SaturdayMat



Sometimes the fates are unkind.  The delivery of our new, smaller washer and dryer has been inexplicably delayed, so of course Penny would pick this morning as a perfect time to barf on our bed.  Therefore, this afternoon we’ll be hanging at the Hausfra Haven laundromat, where there’s a vintage Galaxian for entertainment and a weight and fortune scale.

My fortune was:  “you love to flatter people but seldom mean it.”



Ready For Rhapsody

Last night Richard, Julianne, Kish and I went to the Columbus Symphony for the latest installment of the American Roots Festival series.  This performance was at the Southern Theater, a beautiful, more intimate venue than the mighty Ohio Theater, and featured engaging guest conductor Donato Cabrera and wonderful pianist Thomas Lauderdale.

IMG_4826It was a great program and will be performed again at 8 p.m. tonight.  It began with Dvorak’s delightful Humoresque, Op. 101, No. 7, written when he was visiting the United States, which set the evening’s theme — American-inspired music, with jazz and ragtime influences.  Highlights for me were Scott Joplin’s Overture to Treemonisha and Kurt Weill’s Little Threepenny Music, both of which I had not heard before.  I also liked the recomposition of the orchestra from piece to piece as the composers added a banjos and large saxophone section, and gave the bassoonists a moment in the sun as they sought to capture an American sound.

According to the program the night was to end with Stravinsky’s Scherzo a la russe, but Maestro Cabrera announced during the performance that the order had been changed to close with George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.  This was a very wise decision, because it’s hard to imagine any piece following last night’s performance of Gershwin’s opus.

Last night was the first time I’ve seen the Rhapsody performed live, and I’ll never think of that music in the same way again.  From the meandering wail of the clarinet that opens the piece, to the beautiful melodies that pop up unexpectedly and are tied together at the end, to the piano trills and fills that give Rhapsody in Blue its spine, the visual aspect of the performance will be forever fixed in my mind.  Thomas Lauderdale is a consummate showman, and he gave his grand piano a workout that brought every bit of sound and texture from the instrument.  It was, in a word, epic.  See it if you have the chance!

Live Long And Prosper

I was very saddened to learn today of the death of Leonard Nimoy at age 83.  He was an accomplished stage and screen actor, poet, and photographer — but to those of us who loved Star Trek, he will always and forever be the man who created Mr. Spock.

Books have been written about Spock and Kirk and McCoy, the complex relationship between that trio that made Star Trek such a terrific show, and the half-Vulcan character who struggled mightily to keep his human side in check in compliance with the dictates of Vulcan culture and its relentless emphasis on logic.  Nimoy made Spock a believable character — and thus a great character — when he very easily could have been as silly as Jar Jar Binks.  After all, an alien with pointed ears, green skin and super-human strength who eschews all emotion?  But thanks to Nimoy’s deft touch, Spock was as real and complex and layered as any character in the TV or film universe.  And, for those of us who were awkward adolescents at the time, dealing with a rush of weird new emotions and our own feelings of not quite fitting in with the rest of the world, Spock was enormously appealing.

I also liked that Nimoy seemed to struggle with the Spock character almost as much as Spock struggled with his human side.  Nimoy knew immediately that Spock was an iconic character, and he wanted to avoid being typecast.  When the Star Trek series ended, he promptly took on a completely different role as Paris on Mission: Impossible, wrote an autobiography called I Am Not Spock, and seemed to constantly reject the great character he created.  But ultimately he relented, reconnected with the role, and played Spock in a long series of movies and TV appearances — and Star Trek fans are grateful that he did.  Indeed, his connection with the character became such that he wrote a later autobiography called I Am Spock, and by the end of his life, as Richard points out, Nimoy ended his tweets with LLAP — a reference to Spock’s great Vulcan salutation.

Live Long and Prosper.  What a wonderful, simple sentiment from what was supposed to be an unemotional culture!  Nimoy lived that sentiment and gave us an unforgettable creation.  He will be sorely missed.

Hot Showers And Home Ownership

A shower is an essential part of the morning routine.  You get squeaky clean and move back into conformance with prevailing social hygienic norms.  You ruthlessly eliminate that lingering case of bed head.  And you finally complete the drowsy transition from blissful sleep to outright, whistling-as-you-get-dressed-for-work wakefulness.

IMG_4820I like my showers hot.  In fact, scalding is closer to accurate.  I like clouds of steam to rise from the shower floor and fog up the shower door, so that I could write “Kilroy was here” with my index finger if I desired.  I want to emerge from the blistering deluge wide-eyed, scourged clean, and as red as a Maine lobster fished out of the bubbling cookpot.

Unfortunately, for the last few months this hasn’t been possible.  At our rental unit, the hot water temperature never got above tepid, probably for cost saving and liability avoidance purposes.  Even at the maximum heat setting, a shower had no sizzle.  As a result, the morning shower there was not a particularly satisfying experience — functional but ho-hum, and sort of like getting woolen socks from your grandmother as a birthday present.

But now we are in our own place and in complete control of the hot water heater, which has been cranked up to high-end, fast-food-carry-out-coffee-before-they-got-sued-into-moderation temperatures.  Yes, I think: this is one of the essences of home ownership and the American Dream.  Now I get to decide water heat, and “room temperature,” and what to put on the walls, and how much light there will be in each room.

So turn that shower handle to maximum at your own risk, baby!  Let the scorching begin!

Connecting City And Campus

The Ohio State University has long been a huge part of what life in Columbus is all about. Residents of our fair city know that the college is a key driver of its economy and social and cultural activities.  Now the University wants prospective and current students to understand that Columbus can and should be a big part of their college experience, too.

This wasn’t always the case.  When I was at OSU in the ’70s, campus was the exclusive focal point of student life.  Living “off-campus” simply meant one of the at-that-time run-down areas right next to campus.  I covered the Statehouse for the Lantern so I drove downtown regularly, but that was just because it was part of my beat.  The city really didn’t seem to offer much of interest to my campus-oriented world — but many of us ended up staying in Columbus after graduation, anyway, because there were jobs here.

Columbus has gotten a lot more interesting since those days.  Back then, the Short North was a scary place of vacant storefronts and XXX theaters; now it is a thriving, uber-cool neighborhood of shops, restaurants, and art galleries.  The Arena District, another focal point of the Columbus social/cultural scene, didn’t exist.  Downtown was a sea of surface parking lots that closed down about 6 p.m.  And German Village — where the initial wave of rehabbing was still underway — seemed incredibly far away.  Now all of those areas not only are much more interesting, they also are easy (and cheap) to reach via COTA’s free CBUS circulator, which runs on a continuous loop from Victorian Village right next to campus down High Street to German Village and back again.

Colleges are competing fiercely for students, to the point of building lavish dorms and state-of-the-art workout facilities and other amenities.  If the school happens to be located in a city that features lots of great social and cultural activities and economic opportunities, why not feature that in its marketing effort as a point of distinction with schools located in small-town America?  Ohio State’s decision to tout Columbus to its current and future students is not only good for the city, it’s probably good for the University, too.

A New Sherlock Story

Imagine uncovering a previously unknown play by Shakespeare, or finding the sheet music to a long lost composition by Mozart.  That might give you an idea of the reaction of ardent Sherlock Holmes fans, like me, to the discovery of a forgotten story about the great consulting detective of Baker Street by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Sherlock Holmes is one of the greatest and most enduring literary characters ever created — the fact that he continues to be featured in films, television shows, and books written by authors who find him irresistible tells you all you need to know — and the novels and short stories penned by Doyle are a magical read.  The depiction of foggy, class-conscious Victorian England, the warm, humorous friendship between the stiff-necked but loyal Dr. Watson and the brilliant Holmes, and the insights into the art of deduction make the stories a delight, worth reading again and again.  If you haven’t read them you really should.

The new piece, which can be read in its entirety through the link above, was written by Doyle in 1904 as part of an effort to fund a bridge in a Scottish town.  It’s something of a lampoon of the Holmes stories, with references to tantalizing unknown adventures and Holmes’ explanation of his absurd deductions about Watson’s trip to Scotland.

Doyle’s relationship with his most famous creation was complicated.  He felt the insistent demand for more Holmes stories was interfering with his other writings, and he notoriously killed off the detective in a story published in 1893.  The demand for more stories never ended, however, and Doyle resurrected the character in 1903 — shortly before the new piece was written.  He went on to write many more Holmes stories.

By 1904, Doyle was reconciled to the fact that he would always be known primarily as the man who created Sherlock Holmes, and I think his recognition of that reality comes through in the introduction and humor of the newly found tale.  There are worse things, he realized, than inventing an immortal detective and his equally immortal sidekick.