mysteries, any kind of mystery - which is probably also why Iris' search to better understand her roots appeals to me; as a history teacher, I am all in favor of knowing and searching for one's roots, but the mysterious aspect behind Iris' background appeals to me as well. I like how Goodman teases them out, throwing in clues, but also some red herrings.

As we get closer to our March 15 "meeting" I'd be curious to know what all of you think about the minor characters; I think Goodman does a great job at filling in just enough details for each of their back stories to keep the reader following them even as they think about Iris.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

a death

I didn't know L well. She was a senior, I was a freshman, and the only reason I knew her at all was that we had mutual friends.

I am eternally grateful to L for rescuing me from one of those nasty, "ack, someone is hitting on me and I don't know how to react" situations.

The latest issue of the alumni magazine contains her obit - she was forty-two. No, I don't know what happened, though it sounds like she led a happy life. I hope so, at least. Strange to think of someone my age as dead.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

cars and Water

1) Cars - my car, aka "Phil" is a very reliable Honda. When the "maintenance required" light came on (which it never does) I patted Phil's dashboard and made an appointment to bring him in today. It's been six hours and there's no word from the mechanics. I am beginning to worry...

2) Water For those of you in the book club, or simply playing along at home, here's an opening:

I have a weakness for quirky libraries. (I cannot believe that I'm the only one!) Years ago I used to frequent a small branch of a much larger library system which, though a bit dark and cramped, always had amazing displays of the "you didn't know about this book but you need to read it" variety. (This is how I discovered John Bellairs, but that's another topic for another book club.)

Currently, my local library is quirky mostly in that the staff knows they are balancing several different reading audiences. Vampires hold little appeal for me, and I'm not much for the latest tome by a politician or political commentator. At the same time, the staff are pretty good about putting up interesting memoirs and novels.

This is how I came upon The Seduction of Water. In all seriousness, I picked it up because I liked the cover. I scanned the first page, sat down to read the second, and after fifty pages, read in the library, realized that I should probably take it home.

More on the actual book later. :-)

Sunday, February 06, 2011

blogging again

Yes, I'm back to blogging again - after Sam died, I lost a lost of heart for it, as so many of my posts were about him.

Sam died a very peaceful death after a long and well lived, well loved life, which is not too shabby for a dog whom someone dumped in an area where he really shouldn't have survived. I finally sat down and read through some of the posts I did about him, and that was quite a help.

So, updates: I've joined an on-line book group, and (gulp) my choice is the first one up. I'll post some thoughts about it soon, though I know some of you have already read the entire thing. The book is by Carol Goodman and is titled The Seduction of Water. I found it very compelling and thought provoking.

Friday, January 28, 2011


I know exactly where I was when I heard about Challenger blowing up - I can tell you exactly which desk in which room, the color of the walls, what I was supposed to be doing but wasn't... (I learned how to french braid my hair in study hall that year.)

I remember watching the replays on television over and over and over before lunch and then we were supposed to go on with our academic day.

Listening to the NPR coverage of it being 25 years (how did I get to be so old?!) there was a reference to the shuttle explosion later on. That's vivid, but for different reasons- I was trapped in a traffic jam, desperate to get home, and turned on the radio for a distraction. Certainly a distraction...

My heart breaks for the families of these brave men and women, and I do not say that lightly. RIP.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

hot cocoa

There's a very nice woman in my neighborhood, about my age, who also works from home. She does something with scrap-booking as a profession and as I do not have the arts & crafts gene, I'm not entirely sure that I understand it.

We've been casual friends for a few years now - always a wave and a smile when we pass by, she noticed that Sam wasn't in the yard and sent her condolences, I watched her kids once - but it took us until this summer to actually sit down and have lunch together.

There's plenty that we don't have in common, but quite a lot that we do. Yesterday we spent some time just having cocoa together and having girl talk. I need to remember to do that again.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

woof woof woof

A neighbor (whom I do not know well at all) took her dog for a walk and forgot her keys. To cut a long story short, no one had a spare key to her house, her husband was away and wouldn't be back until after midnight and it's cold in Indiana at this time of year.

I apologized for the condition of lemming headquarters (it was laundry day) but said I'd be more than happy to put her and the dog up until husband got home. I'd already planned on pizza for supper - pizza crusts were one of Sam's favorite treats - and it was great to have a dog in the kitchen, sitting, patiently, who quickly figured out that in this house, as in his own, pizza crusts definitely belonged to dogs, not humans.

Dakota (the dog) quickly mellowed out and had a few "really, I'm vigilant, you just think I'm napping" moments. I had to work, but tried to pop out every half hour or so to socialize... the petting and scratching of a dog's ears were, of course, purely circumstantial. Dakota even spent time barking at the squirrels in the backyard (Sam's nemesis) so we're safe for a day or so.

I miss being owned by a dog.