Byzantium's Shores: chronicling the misadventures of an overalls-clad hippie - Seite 2

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Twenty Years
 I thought about writing a long remembrance of that horrible day, a walk-through of the weird mix of terror and business-as-usual that played out in the office where I was working at the time. I just...don't want to do that.I remember that for several days after I tried listening to music, and I just...couldn't. It took, I think, until Friday when I was finally ready to listen to something. I chose one of the most emotional pieces of music I know, a work I played in my freshman year of college. It seemed, in terms of mood and title, appropriate: Elegy, by composer Mark Camphouse.It was the saddest day I can remember as an American, and it's even sadder now in retrospect as we went forth from that day and proceeded to learn all the wrong lessons and undertake all the wrong responses.We went to New York City in 2015 for Thanksgiving, and we did go to "Ground Zero". We weren't there long, but we did want to see the place where this thing happened. It was a damp, cloudy, cold day...and for the location, somehow very beautiful.There is always beauty to be found, eventually. I wish America would remember that more. Americans, myself included, are too quick to respond with anger and rage to the ugliness of the world.I eventually wrote a short story in response to the emotions I was feeling at the time, called "The City of Dead Works", and I used to post it annually here. I don't do that anymore, but you can read it here. And please do read Sheila O'Malley's post about one life that was lost that day.

Something for Friday (the "Oh crap, I've been busy as hell and a day off all week" edition)
 Sorry, folks, it's just been a busy week.Anyway, as part of my mood-listening for writing of late, I've been listening to music from Star Trek. Here's a selection from James Horner's score to Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.Have a great weekend!

Tone Poem Tuesday
 In honor of Labor Day, and therefore of the labor movement and the fact that the single biggest contributor to the America that exists is the American worker, here's a piece that pays tribute to one of the fruits of all that labor: the automobile.Frederick Shepherd Converse was an American composer who lived from 1871 to 1940, spanning the shift from Romanticism to Modernism. As such, he is known for a handful of works, the best known is the tone poem The Mystic Trumpeter.The piece before us today is Converse's tone poem Flivver Ten Million. The word "flivver" was a slang term for Ford automobiles back in the days of the Model T and shortly afterward, and Converse gave his piece the subtitle A Joyous Epic Inspired by the Familiar Legend "The Ten Millionth Ford is Now Serving Its Owner. Quite a long title for such a short work (it's only twelve minutes!), but there it is. The work does seem redolent of the enthusiasm of 1930s America for the coming of the automobile, and as we all know, the shift to being an automobile culture shifted America in ways that we are still grappling with to this day.Even though the work is a single movement, Converse divided Flivver Ten Million into sections:1. Dawn in Detroit (sunrise over the city)2. The Call to Labor (the auto workers report to work)3. The Din of the Builders (factory workers)4. The Birth of the Hero - He Tries His Metal (the car wanders off into the great world in search of an adventure)5. May Night by the Roadside - America’s Romance (love music via solo violin)6. The Joy Rider’s - America’s Frolic (happy have a great time music)7. The Collision - America’s Tragedy (poignant, sad intonations)8. Phoenix Americans - The hero, righted and shaken, proceeds on his way with redoubled energy, typical of the indomitable spirit of America (great fun) As an added bonus of civic pride, this performance is a recording of the Buffalo Philharmonic, conducted by JoAnn Falletta. Here is Flivver Ten Million by Frederick Shepherd Converse.

A Proposed AMENDMENT, addressing certain ISSUES pertaining to the SUPREME COURT of these UNITED STATES.
Here's something I've been thinking about for quite a while: how I would fix the Supreme Court. Obviously, I'm not an expert and am quite possibly wrong in many ways, but you have to start SOMEWHERE, right? Here's my proposed Amendment which would fix the Court, with interspersed commentary.This is long, so it's after the fold.Post continues...into the rabbit hole we go....

Something for Thursday
 Here is a selection from John Williams's score to JFK that seems to match my mood regarding the present and future of America.I don't know, folks. I just don't know. There is no law of nature that says we have to remain on the course we're on, or that we can't change it. I just don't know if we realize the course we're on or if we even want to change it.

For the Record
 I support the right to abortion. Moreover, I do not think that anyone who gets an abortion has done anything the least bit morally wrong. I believe that conservatives in America, for all their blather about "freedom", will keep chipping away at real freedoms until there aren't any left.If this is a problem for you, the "Back" button is to your upper left.And no, I am not interested in debating this.

August is the new July
 This was a long-range forecast from nine days ago:I've noticed for a while that I deal better with hot temperatures these days than I used to. Ten years ago, or more, I would personally start getting very uncomfortable any time temperatures climbed above the 80 degree mark. Over the last few years, that's started to shift: I may not like 80s, but I no longer find the low 80s debilitating. I can function outside when it's that hot.Over 90, though, and I'm back to my heat-hating grumpiness of old. Add to that the searing humidity of late, and I have to cry "Uncle!"It's just too effing hot of late.Apparently it became official earlier today: August 2021 was the hottest August ever in the Buffalo Niagara region. The month actually began with five days or so of below-normal temps, and there was a lovely weekend two weeks ago with seasonal temps and humidity, but aside from those brief moments, it's been a relentless month, with temps hitting at least 85 degrees regularly, and with dewpoints well north of 70 degrees.August in these parts is almost always the best of the summer months: June can be iffy, and our heat and humidity is usually packed into July. Usually by the time August rolls around, we're in for a bit less heat and a bit less humidity. Usually by August we can start having nights where we can turn off the central air and open the windows. Couple that with the fact that some of our favorite summer events (the Erie County Fair, and our usual trip to the Sterling Renaissance Festival) happen in August, and also add in that even with DST sunset starts returning to a time where I can start to feel I'm getting night back, August is generally a month I look forward to.This month, though...August 2021...this one was tough. I've been a sweaty, sticky mess more most of it, even with my newfound ability to function in hot weather. The central air trucks away, but after a few days of it the air starts to take on a "canned" feel that not even all our houseplants can make go away. And for a new wrinkle, this year we had a night when the air conditioning system actually iced up, so heavily had it been running! That was last night. This weekend was among the most brutally hot and humid of the entire summer, and the AC finally ran so hard that it had no time to defrost the evaporator coil. Luckily I was able to deal with this by turning off the compressors and just running the fans for two hours, which cleared out all the ice. Still, when that happens, we know it's been hot. That particular small malfunction has only happened one other time since we've lived here. (Luckily I know a few things about AC and refrigeration systems! Thanks, Day Job at The Store!)The cruelest cut, though? I haven't been able to comfortably wear overalls for sixteen days.I know, right?(OK, the actual cruelest cut is probably that most days I haven't been able to walk the dogs right after work. They love their walks and I enjoy them too, burning off some steam and doing some podcast listening; my podcast queue is piling up again after I had it down to about fifteen unlistened episodes.)Yesterday saw a cold front finally push through the region, and now we're settling in for a much more seasonal kind of weather: warm days and cool nights. We'll be able to turn the AC off overnight (take that, Electricity Bill!), and I'll be able to start walking dogs in the afternoon again. Night will continue to arrive earlier and earlier, and hopefully we won't get any blasts of heat in September like we've had occasionally. A couple years ago, our annual trip to Ithaca on the last weekend of September coincided with an 84-degree day, when I had packed for autumnal weather. Ugh!My suspicion is that as our climate continues to shift and our world continues warming up, this kind of August will become more and more the norm, and the Augusts that I remember enjoying fifteen years ago will cease...or they'll become September. Octobers will become September, and November October, and so on. Summers will become a lot less enjoyable. I can see a future where in summer I'm not able to wear overalls for sixty days, instead of sixteen.But hey, like I said, we've turned the corner for now. Which means...Still, something cool will be needed later. Enter the Mojito....

Tone Poem Tuesday
 Another fascinating work today by a composer whose work I'd never heard before: Zhu Jian'er, a Chinese composer who lived from 1922 to 2017. Judging by this piece, I need to hear a lot more of his work. A particular subgenre of classical music that I tend to love a great deal is the intersection of Western and Asian music, when Asian composers write music that blends compositional techniques, thematic material, tonalities, and instruments from both "worlds". There's something about the skilled and convincing synthesis of disparate artistic traditions that always excites me.(This kind of approach to making art, in any form, can easily go awry if the non-native tradition isn't treated fully and equally with respect as a tradition of its own; this is, I suspect, a part of where what we now call "cultural appropriation" starts. But I digress....)This work is a four-movement suite called Fisherman's Ballade Suite No. 1, and it deftly blends the pentatonic sound of Chinese folk music with the kinds of orchestral color that typify French Impressionism. The work sounds almost Ravelian at times, and is thus deeply evocative of a land of seas and rivers. I don't know if the work quotes a specific folk song, a particular ballad that might be sung by the fisherman of the Yellow or Yangtze Rivers as they cast their nets, but it's not hard to hear that kind of thing in the piece. In truth, I haven't been able to find much specific information about this work's background at all, but that's not always a bad thing: it forces us to come to a work entirely on its own terms.Here is Fisherman's Ballade Suite No. 1 by Zhu Jian'er.

Something for Thursday
 Because he would have been seventeen today.

What is it with second grade teachers?
 Sheila O'Malley shares this wonderful post every year when the school year is about to start:My friend is extremely intelligent. His parents did not value this in him. On the contrary, it threatened them. It implicated their ignorance. To add to this, my friend, from a very young age, knew he was “different” from other boys. Somehow. How many other boys enjoyed putting hot-rollers into their sister’s Cher-doll’s hair? How many other boys could recite Meet Me in St. Louis? How many lip-synched to Barbra Streisand albums? He couldn’t put a name to what was different because he was just a little boy. But he knew it was there.The teasing he got was brutal. Teasing of this particular kind has one goal and one goal only: to crush what is different. The difference in him was like a scent and other kids could smell it. His father could smell it. To avoid the terror that school had become, he would stay home from school playing with his sister’s Barbies.The little boy reached the second grade. He had already learned some very hard lessons. He had already experienced cruelty, betrayal, fear. All of the cards were stacked against this person, and the end of his story could have been a terrible one, were it not for his second grade teacher. Her name was Miss Scofield.I did not meet the “little boy” until college when we became fast friends, and in my view, Miss Scofield was directly responsible for the fact that he actually went to college (the first one in his family to do so), that he broke the expected pattern of his life and got out, saying No to what seemed to be his logical fate.What did Miss Scofield do to accomplish this? It’s very simple. She read E.B. White’s Stuart Little to the class.And my friend, then seven years old, had what can only be described as a life-changing experience, listening to her read that book.Stuart Little is a mouse, born to human parents. Everyone is confused by him. “Where the heck did he come from?” My friend, a little boy who was so “different” he might as well have been a mouse born to human parents, a little boy who was, indeed, smaller than everybody else in the class, listened to the story unfold, agog, his soul opening to its implications.First of all, for the first time, he really got reading. By this I mean the importance, and the excitement, of language. Language can create new and better worlds in your head. Language is a way out. To this day, my friend is a voracious reader. I will never forget living with him while he was reading Magic Mountain. We lived in a one-room apartment, and so if I wanted to go to sleep and turn the lights off, my friend would take a pillow into the bathroom, shut the door, curl up on the bathmat, and read Magic Mountain long into the night. I believe that this voraciousness is a direct result of Miss Scofield reading Stuart Little to the class.Please read the whole thing. The story doesn't end there, and the postscript to the story is just wonderful.I, too, had a second grade teacher who read Stuart Little to us. This was the year we lived in Elkins, WV. I can't honestly say that I think that Mrs. Pnakovich was actually reading it to me, but I remember her reading it and I remember the whole class losing itself in the story for a bit, each day, until it was done. That book was the first time I can remember that a story doesn't necessarily require resolution to satisfy; if you've read the book, you know that we never learn if Stuart Little ever found Margalo. I've never come down in my own heart as to whether he found Margalo or not. All I needed to know was that he was going in the right direction.A sad footnote is that years ago I tried searching for Mrs. Pnakovich online, hoping maybe I could drop her a line on the off chance she remembered a student she had for a single year in 1978 and who moved away from Elkins when that year was done. Sadly, Mrs. Pnakovich died in 2002.She played a part in my approach to story, which might be the most enduring thing of all.

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