Friday, March 29, 2013

"At night, a candle's brighter than the sun"

I will not get into this too much -- it could turn into a lit. paper. In my opinion, though, Sting is one of the finest poet/lyricists Britain has ever produced. To me, he is not just a good lyricist -- he is a great writer in the traditional literary sense. I know -- that's a mouthful. It's a heck of a claim. But, instead of writing a lengthy defense of it, I'll maybe post little bits from time to time.

How about this set of lines from "An Englishman in New York," from ...Nothing Like the Sun? The tune is about an Englishman who holds onto his "British" demeanor, despite his surroundings:
Modesty, propriety can lead to notoriety --
You could end up as the only one.
Gentleness, sobriety are rare in this society.
At night a candle's brighter than the sun.
I know the first part is a bit prosaic, but that final line? Sweet Petunia that is good. In fact, I sense in that an intentional spring off of the prosaic leading lines that not only adds to the conceptual and poetic impact, but that creates a structure in which the final line is the Englishman against the unrefined backdrop of the city in which he lives. Brilliant. 

That's it -- I'll stop. Some day I will go on about his album The Soul Cages. To me, it is a lyrical masterpiece. I'll make that case later...

Here's the song in it's entirety. (Musically, notice how the great Branford Marsalis's deliciously-sophisticated soprano sax solo, followed by the savagely-thumping bass drum, adds another poetic layer to Sting's contrasting concoction):

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hamlet's Plan: Thoughts on Marriage

The thing with revolutionary thinking is that it doesn't accomplish much if it isn't revolutionary enough. The gay marriage debate, for instance. Maybe we need to think less about who should be able to marry and more about why the hell we allow the government to determine what a valid relationship is. If we are going to change things, let's change them.

For a different reason (and from a different perspective) than Hamlet, "I say we will have no marriages."

Why do we think it is okay for the government to tell us if a union is valid? -- heterosexual or homosexual? I say we get the government out of the marriage business altogether.

I'm not much for argumentation by precedent. "Well, Chris," someone might say. "You have this pie-in-the-sky view that marriage should be all about love. In the past, it has been more of a business arrangement, from the Middle Ages forward..."

I know that. I do not care. We should have evolved past that by now.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Nameless Craftsman

I'm thrilled beyond description that
I found pics of Sam and his shop on line!
Those of you who read this blog for a thrice-weekly dose of thought-provocation might be initially disappointed by what I am about to say, but, stick with me.

My drum cases are the single best purchase I have ever made. The story behind them is meaningful, though, so let's see if I can save myself, here.

When I went to get my first drum kit, at the age of fifteen, my dad took me to a small music/drum shop in South Philadelphia: Sam D'Amico's. Sam was a drummer who had played in bands with my dad when they were teenagers.

(We brought along the [wonderful] drummer  in my dad's band, Carl Mottola [hear him play and hear my dad's arrangments, here], a tall, gangly fellow with kind of an early Beatles haircut, even though he was primarily a swing/jazz player. Carl was of a particular kind of Philadelphia Italian guy: he gave me a dollar whenever he saw me, all the years I was growing up. He was also only one of two people who was allowed to call me "Chrissy" into my adult years -- the other having been my maternal grandmom.

Friday, March 22, 2013

When Everything's Smooth

When everything's smooth...

...can't it all shatter under the force of a rough, hard-thrown, earth-clumped stone?

 Or, am I just hoping too hard?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Men In Kilts: A King Richard Band Adventure

The trad band playing on the bar, before us. 
It often occurs to me that I live a rather strange life. Not the visited-by-aliens-who-tell-me-to-wear-lederhosen-and-throw-cheddar-at-people kind of strange...just...odd. Sometimes absurd.

Take last weekend. St. Paddy's Day weekend here in the old US of A. Our band, King Richard, played Saturday to an enthusiastic (and unusually attractive, for some reason) audience of green-clad dancin' fools. With a quicker-than-usual turn-around, we had to set up at ten o'clock the next morning for a job that began at 5 PM that day -- on the actual St. Paddy's Day.

From the moment we took the stage, I knew the banshees, redcaps and sidhees has crawled forth, either out of the fairy earth or they had emerged from a woodland lake of Guinness and toadstools.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Recipe: New York Style Minority Stew

You might have heard, as I just did, that the NYPD is being challenged on its policy of searching people in certain neighborhoods, without warrants -- or even probable cause. The police search people based on what they deem as "suspicious behavior." The NYPD are being taken to court by some residents who have had quite enough of it.

Today, on the news, I heard the police department's defense: It is effective. Crime in New York is down. I also heard a professor from Manhattan say that these searches are taking place in high-crime areas. She admitted that these high-crime areas are mostly populated by minorities. She seemed as if she thought this is a most unfortunate reality, but she maintained that this stop-and-search approach has been effective, so it is beneficial.

In 1729, Jonathan Swift addressed a problem in Dublin: too many poor kids on the streets. They were a burden to their parents and to the state. He came up with a solution: eat the children. If you've read his proposal, you will have seen that all the ducks, as they say, are in a row. It is most effective, this idea of eating the poor.

Friday, March 15, 2013

So...This S'rtiv Annoys Me

A while ago, I wrote a goofy The Emperor Decrees post on this, but it bears repeating here.

I'm not sure why I keep listening to and watching things that anger me. I guess it is the trade-off when you want info.

I listen to NPR every day driving to and home from work. I don't have the same problem with NPR that most do. (Many complain it has a "liberal" bent. It might or not be true; in fact, sometimes I feel it is true and sometimes I think they are pretty objective. Either way, they do reasonably good work in presenting world happenings. I can sort out my own feelings and ideas, wherever theirs may lean.)

No, the real problem I have is what I like to call "NPR-speak." It is not exclusive to NPR, but I think it may spread outward from it...

In the "it-just-gets-under-my-skin" file, I have to mention "s'rtiv." This is a new confrankentraction among NPR-speakers. It means "sort of." It would be merely an annoyance if people threw it in in the right places, but if tends to be used every three words, in places in which it has absolutely no relevance or effect. What really took the cake, for me, was when I heard an interviewer say, yesterday, to her guest: "Now, when you were, s'rtv, growing up..."

SORT OF GROWING UP? I don't know about you, but I actually grew up. What does it mean to "sort of" grow up? Does that mean that you are 55, but you still wear Star Wars pajamas to bed? -- or that you would grow an inch and then shrink two when you were a toddler?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Child Abuse for Fun

Bruloff, 1831
I'm not going to link to this video. It's enough that I just had to watch it to get my facts straight. It made me literally feel sick to my stomach. In short, I am more interested in protecting a little kid's privacy and dignity than his own mother is.

This morning, a local radio show played the audio from a winning video clip on America's Funniest Home Videos. The scenario was this:

A little boy had walked out of a restaurant with his mother and he had accidentally carried out his drink cup. It was not the kind you are supposed to take with you. When they got to the car, his mother pulled out her phone or a video camera and began recording. The boy thought the police were going to come and arrest him. He began to cry -- to wail. He begged his mother not to drive away -- to let him go back in to return the cup. She wouldn't do it. Here's a transcription of what was said. It opens with the boy wailing, "Noooo!"

Monday, March 11, 2013

Little Shadow Boxers

(This is a re-post from two years ago, but I just read an article [thanks to Mark Colvin for posting the link] about some of the absurd fallout from the Sandy Hook killings, in American schools, and, despite the horrific nature of that day -- and the very real tears I shed over it -- I still feel this way:)

My mother always was very much against guns. As a kid, I never had a toy gun, outside of the occasional water pistol. Mind you, I really wanted to have toy guns and I would greedily claim any available weapon at friends' houses before playing "war" or any other violence-based games. At home, though, I was, as they say on the mean streets, without a "piece."

At my wife's house, in her childhood, things were a little different. Toy guns were allowed, as were BB guns in the later years. Legend has it that there was a rifle incident in the back yard of their suburban home that left a tree somewhat worse for wear. Karen grew up with two brothers, both of whom own hunting guns and bows to this day. For the record, neither of them has ever killed a man. (Nor has my wife, to the best of my knowledge.) Both of them are throrougly nice guys and one of them is one hell of a dancer. (Just thought I'd mention that, in light of the wedding I attended last night.)

So, who was right -- my mom or my wife's parents? (As far as I know, my dad didn't have a problem with toy guns, though he has always had a thorough disgust for war.)

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Professionals: A Class Full of Teachers

I have been taking, as I have mentioned, some professional development classes in teaching. Here is what I have observed, in regard to enthusiasm, among this particular group of professionals.

Talk about contract issues -- talk about tenure issues and retirement benefits and pay questions, and the room buzzes with energy. Hands shoot up. Heads nod vigorously. Side-conversations erupt. The poor professor can barely field all of the questions before moving on to the next topic. Everyone in the room is engaged and sitting bolt upright, eyes wide and inquisitive.

Except me. I'm doodling in my notes.

Talk about bad student behavior; about trends in poor student attitudes, and the energy again erupts. The phrase "these kids" flies about the room like a boomerang. Everyone wants a say; everyone wants to share his misery. The professor looks on, helplessly, fingering the pages of his notes to show he wants to move on. He waits politely. All of the students are fired up.

Except me. I'm finishing my sketch of the Sistine Chapel.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Why, Indeed?

We were watching Neil Simon's The Odd Couple in creative writing class today (playwrighting time) and there is a scene, toward the end of the film, in which the "Pidgeon sisters" come into Oscar's apartment. The guys, who are sitting playing poker, all stand up when the ladies enter.

I stopped the movie.

In an effort to point to the quick decline in manners, I mentioned that the film was made in 1969, a year after I was born, and that, apparently, in some social spheres, men were still standing up when a ladies entered a room.

One of the girls, honestly and openly, raised her hand and asked, "Why did they do that?"


Monday, March 4, 2013

Stupid Intellectuals and the Dinner Miracle

I've said before that there is too much interest these days in "assessing" things and in "doing studies" to determine answers. There is a lot of sociological data-collection done in order to determine reasons for things or to determine causes of particular human actions. What there is not enough of is real thought -- personal, logical and sensitive explorations of human nature. We need more poets and fewer sociologists.

The Magic Pill!
Nothing illustrates this better than the statement that was made -- what? -- maybe a decade ago: that kids of families who eat dinner together are less likely to get involved with drugs.

Yeah, okay.

What I picture is a sociologist organizing his data. "Hey!" he says, calling his research team together. "I have noticed a trend! These kids who have never done seems that a huge percentage of them have something in common. They all have regular dinners together with their families. That must be why they have stayed off of drugs!"

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Frozen Wind (A Dialogue)

Chris sits on a park bench. There is snow on the ground and it fall in large flakes. Trees are bent with the weight on their limbs. A tall figure, clad in black, walks across the whited grass. Chris looks up, sees the approaching form, smiles ironically and drops his head to wait. After some time, the figure sits next to Chris on the bench. He (the mysterious figure) has platinum white hair, slicked down with pomade, and brushed perfectly to one side. His face is colder that frozen wind. He is Existential Crisis.

Chris: Hi.

Existential Crisis: Hello. You've been expecting me?

Chris: What do you think I am, a moron? Of course I was.

EC: No. Not a moron. Maybe a little bit too in love with the things around you to admit me.

Chris: Hmpf.

EC: Well?

Chris: Well, what?