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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Stultus

Apparently no one warned him of the adverse effects of stupidity, either.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Irony

Would it be true irony if there were a typographical or formatting error in The Chicago Manual of Style that did not agree with The Chicago Manual of Style?

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Boys and Girls

I could imagine if I had a girls' chemistry class, they would ask questions like "What exactly does baking power do and how does it work? Why do my cookies spread when I use margarine instead of butter? Why doesn't plain water take out stains on clothes? Why does pre-treating actually work?" and other household-related questions. Kitchen chemistry has always fascinated me. For instance, the browning when you sear food (called the Maillard effect) at high temperatures provides such delicious, sweet, instense flavor is a chemical process that baffles scientists. No one can explain why it happens or what happens to provide such a wonderful flavor.

However, I have a class made up entirely of boys. So instead of those nice, gentle questions, I get questions like "Will this melt a frog if I dropped it on him? If I mixed this entire can of X, how hot would it get? How much would it take to burn the skin off my hand? Would it be a permanent scar? Would I survive if I drank this container of (a) hydrochloric acid (b) sodium hydroxide?" And I get experiments like licking battery contacts.

Boys are definitely, well, boys.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Spinning

Except for Eva Cassidy, Peter Cincotti, and Diana Krall, I haven't bought any new CD's in a very long time. Last week I joined BMG and ordered my seven free CD's. Here's what I ordered:

Phil Coulter and James Galway, Legends
Phil Coulter, Lake of Shadows (I'm not sure of the exact title; the case is in the car)
Charlotte Church, Charlotte Church
Abba, Abba Gold
Barry Manilow, Ultimate Manilow
Soundtrack from The Sound of Music
Dave Brubeck, Time Out (for Duane)
Interpretive

If you've never heard Copeland's Hoedown from the ballet Rodeo (the "Beef: it's what's for dinner" theme) from an Irish band (flute, piano, guitar, drums, tin whistle, fiddle) check it out on Galway and Coulter's album Legends.
Big kid

I bought a cute Laura Ashley bubble (onesie?) pattern for Bailey last week. I cut out the 3 (she's still in a 2 in some things), stitched it together, put it on her, and it wouldn't meet in the back.

I cut out a 4, sewed it up, put it on her, and it barely meets in the back. I can fudge with the facings to make it fit, but it is about an inch too short. I can't lengthen the legs because I already Wonder-Under'ed the cuffs to the garment. She can wear it this spring, but after that it will definitely be too small.

She went to the doctor last week and was measured at 31 pounds (50th percentile) and 41 inches tall (over 100th percentile). I think she's going to be very tall, and I'm worried about how clothes will possibly fit. All her pants are 2T, and they literally fall off her hips while coming an inch or so above her ankle bone.

I am grateful, though, that she is growing and changing every day. She is the sweetest thing (when she's not being mean!) and I'm glad that everyone she spends time with enjoys her company.

Her new line this week has been "You're freakin' me out, Stinky Pete!"

I don't know who Pete is, or why he might be stinky, but apparently Bailey doesn't approve.
Faking it

I play the piano fairly skillfully; I can hold my own but do not consider myself a true "musician". I am weak in the area of theory, and I have a very hard time memorizing music.

Last night a friend called to ask me if I could pinch-hit with children's choir (I had done it last year but just got burned out with too much to do) just this week. I said I'd be glad to. I came unprepared, and we had such a vast age range that we were thrown a little out of whack trying to figure out what to do. We decided to do some familiar congregational hymns to start.

I am an exceptional sight reader (I can sight read orchestral scores for just about anything and piano pieces that are quite difficult) but I have never been good at what counts - transposing and playing by ear. Last night I got a lot of practice at both.

Most hymns written in E Major or E flat are going to be too high for young voices; that high E or E flat really strains their voices. So, I had to transpose "All Creatures of Our God and King" down a half-step by sight - from E flat to D. Any other hymn would have been easy, but if you know that one, you know how much it moves in the inner voices. It really tested me.

To end the practice we decided to do Steve Green's "This is how we know" from Hide 'Em in Your Heart. I didn't have the music, but I knew the song. So I had to play it by ear - on the spur of the moment - and even managed to get all the chord progressions but one.

I know the best practice is practice, and I enjoyed the challenge. It seems like things like this get easier as I get older. Maybe it's because I'm more relaxed, or because I've been in these situations more often and I'm just getting used to them. Who knows.
"The Movie"

Duane is out at the theater tonight seeing "The Movie" with a friend from church. I am ambivalent about it; I might see it while I am visiting my parents, I'm not sure. If Duane tells me that cinematically speaking it was worth watching, I'll go.

Bailey spent the whole day today throwing up. This morning she woke up crying - the panicky cry - and she threw up as soon as she got out of bed. She has been fighting a severe cold the past week and a half, and I think all the post-nasal drip finally caught up and overwhelmed her tummy. We took a short trip to the local health food store to find real ginger ale. I bought a bottle and tried to give her some, and she tasted it and said "I don't like it!" I smelled it, and no wonder! I wouldn't drink it either. It smelled horrid - then I read the label, and it was lemon/lime with 17 grams of ginger (in a 12 ounce bottle!). That's practically a whole ginger root dissolved in Sprite-flavored Perrier. I went with the Pedialyte instead.

She started keeping liquids down at about 5:00 this afternoon, when Duane came home to relieve me for my violin lesson. She seemed to turn a corner and said she was very hungry (she hadn't eaten since last night). She ate a bowl of cereal minus the milk, two biscuits with grape jam, and half of a scrambled egg. She kept it down, played vigorously until bedtime, and went right to sleep.

I was so proud of her for staying calm (not easy for a slightly hypochondriac 3-year-old). Every time she was about to throw up, she would cover her mouth with her hand and run to the bathroom and put her head over the toilet. It hurt me so bad to see her little body struggling, and all I could do was rub her back and then brush her teeth. I wish I could have had the hurt tummy.

When we were sitting on the recliner watching cartoons (we were in the middle of Clifford) she turned to me and said "I love you, Mommy." I told her I was so sorry she was sick and she rubbed my hair and said "That's okay, Mommy. Daddy will come home soon and make me better."
Drop, drop, slow tears,
And bathe those beauteous feet,
Which brought from heav’n
The news and Prince of Peace.

Cease not, wet tears,
His mercies to entreat;
To cry for vengeance:
Sin doth never cease.

In your deep floods
Drown all my faults and fears;
Nor let His eye see
Sin, but through my tears.
Song 46

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Atrociously Bad Hymn

Keep in mind that my choices for ABHs are not necessarily (though often) theologically incorrect or ambiguous; many are mostly harmless but the combination of horrid poetry, schmaltzy music, and overabundant popularity among church pianists who can only play two time signatures and a handful of variations of the same rhythm pattern (think 4/4 and 6/8 and hear the tune for "Praise Him, Praise Him) qualify them for induction into the ABH Hall of Fame.

Jesus is all the world to me

Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all;
He is my strength from day to day, without Him I would fall.
When I am sad, to Him I go, no other one can cheer me so;
When I am sad, He makes me glad, He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me, my Friend in trials sore;
I go to Him for blessings, and He gives them over and o’er.
He sends the sunshine and the rain, He sends the harvest’s golden grain;
Sunshine and rain, harvest of grain, He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me, and true to Him I’ll be;
O how could I this Friend deny, when He’s so true to me?
Following Him I know I’m right, He watches o’er me day and night;
Following Him by day and night, He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me, I want no better Friend;
I trust Him now, I’ll trust Him when life’s fleeting days shall end.
Beautiful life with such a Friend, beautiful life that has no end;
Eternal life, eternal joy, He’s my Friend.

The last two lines of the first verse just make me want to giggle. There's no other way to put it.
Brisket

We had a handful of friends over last week for a get-together. I decided to make beef brisket which I've never done before. I really don't care for store-bought barbeque sauces but have never found a recipe that really satisfied me.

For you Southrons, this is not a dry rub recipe. It is a northern barbeque recipe with a reminiscence of Kansas City sauce. I found the recipe on allrecipes but had to change it up a little bit due to a lack of ingredients on hand. So, if you want to try the original, go ahead. I'll include my modified recipe.

1 3-4 pound beef brisket, fat trimmed
cast iron or other not nonstick skillet
liquid smoke
2 - 3 cups beef broth/broth and water combination
salt
pepper

Heat the skillet to a high heat. Rub the brisket with salt and pepper to taste. Place the brisket in the dry pan and sear for 2-3 minutes on each side until crusted and dark brown. To do the more narrow ends, take barbeque tongs and hold the meat upright on each end.

Place in slow cooker. Add 1 T liquid smoke and broth to come halfway up brisket. Cover, cook for 4 hours on high, turn down to low and cook for 3-4 hours more.

Remove brisket from slow cooker. Slice in 1/2 inch thick slices and allow to cool. (At this point if you can refrigerate the meat and wait until the next day it will be even better.) Slice, tear, or chop the brisket to desired texture.

After sauce is done, mix beef in with sauce and reheat. My modified recipe made a little less than 2 1/2 cups (closer to 2) and it was the perfect amount to add to the beef. When I reheated the leftovers the next day I added about 1/2 inch of beer in the pan and it was even better.

Modified Sauce Recipe

1 cup ketchup
1 T worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup light Karo syrup
4 T brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped frozen or fresh aromatic mix (onion, celery, and red peppers)
1 T garlic powder
1 t ground black pepper
2 T chili powder
2 t dry mustard
2 T tomato paste
2 T liquid smoke flavoring

In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients. Puree until smooth and transfer to a small saucepan.

Place saucepan on the stove over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 1 hour, or to desired thickness.
Quirky searches

Here are some of the searches that have turned up hits on my page:
what do the letters spqr mean in roman movies

homeschool debate pictures

build me a cabin in the corner of gloryland (continues to be my most searched-for atrociously bad hymn)

husband hold women because he have other wife seem cheat throw wife kill

build a propane powered chick brooder

ancient egyptian fingernail polish pictures

Harrison Ford’s favorite sport

magazine articles for cataline conspiracy

piggy broiled grilled photos

scottish accent (I never thought mine was very good)

scrapbookers a little overzealous

naval academy hair length
What gets creepy is that I can't remember ever using some of these words in my lifetime, let alone on my blog.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Everything I know about the French Revolution I learned from a rock opera

During my AP French 5 year in high school our teacher thought it would be fun to listen to an old rock opera called La Revolution Francaise. We could learn a little about the French Revolution, practice aural translation, and be exposed to some hard-core disco-esque rock.

This album stuck with me for years, and four years ago I finally found a copy on the Internet for about $10 from a Broadway music store in London. It immediately brought back memories of sitting in class, singing along with the musical, and translating it as we went along.

I remember the horrible cartoon artwork from the libretto that came with the vinyl (my teacher purchased the album long before cassettes were popular). She projected it up onto a screen in the front of the class so we could see some of the lyrics if we couldn't understand them. There's nothing quite like learning all your history about a particular event from rock music, especially French rock music.

What I remember about the French Revolution today I could fit on my pinky fingernail. I remember nothing, although Doug Wilson et al. often make references to it and its aftermath in various articles and papers. What I do remember, however, is how I was always affected by this song:

Au petit matin, les fleurs de mon jardin s'ouvraient a la vie
et je me vois encore couverte de rosee apres
la nuit passee, a rire, a danser, a aimer.

Au petit matin, ils viendront me chercher et me conduiront
par les rues de la ville, dans un chariot de bois, jusqu'a l'horrible endroit.
Mon Dieu, epargnez-moi la peur.

Adieu, mes enfants, je vous quitte trop tot,
je vous laisse entre les mains de Dieu,
je vous aime, adieu, adieu.

Au petit matin mes reves je m'en souviens emportaient mon coeur;
au temps de mon enfance parmi des gens hereux
un compagnon de jeux
un soir a pleure mon depart;

Le petit matin n'est deja plus tres loin;
la derniere etoile palit a la fenetre
ils vont venir bientot
et je suis deja pretes
a suivre le chemin
de mon dernier matin.
Band of Brothers

At the end of January the Monroe Symphony performed our annual Winter Pops Concert. It is a fund-raising event for the symphony. Patrons purchase tables (each table seats 8) and a ticket and come dressed up to the theme of the evening. There is a table-decorating contest and a guest conductor raffle. It is by far our most popular concert, and although a lot of the symphony members don't care for the music, I enjoy pops concerts. I wouldn't miss much of the classical repertoire I've played in symphonies in the past five or so years, and pops concerts are fun because the audience is involved and the music requires little to no preparation.

This year our guest conductor picked all the pieces for the program, and he did a wonderful job. The theme was Decades, so he picked music from different decades. We had a lot of dance music (big band all the way up to modern jazz and blues).

The concert began with a medley from the Rocky Horror Picture Show which I admit, to my chagrin, I used to attend faithfully on a very regular basis my sophomore and junior year in high school. Yes, I used to dress up. As who? Magenta. And I knew all the cat calls, and I brought my bag full of rice, toilet paper, cards, and other sundries. To this day I can't imagine how much hard-earned money (not to mention why???) I spent at that theater, sitting with really weird people with black lips and red hair. It was a stage.

The goal with the first piece (which ended with a rousing rendition of "Time Warp") was to get people up and moving; the conductor hoped we'd have some audience members doing the Time Warp. What he didn't know is that the average age of a symphony subscriber has to be well over 60; in this case, Rocky Horror was after their time.

We also did a beautiful medley from Les Mis representing the 80's. Boublil and Schonberg are quite gifted and really pioneered the concept of rock opera. They wrote not only Les Mis but also a raucous early discotheque rock opera called La Revolution Francaise. More on that later.

My favorite piece, though, was our encore - the theme from HBO's masterpiece mini-series Band of Brothers. Hearing the music on the DVD sent chills down my spine; sitting in the middle of an orchestra playing it made goosebumps stand up on my arms and tears collect in my eyes. It has to rank as one of my all-time favorite movie pieces ever, next to Edelman's Bruce and Linda from Dragon and the chorus for the Unification of Europe from Kieslowski's Bleu.
What do a lawsuit and a viola have in common?.

Everyone heaves a sigh of relief when the case is closed.

Hardly second fiddle
Despite years of being the butt of orchestra jokes, the viola is gaining new status in the hands of well-regarded players.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
By Mary Carole McCauley
Sun Arts Writer
Originally published December 29, 2003

In the hierarchical world of classical musicians, viola players have had, more than most, to bear the strings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

For nearly five centuries, they have been portrayed -- doubtless unfairly -- as the dumb blondes of the symphony orchestra.

On the Internet, in the break room, at parties, violists are the butt of jokes that cast aspersions on their intelligence and musicianship. Jokes that take a vicious glee in imagining the destruction of their instruments. Jokes that mock the viola section as a refuge for broken-down violinists. Cruel, unfeeling, insensitive jokes. Like this one:

------------------------------------------------
If a conductor and a violist are standing in the middle of the road, who do you run over first?

The conductor. Business before pleasure.
------------------------------------------------

Granted, there are jokes about other musicians. Drummers in pop music and trombonists in brass bands apparently are the butt of similar quips. Violinists are tweaked for their ego; trumpeters for their competitiveness.

Conductors, for some reason, are subject to unflattering anagrams devised from their names. According to a 1992 article in The Independent, a London newspaper, one unfortunate baton-waver became known behind his back as "I Use Pig's Nipples."

But no other instrument is targeted more frequently than the viola. Type in the term "viola jokes" on the Google search engine, and you will get 19,700 hits. Individual Web sites can be three pages, or longer.

Understandably, some violists are a bit touchy about all the joshing. Luckily, Christian Colberg, who has been playing viola with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for nine years, isn't among them. In fact, Colberg is a viola joke connoisseur.

---------------------------------
What do a lawsuit and a viola have in common?

Everyone heaves a sigh of relief when the case is closed.
---------------------------------

"There are some people who do not like the fact that jokes are made about violists," Colberg says.

"But I think that there are very few things in life that should never be laughed at. If you hold something dear, it is your responsibility to make fun of it."

Experts say that the reasons behind the unfortunate stereotyping date back to the creation of the instrument in about 1550. A viola is a few inches larger than a violin, and it has a deeper, richer tone. If the violin can be likened to a human soprano, the viola is comparable to the alto. The viola came into vogue during the era of chamber music, when the performers sat about 5 feet away from the audience, according to ethnomusicologist Carl Rahkonen, a professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. But when orchestras moved into 2,300-seat symphony halls, the instruments had trouble producing the necessary volume.

"Violins could be modified to meet the new demands," Rahkonen says. "But for a viola to be as strong acoustically as a violin, it would have to be about a third larger than it is. Such an instrument would be unplayable."

Adding to the difficulty is that in most orchestras, the viola section is to the right of the conductor, where the sound from their instruments is directed at the back of the stage, instead of out into the audience, according to Richard Field, the BSO's principal violist. Cellos and violins labor under no such handicap.

----------------------------------------
What is the most beautiful sound a viola can make?

Splash.
----------------------------------------

Jonathan Carney, the BSO's concertmaster, or top violinist, begs to differ. A closet violist, Carney loves the viola's voice, which he describes as "a wonderful, dark whiskey sound, a crazy uncle sound." And just like a crazy uncle, each viola is unique.

Violins and cellos are a uniform size, but violas range between 15.5 and 18 inches -- giving each a correspondingly different voice. Perhaps not surprisingly, it is not so easy to play a group of crazy uncles in unison. And, for that matter, not just anyone can play them. The viola strains the performer's back, neck, arm and hand.

"It is physically much more difficult to play a viola than a violin," Rahkonen says.

Schoolchildren seldom are started on the viola before middle school because they lack the requisite size and strength. And, in general, tall people are thought to have an easier time mastering the instrument because they can more comfortably tuck it beneath their chins and hold it there for long stretches of time; Carney and Colberg stand 3 or 4 inches above 6 feet.

Adding to the viola's bad name is the relative paucity of musical literature for it to play. In the 16th century, the viola usually played the middle line, which is less complicated and interesting than the upper line (performed by the violin) and the lower line (the province of the cello.)

Although Mozart and Beethoven played the viola themselves, there are precious few concertos (which feature instrumental solos) in the historic literature. In symphonic music "the first violins get the melody while the violas are relegated to the 'boom, chuck, chuck' parts," Rahkonen says. "Even if you were the world's best viola player, you would be pretty obscure as a musician." Perhaps not surprisingly, the most talented performers gravitated toward other instruments, while symphony conductors and high school music teachers began steering their most incompetent string players to the viola section, where they could do the least damage, "and maybe even make a contribution," Rahkonen says.

In the 19th century, the quality of viola playing reached a notoriously low ebb.

Opera composer Richard Wagner once raged: "The viola is commonly (with rare exceptions) played by infirm violinists, or by decrepit players of wind instruments who happen to have been acquainted with a string instrument once upon a time."

---------------------------------------------
If your airplane crash-lands in the desert, and far off in the distance you see Santa Claus, a good violist and a bad violist each holding a jug of water, who should you crawl toward?

The bad violist. The first two are figments of your imagination.
---------------------------------------------

By the 19th century, the symphony's pecking order was well-established.

"Jokes always attack people on the top and bottom of the hierarchy," Rahkonen says. "In this case, that is the conductor and the violists."

In the 20th century, the viola's lowly status began to change. Violists became more skilled, and composers began writing more for the instrument. Now, veteran performers like Field and Colberg are widely considered the equal or better of any musician in the BSO.

Such champions as Pinchas Zuckerman, who picked up the viola after achieving fame with the violin, are bringing the instrument some long-overdue cachet. (Zuckerman is acknowledged as the best viola player of the current era.)

It's taken nearly 500 years, but the viola no longer automatically plays second fiddle.

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