Three o’clock in the morning music


I used to subscribe to Stereo Review in the early 1970s, and I read their articles – especially their record and music reviews – very religiously; they were a huge part of my musical education. (Oh my god, was it really forty years ago?) Anyway, one of the reviewers, when discussing one of the Schubert piano sonatas, described it as “three o’clock in the morning music.” And I knew what he meant: dry intimate personal quiet music. I think each of us must have his own type.



I don’t want to sound like a snob, but my three-in-the-morning music is the Beethoven quartets (especially the late ones) and the Scriabin piano music.



Why? It’s like listening to the musical equivalent of Morse code. There’s rhythm and harmony there, and sometimes even (especially in Beethoven, but in Scriabin too) something like melody, but the reasoning – the logic that leads from note to note, passage to passage – goes beyond words.



I’ve been listening to the Razumovsky quartets every evening now for about two weeks. I turn on the CD around 10:00 pm. I don’t really listen – not intently – but then again, yes I do. I know it by heart, and it throbs in my head. It’s quiet, and intense, and gentle. It’s playing right this moment as I write this.



There’s a famous moment in Aldous Huxley’s “Point Counter Point” in which a character listens to the third movement of the Beethoven A minor quartet, having arranged his own death and while waiting for his killers to arrive. For him, the music is perfect – so much so that everyday life, in comparison, become worthless.



I get quite the opposite message from this music. Beethoven called it his “Heiliger Dankgesang,” his Holy Song of Praise. It is quiet and lovely and passionate. I hear nature, and humanity, and simple earthy gestures, and simple tunes that weave together to make a grand perfect structure.



What’s that line from Auden? “Nothing is better than life.”



I agree.



And I think Beethoven (and even poor crazy Scriabin) agree also.



Even at three o’clock in the morning.



Sunday blog: “Low Rider,” by War


 Hey!  Another old video!




Hey! It’s got a nice backup, and a nice rhythm.  And, according to Wikipedia, this song has been featured in at least thirteen movies, including “Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke.”




So there!






The Arbor Day Foundation


 I have pretty much given up on charitable giving.  This is ironic, since I work for the fundraising division of a not-for-profit enterprise.  Oh, I still give away a few bucks here and there.  I give to my employer, of course, just to be nice.  I don’t give much; I figure I’ve given the last quarter-century of my working life to them, which should count for something.




I used to give to every charity that sent me a note: illnesses, injuries, religious groups.  Some of them fill their appeal envelopes with the most ridiculous chotchkes.  Partner gets stuff from an organization callled Saint Joseph’s School, a religious school for Native Americans, and they’re always sending him dreamcatchers and such.  A few years ago, however, they stupidly sent their yearly financial statement, which revealed that they were spending an unconscionable amount of money on, you guessed it, overhead like fundraising and administration.  All those little gifts from sympathetic people around the country weren’t going to the children after all; they were going to purchase Chinese-manufactured dreamcatchers, to send to people all over the country and make them feel guilty.



Even some of my favorites have gone by the wayside.  I have given up the Smithsonian, and the Planetary Fund.  I still give my alma mater Gonzaga University a few bucks a year, because I was a scholarship student there – back when tuition was less than five thou a year – and I can only imagine what modern students (and parents) are paying now.



But I still renew my yearly membership in the Arbor Day Foundation.




believe in trees. I believe in growth, and renewal.  I believe that, no matter what happens to the human race, there will still be trees around to witness what happens next.



Take a look at their website, please.  And remember what trees do for you.  And give some small money to them.




It ain’t easy being mean



I am sometimes truly wicked, I suppose. I do horrible things casually, and I can justify them to myself somehow.



But then there are the little mean things I do.



Apollonia was telling some long-winded story the other day about being in the produce department and squeezing all of the canteloupes, because she wanted one that was perfect. “And I didn’t want to drop them,” she said.



I snorted. “Roll them on the floor,” I said. “That’s what I do. Who cares? I throw ’em in every direction when I’m done with them.”



She looked at me incredulously, but with some appreciation. I suspect the managers in Apollonia’s local market are in for some trouble soon.



Also I have difficulty with fools. Recently a very nice young woman in my department arranged an ice-cream social: free Popsicles, free ice-cream sandwiches. She sat at a little table and very graciously handed them out. I was a good boy and had only one of each. But then some nasty-looking people from another building came over and helped themselves. “Hey, Loren!” the ringleader challenged me. “What’s your riddle?”



“Excuse me?” I said.



“On your Popsicle stick!” she said.



I looked down, and sure enough, there was a riddle on my Popsicle stick. “’What bird is the rudest bird?’” I read aloud.



Nasty-Looking Person From Another Department looked befuddled. “I don’t know. What?”



I glanced at her briefly, then threw the stick in the trash. “Who cares?” I said.



(Naturally I enjoyed the look of utter confusion on her face. I love doing that to people.)



Well, that was mean, I know. Not, probably, a mortal sin. But unpleasant and unneighborly.



But, as I said:



Who cares?



I hate purses: or, The lost art of conversation, and why it will probably remain lost


 “I hate purses,” Apollonia sighed.  “That’s why I have so many of them.  I have a compulsion to buy them, and then I hate myself for buying them, and then I buy another one.”  She buried her face in her hands.  “It’s a sickness.”



“Do you have a pencil?” I said, pulling out my pocket diary.  “That particular gem is too perfectly twisted to go unmemorialized.  It needs to be written down.”



“You’d better not put that online –“



“Too late, babe.  Once you’ve said it out loud, it’s public domain.”  I mimed a butterfly springing out of my mouth and fluttering around the room.  “It’s everywhere now.”



“Great,” she grunted.  “You’re a regular Hedda Hopper.”



“I take that as a compliment,” I said.



“Except,” Apollonia said, her eyes glittering, going in for the kill, “that she was more attractive than you.”



And this is how we spend our idle moments.



It’s a pity that this witty banter is lost; that’s why I like to note it down. 



And, kids, who even remembers Hedda Hopper anymore, except for Apollonia and me?



Happy Thursday.



(If you think of it, send Apollonia your old purses.  She hates them.  And, by that, I mean she loves them.)



The Magic Kingdom, pro and con



To paraphrase Julius Caesar: all Disney World is divided into four parts. 



You’ve got Epcot, which is nerd paradise.  I could happily wander in circles there for days at a time.  There are a few rides here and there, but it’s mostly educational, which is not so good for children.  (I recommend Spaceship Earth, a slow-paced trip through the past and future narrated by Judi Dench, that ends with a crazily funny video featuring you!)



You’ve got the Animal Kingdom, the nicest zoo I’ve ever seen.  They added Mount Everest since I last visited, and it is beautiful.  I love the India area in general (they call it “Anandapur,” pretending that it’s an independent principality in the Himalayan hill country).  Although Africa is nice too.



You’ve got the Hollywood Studios.  As far as I’m concerned, this park lacks cohesion.   It’s like Disney’s reply to Universal, you know?  There’s one good ride – the Tower of Terror – and some good miscellaneous stuff. 


And then you’ve got the Magic Kingdom.



Pro: It’s the heart of Disney.  It’s Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and Goofy.



Con: It’s ten thousand bawling children (only three of whom appear to be having fun), and five thousand zombiesque parents, and a thousand grandparents trying to keep up with the family.  (I heard a little girl scream from her stroller: “Keep up, Nana!”, to her exhausted grandmother in a wheelchair. )



Pro: Cinderella’s castle.



Con: Approximately a million people surrounding Cinderella’s Castle watching the inane show they put on every hour.  “But I beweeve in dweams!” I can still hear Donald Duck squealing.  (We always seemed to pass by the castle right at that moment.)



Pro: The Haunted Mansion, which is still fun even after all these years.



Con: The 45-minute wait to get into the Haunted Mansion, while standing in the hot Florida sunshine.



Pro: Splash Mountain!  The Big Thunder Railroad!



Con: Two burgers, two fries, and two Cokes, for thirty dollars!



Pro: Toontown, where Mickey and Minnie live, and you can sit in Minnie’s big heart-shaped chair, and tsk at Mickey’s kitchen, which is being (chaotically) remodeled by Donald and Goofy.



Con: As of this year, Toontown is closed.



I could go on forever. 






We happened to stop into one of the photo-op places where some of the characters were posing with children.



One child – really just a baby – was completely entranced with Winnie-the-Pooh.  It was one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever seen.  You could tell that the baby was completely delighted by this big soft smiling creature, and was laughing and smiling the whole time.  He/she was just old enough to believe that this big soft gentle smiling creature was one of his/her own toys come to life – just like in the story! – and the person in the Winnie suit was playing with the baby adorably, rolling on the floor with him/her.



It tore our hearts out to watch it.



And that’s maybe why you should visit the Magic Kingdom.



Just make sure you have thirty bucks in your pocket for burgers and fries.



The magic road to recovery; or, Look like a zombie in only three days!


 Recovery from an illness is very nice, of course.  But there are very many things you have to take into account.



Your looks, for example.



I am not a beefy specimen to begin with.  So three days of fever and almost no food made me lose another three pounds.  I looked in the mirror yesterday morning before work and saw a cast member of “The Walking Dead.”  (The strange flyaway hair didn’t help, nor did the interesting green/gray/pale skin tone.)  It is almost a miracle that people didn’t rear back from me and shriek when they saw me.  Actually, one did, my Truthsayer Gaius Helen Mohiam AKA Apollonia, who lifted her eyes to me, bellowed, and said, “You look horrible!  But not in a bad way.”  (I tried lunging at myself and snapping when I saw myself in the bathroom mirror, and it was pretty effective.  If I can hold onto this look for another two weeks, I can save money on Halloween makeup.)



My posture, never good, has now become a staggering lurching horror, like the shadow chasing you down the hallway in a Hitchcock movie.  Again, I like this.  Anything to bring fear to the hearts of those around me. 



But you know what?  It’s all right.  One of the founders of modern common sense, Judith Martin (better known as Miss Manners), once wrote (I can only paraphrase, I don’t have the books here) that, if you must work sick (or as I was today, not sick exactly, but just not feeling terrific), you should look sick.  This will arouse Fear and Pity in those around you, and they will keep a dignified distance from you.  This will be good for them, in case you are still contagious; it is certainly good for you, because any bozo repellent is good bozo repellent. 



Sadly, I am continuing to recover.  Thank God I have some raw avocado in the fridge.  That should keep the green color going for a couple of days . . . .




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