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.”
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.
It 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!
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.
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.
I 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!
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.
When you don’t have a front yard that will allow you to give free reign to your snow-sculpting abilities, you just have to make do, somehow. I applaud this salutary effort by one of our German Village neighbors.
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.
How about this: instead of choosing colors to reflect “passion” and “toughness,” how about a team that plays every game with passion and toughness? How about representing the poor, long-suffering fans of Cleveland with wins and playoff appearances, rather than a stupid brown facemask? It’s probably a good thing that the facemask is brown, because the Browns organization should shove it, and all other marketing gimmicks and silly cartoon dogs, where the sun don’t shine until they start playing like an honest-to-God professional football team rather than a long-running national punch line.
Doesn’t anyone in the Browns organization realize that this announcement make this sorry franchise look like it is paying more attention to color swatches than fielding a decent team? Since we apparently can’t put together a winning team, I guess we’ll have to hope that the Browns’ subtle color judgments will earn an interior decorating award or mascot branding award.
Boy, the Browns have really lost their way, haven’t they? It’s humiliating.
On Friday we’ll be going to another performance of the Columbus Symphony. Part of the Symphony’s American Roots Festival series, the performance will mix familiar pieces — such as George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and an overture by Antonin Dvorak — with some works that are totally unknown to me, including George Antheil’s Jazz Symphony and Kurt Weill’s Little Threepenny Music.
I’m always game to listen to a new musical composition, but I approach such performances with a mix of anticipation and apprehension. I love classical music and enjoy just about everything from the baroque era forward — until we get to the “modern” classical music of the mid-20th century. Atonal and jarring, discordant and squawking, the modern compositions are just not pleasant to hear in my view and suffer by comparison to the richly melodic and beautiful compositions of the masters. It’s as if the classical music world hit the wall around 1950 or so.
Some people suggest that those of us who don’t like the modern stuff simply aren’t sufficiently refined and sophisticated in our musical tastes. Their arguments remind me of the scene in Defending Your Life where Albert Brooks and his after-life guide are eating a meal. Albert’s steak looks very tasty, while the guide’s plate is filled with what looks like elephant droppings. When Albert asks about the difference, the guide explains that because Albert only uses a tiny fraction of his brain, much less than is used by the guide, he can’t possibly appreciate the exquisite and nuanced flavors in the plate of crap.
So perhaps my brainpower isn’t adequate to the task of enjoying modern symphonic music — or maybe I just like steak. I’ll be interested to listen to what Friday brings.
During the ’60s, if someone thought a joke wasn’t funny, they might say it was “as funny as a crutch.”
It was thought to be a clever put-down remark because, of course, crutches aren’t funny and always seem to be a symbol of some kind of misfortune. I thought the rejoinder was in bad taste, too, for that same reason. But it was the heyday of insult humor and Don Rickles, and people laughed anyway.
I thought of the rejoinder tonight, as I walked home from work in bitterly cold temperatures and saw a crutch lying in the snow next to the street. Why would someone discard a perfectly good crutch? Probably not for some positive reason.
It made me wonder about the back story of the sad crutch on the snow, and it made me feel bad, besides.
I think there are lots of good reasons to walk in the morning, especially on cold mornings. But is losing weight one of them?
There is an intuitive logic to the notion that walking — or for that matter, doing much of anything — in the cold will help you lose weight. Calories are, after all, units of heat. If you’re out in the shivering winter weather, it stands to reason that your body will need to burn calories just to keep warm. So you would expect that cold weather would be a plus factor beyond the benefits provided by walking, generally.
I’ve long since stopped trying to figure out which of the competing health studies should be followed and simply tried to do what seems to work for me. I like walking in the cold because I like breathing the crisp air, and I feel mentally sharper and more fit when I get to the office. Whether I am actually sharper and more fit, I’ll leave to the researchers.
The other day I made a reference to people channeling their inner Sergeant Schultz. The comment met with baffled silence, because the people to whom I made the comment had no idea who Sergeant Schultz was. It was a sad but instructive moment.
Those old enough to have watched Hogan’s Heroes, of course, would remember the portly, bumbling prison guard who craved sweets and schapps, feared being sent to the Eastern front, and supposedly kept an eye on Colonel Hogan and his fellow prisoners of war who were actively working for the Allied cause even while incarcerated in Stalag 13. Schultz’s catch phrase, always said with a cheesy German accent after Hogan’s band had blown up a munitions dump or snuck a valued escapee through enemy lines, was: “I know nothing. Nothing!” And his comment usually prompted the equally inept Stalag 13 commandant, Colonel Klink, to squint through his monocle, frown like he had just smelled a fart, and say: “Schuuultzzzz!”
Hogan’s Heroes has been off the air for decades; it probably isn’t shown in reruns even on the most cut-rate cable channels. It was a ridiculous show with a ludicrous premise, of course, but Sergeant Schultz was a giant in the pantheon of ’60s sitcom characters. Now he has vanished into the vast forgotten pool that includes the likes of Corporal Agarn on F Troop and Mr. Haney from Green Acres — and I’ll have to come up with another shorthand way of referring to know-nothingism.
When a heavy, wet snow falls, as it did yesterday, it’s nice to not have a long, wide driveway to shovel. Our front steps, walkway to our gate and section of the sidewalk can be cleared in about 10 minutes. It’s an vastly under-appreciated benefit of not having a garage.
It has been brutally cold here in Columbus, with several below-zero days. Yesterday we got a lot of snow and the temperature almost hit 32 — but we didn’t quite make it, and now the mercury is plunging down again and more frigid weather is in the forecast.
I’m not complaining; other parts of the country have had it worse than us. In fact, there is cold, snowy weather throughout the heartland of America. A photo taken of middle America by NASA’s Terra satellite shows the wide snow belt, with the Buckeye State right smack dab in the middle. It makes me shiver just to look at it.
Yesterday was a red-letter day in the Webner household: our new toilet for the downstairs bathroom was installed.
There had been a working toilet in the downstairs bathroom when we bought this place, but flush with the thrill of our new purchase we deemed it aesthetically unacceptable. I’m now not quite sure why — ’70s design? Low-slung seat? Appalling color selection? — but we had to wipe the slate clean and the ex-commode had to go. So we were toilet-free on the first floor during our first week in this place, which isn’t an ideal arrangement for a guy with a 57-year-old bladder who might have to sprint up the stairs to answer nature’s call on a moment’s notice.
Now that issue has been rectified. We have this bright, shiny toilet, conveniently located and blessedly functional, with the graceful lines and design flourishes that you would expect from a modern bathroom fixture. It makes you want to have a seat and take it for a spin.