Archive for the ‘Musing’ Category

Why I am Against Minorities –

23 February 08

Let me state this as flatly and plainly as I can. I am not in favor of feminism. I am not in favor of the NAACP. I am not in favor of any organization which seeks to promote its own special interests over those of anyone else.I am a strict Constitutionalist. It is unconstitutional to deny anyone else’s freedoms and opportunities. Period. You cannot use sex, race, or religion as a basis for denial of same.

I insist that anyone may apply for any job they choose. Anyone may apply to any University they choose. Anyone may attempt to buy a house in any neighborhood they choose.

However – the employer should also have the right to hire the most qualified person possible for the job without the government dictating who must be hired. The University must be free to select the most qualified applicants with the best grades and not forced to admit people who do not measure up to the quality of learning expected just to meet some quota. The banks must be free to deny credit to those who do not qualify financially.

This does mean that I am opposed to any sort of quota system. I am totally against putting any one group above another group. I am for totally free competition. This does mean that if anyone is not hired or admitted because of sex or gender there are and should be heavy penalties.

However – if the search for the best means that a company is heavy on white males – so be it. If the company, in selecting the best people for the jobs winds up heavily black female – so be it. Let the most qualified people get the jobs.

I don’t want or need to know someone’s sexual orientation on the job. As long as we are all trying to do the best possible job for the company it is irrelevant what makes you horny. I’m not interested and don’t care as long as only consenting adults are involved and it does not affect job performance.

I think that race, sex, religion and all the other garbage that we carry around and get all wrapped up in are irrelevant. I am color blind and sex blind on the job. The only thing that matters in the workplace is the ability to perform.

Does it register that someone is tall or short, black or white, male or female, and all the rest? Sure. The things that are superficial characteristics register but generally are not important to job performance. They just don’t matter to me (and to most people). So – minority types, quit looking for something that exists mainly in your mind. If you do get hit with real anti-whatever discrimination then you can get wound up about it. But don’t see tigers in shadows that don’t exist. All humans are capable of maladroit social interaction, but clumsy behavior does not necessarily equal deliberate and malicious behavior.

In short – it is wrong to deny any group’s opportunities. It is equally wrong to promote one group over another. Reverse discrimination is still discrimination and oppresses ion. Just because the shoe is on a different foot does not change the fact that it is still a shoe.

Actually, I am not against minorities, I am against promoting minorities over anyone else. Or demoting them below anyone else. Level playing field all the way. That’s what I am for.

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Rosie and the Mullahs –

4 January 08

Now, anyone who has eyes and/or ears and is not in some third world country has seen and heard of Rosie O’Donnell. Anyone awake will also notice that she is very loud and opinionated. Anyone not in a coma knows that she is a self-proclaimed lesbian. She has made it abundantly clear that she hates America with a passion.

But, Rosie, where else could you be? Nowhere else in the world are you guaranteed the right of free speech, no matter how loud or stupid. Did I say stupid. Well, yes, I did. One of Rosie’s main rants has been that she does not believe that the Twin Towers were taken down by Moslem terrorists. She thinks that the good ol’ USA government blasted them down. Her evidence? Well, it was a while between the planes hitting and the towers collapsing. And the fire didn’t have anything to do with it. After all, steel doesn’t melt! Now, I beg to differ, steel will melt with enough heat. But that isn’t what did it. The steel was annealed. To anneal is to remove the temper (or strength) by heating. Now, steel will anneal as low as 1000° F. More heat, less time to anneal. Less heat, more time to anneal. If we take a tempered steel rod, say ½”, it is difficult for even a strong man to bend bare-handed. If we take the same piece of steel and anneal it, then we could bend it with no problem. Why is Rosie stupid? Because she has been shooting her mouth off for months without checking any facts. She has spouted dangerous charges with absolutely no foundation other that her own uninformed prejudice. Now, if you do a Google on the whole thing and check it out it becomes readily evident that the serious scientists and engineers state that the plane crash did cause all the damage. On the other hand there are a boatload of nuts and conspiracy theorists who think that the planes could not do the damage. I know that I do not place my confidence in nuts.

Since Rosie seems to want the US to die out and go away, what does she think will replace it? Well, at the moment, the strongest haters of America seem to be the Moslem extremists. It is not illogical to suppose that if America is torn down from within the replacement is likely to be Moslem. Not strong enough? How bout the fall of Rome? Rome was a lot stronger than the Alaric and his boys who sacked Rome in 410. BTW – there was a global climate cooling in 535 which was NOT caused by the Americans, unless the Indians were more powerful than we think. But, I digress, as usual.

Back to Rosie and the Mullahs – Sharia law has a whole lot to say about male homosexuality and practically nothing to say about female. What the Mullahs have apparently decided is that males can be executed if married or merely receive 100 lashes if not married. Now, since there has been no specific mention of female homosexuality in the Koran, the Mullahs have decided that since no penetration, the death penalty is inappropriate. Therefore women only receive 100 lashes. A lighter punishment, as it were. But hey, you know, 100 lashes can kill you just as dead as beheading if not very carefully administered. It is also a sight slower and more painful way to go.

So, Rosie, keep it up. Bring the troops home. Let no one enlist in the evil military. Let no funds be appropriated by Congress. Never study war no more. But get ready for your 100 lashes. For the stern, puritanical, fanatical and hate-filled Moslem terror types that will fill that power vacuum will surely not put up with a nasty, loud lesbian. If they don’t kill you out of hand.

Atlanta Symphony –

1 January 08

Herself is playing Mozart cds and it puts me in the mood to remember Mozart concerts. My best friend’s dad frequently took us to the symphony in what must have been the late 50’s and/or very early 60s? I seem to remember an opera or two along in there somewhere. Maybe gray cells lying down on the job. I think the input/output still works pretty good, it’s just that the magnetic media is loosing its zip. Not to mention the ram reset every night.

The opera may have been on my friend’s record player or mine. I vaguely remember him as being quite partial to Don Giovanni, (I can still hear the hell scene cranked up full) whereas The Magic Flute has my vote for best opera ever. Though I am most partial to Mozart, I have to admit to a liking for a lot of Joe Green’s (Giuseppe Verdi) stuff. I tell you, Joe could write the best overtures of them all. And well, Carmen is pretty decent. OK, OK, I also admit to liking a bit of G & S from time to time, but don’t tell just anyone. And yes, I do like Wagner when I’m in the right mood.

Anyway, I got somewhat nostalgic and looked up Henry Sopkin. He is finally being recognized as the founding father of the Atlanta Symphony (which he was). I can still see his white fringe and gleaming head atop the spare frame, trying to encourage the max out of his musicians (and usually succeeding).

I worked for Bill Baron’s DeKalb Musicians Supply Company about ‘67 or thereabouts. They supplied all the schools in North Georgia at the time. (This does get back to the point). I worked on the band instrument repair side. The other side of the old barn-like building that was the repair shop housed the stringed instrument repair facility. Old German cellist named Fred Lincoln (nee Linke) and a younger Italian import whose name I don’t remember. Fred did the repairs for 99% of the symphony musicians. They just didn’t trust anyone else. 1967 was also when Robert Shaw took over and raised the symphony from semi-pro to full pro status. There were tears. There was wailing. There was gnashing of teeth. We could hear it all through the thin wall that separated the two shops. Many of the people that Henry had kept on for years were furious at having to re-audition to keep their jobs. A lot of them did not keep the jobs. Shaw was cursed. Henry Sopkin was cursed. And for years Sopkin did not (I felt) receive his full due as founder of the Symphony and the one who built it up to the point that it could become full pro. Symphony web sites are now beginning to honor Henry properly. He certainly entertained and educated two lost-ball boys. Herself also fondly remembers the kiddie concerts of the 50’s and credits Sopkin with elevating her already strong love of symphonic sound to a grand passion.

I went several times when Shaw was conducting the revised and re-formed group. Damn fine. The Arts Center was impressive. But it didn’t hold the magic that the old Municipal Auditorium did. Booming slide in wooden floors and all. Not quite first-rate orchestra. But there was a feeling of community and a joy and love of music for the sake of music. It was good back then.

Meditation on Bread –

22 December 07

My very best friend growing up was baker for a commune back in the day. Hippiness was her refuge from the world at the time. (In another age, she would have gone to a monastery). Anyway, she turned into a really good baker with a fundamental feeling for what could and could not be done with bread. To this day she is one of those bakers that takes about this much of this, a handful of that, a pinch of the other, whatever she has on hand and feels like doing at the time. That is not the way I function at all, for baking, anyway. Very precise measurement with a digital scale is my way. But you know – we both get good bread at the far end of the process. (Much as I love her – we would probably kill each other if we tried to function in the same kitchen).

God has blessed us with several things that function by fermentation: booze, of course; cheese is fermented milk product; and let us not forget that the bread rising is a result of fermentation. And yes, there is even some alcohol (not much) in the dough before we cook it. That contributes to the flavor at the end. You can encourage the booze qualities of sourdough to the point of getting something to drink. It is pretty nasty, lethal stuff and is called hooch. In the days of the Alaskan frontier the Hoochinoo Indians got very fond of the stuff after learning sourdough technology from the gold miners and fur trappers, or so the story goes. Anyway, while you can encourage and grow the stuff fairly easily, you really don’t want to drink it. Rather vile and it will put your lights out.

There are tons of references to bread in the Scriptures. Even more if you use the full Old Testament (Septuagint) of the Eastern Church. There was, and probably still is for the sillier literalists, some warping out over whether bread should be leavened or unleavened. I leave minutia to those who get some kind of kick from it. Back to the main topic. Bread is important stuff.

In this time and place (USA, 21st century), bread is so commonplace that we don’t give it a second thought. We do not think about the millions of acres in grain cultivation, the massive labor of harvest, the transportation to the mills, processing, packaging, transport to huge bakeries, preparation, packaging, transportation to grocery. We eventually get this stuff and casually make a sandwich, or some toast, or whatever. Granted that, for the most part, this factory bread is not nearly as tasty as good homemade, it is better than bad homemade.

Firstly, growing the wheat. It used to be that what grew locally was about all you could get. The grain of the region dictated the baking of the region. Just in this country, the breads of the Northern European countries could pretty well be duplicated in the Northern part of the USA. Good hard wheat would grow quite nicely in the colder Northern US. The North (Yankees to the educated) was known for the excellence of the bread which the Northern bakers (home or otherwise) could produce. The South was a whole different proposition for many reasons. The first reason is that hard wheat will not grow in the Southern States. What we get is soft wheat. There is less moisture, protein, and gluten in Southern wheat. Not really good for bread. But killer for pie crusts, biscuits and so forth. The rural nature of the South also made central bakeries impractical. What the Southerner came to regard as normal for meals was cornbread. Wheat flour was used mostly for the coating for deep frying, pies, and biscuits. Hoe cakes and johnny cakes were made from cornmeal. It may be a chicken or egg discussion, but there is some thought that many of the Southern recipes were of African inspiration. I don’t necessarily thinks that the African connection is direct. Certainly the black cooks in the South brought great contributions to the table. I tend to think that what became Southern cooking in the 1800s to early 1900s was an amalgamation of all of the immigrant traditions: English, Irish, Scots, African, French and the rest all lumped together and dictated ultimately by the materials available. Oh yeah, back to the growing. The hard wheat that feeds the world is grown from the central US up to Northern Canada. What!, you exclaim. How on earth can they grow wheat in that rotten a climate? Well, it’s like this: They plant in the late Summer before the freeze and it spends the winter resting. When the Spring thaw hits it grows again and with all the Northern light it grows like gangbusters so that it can be harvested before the brief warm spell is over. Just in time to get the ground prepped for the next planting cycle. You have to remember how huge Northern Canada is. Feeds a lot of people, it does.

Transport: In the days before the transportation revolution it was impractical to expect to get grain from Northern Canada to mills hundreds or thousands of miles away. We routinely ship things thousands of miles as necessary, so it is no big deal to get grain to a mill. We still want to minimize the expense of transport as much as possible, but with rail available it is easy to route huge amounts of grain to the location desired.

The home baker can break the chain at this point, if desired. There is no reason why anyone with an internet connection cannot get delivery of any raw grain wherever desired. Many of the home bakers like to mill their own grain. Home milling equipment is available and affordable. The internet is one huge mall of everything in the world for sale. The thing is that if the home baker desires to grind his own, the tools and information are readily available. Any grain desired can be acquired. We now have advantages that no previous generation could have envisioned, much less realized.

Flour: High quality flour for any common task is usually as near as the grocery. For uncommon tasks, once again, the internet to the rescue. We also have to be careful what we consider high quality. For bread, generally the richer the flour, the better the bread. King Arthur flour is the best I know of for bread. This is not true for pies or biscuits or cakes. Bread flour is generally the highest in protein and gluten. Pie crusts, biscuits and the like are better served with a lower protein and gluten content. Southern flour like White Lily or Martha White will make much better pies and biscuits. Cakes get the tender crumb and little rise from very low protein and gluten. Even the Southern flours are too high to make good cakes. Then there is French bread. There is no American flour which can duplicate the handling characteristics and taste of French flour. (You can come pretty close with King Arthur unbleached A/P). Or true Irish coarse whole wheat, for Irish soda bread. The internet will serve for those who wish to get specialty flours which are not locally available. I will generally check the King Arthur website first, as they carry a good many specialty flours at quite reasonable price. I also double check the web in a general search, just to make sure that I can’t get better pricing somewhere else. Usually I can’t, but it doesn’t take that long to check.

The other thing that we on the consuming end of things don’t often think about is all the varieties of grain that have been developed within the last 50 years or so. We have cheap and readily available quantities and qualities of grain that our ancestors could only dream about. Modern grains are much heartier, more dependable, with tremendously greater production per acre. Amazing. There was an episode of the original Star Trek that I think everyone in Western civilization knows – “The Trouble with Tribbles”. Many may not remember that the centerpiece of the plot was not the Tribbles, but the new grain that was being threatened by the Klingons. Quadro-triticale. Triticale actually exists, a cross between wheat and rye. Contrary to Chekhov’s assertion, it wasn’t the Russians, it was the Scots and Swedes that did it. Anyway, point is that even TV Sci-fi writers can recognize the importance of grain in our lives.

Oh yeah, let’s not forget that the internet solution is actually a three part invention. We can find anything in the world on the net. We have to pay for it, and while too many people abuse plastic and get in over their heads, it really is a wonder that we can simply enter our credit card information for payment. Used to be a really big deal. Even 20 years ago, if you ordered something mail order, you had to send a check, which could take a couple of weeks to clear. Most places did not ship until they had the money in their hands. Last part of the equation is the shipping. With post, UPS, FedEx and the like just about anyone in the civilized world can get a shipment in a pretty short time. Truly amazing.

Another facet of the great time we live in is that there are so many books available on baking – thousands, in fact. We also have the ability to look up just about any recipe that ever was. Cool.

Ovens. It is true that our modern home ovens are not quite as good as the bakers masonry ovens used throughout most of our history. But. They are adequate and a good sight more convenient, just turn them on and let them warm up, cook, then turn them off.

Mixers. I could not bake any more if I had to mix and knead by hand. I’ve gotten too stiff and lost too much hand strength. But – with the power of my Kitchenaid Mixer, I can bake for many more years. The mixer does all the work.

Bread machines. I don’t like them or use them, but millions do. They work.

I’m quite sure that you can think of many more examples of the wonders of modern baking. We really do live in a golden age for bakers.

Conundrum –

18 December 07

If we are invaded, do we have the right to forcibly resist? If the Germans had occupied us would the correct response have been to try to throw them out a la French Resistance? Would we not rejoice if we won our freedom and killed and drove out the conquerors? Is it morally correct if we can do it to the original invaders? Is it still correct if it takes a generation to get rid of the bad guys? Two generations? Four? 200 years? 400 years?

A good term for taking the country back and driving out the invaders might be ‘ethnic cleansing’. Think about that.

If it is morally correct, as some of the more radical left states, to give the US back to the Indians – oops, pc = ‘native American’. Or to the Mexicans – who took it from the Indians, who took it from the previous occupying tribes, ad nauseum. Mostly you will notice that they hate the country and that the operative word is ‘give it back’. Now, as I say, if the preceding is morally correct, then why do the same aforementioned leftists get their panties in such a wad over the Serbians? It was their country for quite a while. As in centuries. As in longer than some of the Indian tribes occupied their territories. The Bosnians are Moslem invaders. About 400 years ago the Moslems came in and raped, murdered, pillaged, and occupied. They didn’t go home. To drive people out usually takes a bit of force. I will not defend torture and other such heinous acts. But let us remember, the Bosnians are equally guilty of atrocities against the Serbs. Today. Now. Yesterday. And for the last 400 years. Yet, thanks to the left, the US sided with the Moslems, bombed and invaded the Serbians and forcibly stopped them from driving the invaders from their homes.

Where is the cutoff? When does an occupying people become the native people? Is it ok for one Indian tribe to conquer another? Is it ok for Moslems to conquer and hold territory? Or is it that it is only wrong for European (white) Christians to occupy territory?

There is a marvelous scene in Shogun, both the book and the mini-series. What a concept – a movie that pretty much followed the book! Anyway, Toranaga asks Blackthorn if the Dutch were not vassals of the Spanish throne. Blackthorn allows that this is true. Toranaga states that it is unpardonable for a vassal to rebel against his lord. A true betrayal. Blackthorn insists that there is a case when it may be considered moral. Toranaga queries. Blackthorn’s response – “…if you win!” After a stunned moment Toranaga laughingly admits that Blackthorn has the right of it.

In his Starship Troopers – the real thing, the book, not the movie. How unusual, a movie that has damn near nothing to do with the book. There is considerable philosophy in the book – none in the movie. There is a discussion of the role of force in the history of the world. The upshot is that the drivel about force never solving anything is just that – drivel. The fact is that war – force, is a necessary part of the political process. When discussion, compromise, and diplomacy have failed, then a people can (and will) resort to force to gain their ends. If the opposing group is bent on the destruction of one’s group, either to take all of the food (a rational reason) or for pure hatred (a psychotic motivation), the only choice may be for one’s group to resist with force, or to just surrender and die. I suppose that it is my narrow and provincial attitude, but I prefer for my own group to survive. I think that if we defend because of rational reasons, it will be better for the future if our seed is preserved rather than that of psychotics. Do you lefties want the future to be populated by rational, peaceful people who only use force to defend? Do you want it to be populated by those driven by hatred that will kill anyone who thinks differently? Your choice. Right now you are not headed down a path of survival, for those who will not defend and their offspring will die. Those who are tougher and more determined will populate the future. Think about it. May not be fair. You may want to take your toys and go home. But – that is the way the world works. Think about it.

When the other guy’s goal is your death, non-resistance is always fatal. This may fit your individual philosophy. It doesn’t fit mine. I don’t think it is very noble to let a serial killer get his perverted sexual thrills by one’s pain and death. I would resist. I would not stand by and let a member of my family die horribly and painfully to satisfy another’s wishes. I would resist. I will not stand by while my fellow citizens are brutally butchered because they do not agree with some sick, mad bastard’s view of what their religion should be. I will resist. I will not stand by while other people are enslaved or tortured or brutalized to satisfy another group’s whims. I will resist – with force.

Hey lefties – a question. Why are you all emotional about Darfur? Yes, the Moslem Sudanese government is sponsoring horrible acts of brutality. You know – the standard mix – rape, torture, murder, on men, women, children. So. I see. OK. But why was there no outcry from the left during the Second Sudanese Civil War when 1.9 million were brutally slaughtered and over 4 million driven from their lands? Is it because the victims at Darfur are Moslems and the victims in the Second Civil War were Christian? I hope you guys see that I don’t object to going in to kick the Sudanese Government into some kind of civilized behavior, or changing it. I don’t mind protecting the innocent of Darfur. I do object to not being consistent. I do object to your – I hope unconscious – bigotry against Christians. There’s a damn sight more Christian victims of Moslem cruelty than there have ever been Moslem victims of Christians. I do want to see some of you libs that want us to send the military into Darfur to get off your sanctimonious asses and put your lives on the line for the protection of these people. Enlist. Put your life where your mouth is. Sauce for the goose.

Here’s a lovely quote from George Orwell:

The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists, whose real though unacknowledged motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States …

Notes on Nationalism, May 1945

The only addition that I would make is that the thing admired now seems to be the failed socialist system. The libs in this country are still hoopee-hollering for socialized medicine and the Brits are drafting ways to return to private medicine. There is no country practicing socialized medicine successfully today.

It seems to me that Amnesty International talks more about US ‘atrocities’ than they do murder and torture of the innocent practiced as policy by other nations. I will not pay any attention to this crap nor believe them until they start impartially reporting facts instead of showing their hatred of our western democracies.

Hey righties – (you didn’t think I only kick lefties, did you?) – yes, you are on the right general track. Protect our own. Good. Defeat those who would kill us. Good. But – don’t demonize anyone who disagrees with you. This leads you to think that the end always justifies the means. That is true – only if you are a soulless animal. Your opponent is not necessarily your enemy. It is ok to have civil discourse with opponents. It is ok to disagree. Is also ok to kill those who would kill you. But – remember – the populous does not always reflect the murderous desires of their mad leaders. They may be ordinary people caught up in a tidal wave of insanity. Fight to victory – yes. But be rational and compassionate when the victory is won. Be greater in victory than in battle. Don’t try to shove your beliefs on everyone. We are not robots. We have free will. Let us exercise that as civilized humans. A civilized human will fight to victory in response to aggression, but is not the aggressor.

The Inquisition is Alive and Well –

15 December 07

Galileo Galilei would feel right at home in modern day America. You may remember that Galileo was persecuted by the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church when he stated the observed scientific fact that the Earth revolves around the Sun, not vice-versa. He had to recant a fact that was in conflict with the firmly held opinion of the Church that the Earth was the center of the Universe. He also got to spend the rest of his life under house arrest.The left tells us, every time they want to be obnoxious and in-our-faces about something or other, that dissent and debate are good for us. Problem is, that shoe doesn’t seem to fit their foot. When a scientific type who is employed by government or academia has an opinion on “global warming” contrary to that of the non-scientific left, they dare not express it for fear of retaliation, job loss, and McCarthy-esque blacklisting.

Any true climatological data or research is suppressed under a loud howling of obscenity and derision from the true believers of the left. Sort of like the shouting of the Earth-centrists a few hundred years ago. I love the consensus bit. Science is not consensus, whether of “scientists” or the hoi-polloi. The fact that polls show that 77% or so of Americans “believe” that “global warming” is taking place and is a result of human activity means just about as much as the statistic that 100% of the lay people of Galileo’s time believed that the Sun revolved around the Earth. Science is 1 scientist describing real world data that can be verified again and again.

What the young and/or brainwashed “true believers” seem to forget is that the big lib scare of 1975 was the coming ice age. We were going to be buried under glaciers within 50 years if we did not go back to the lifestyle of the Middle Ages. ‘Course the back to Earthers seemed to have forgotten that the primitive lifestyle destroys trees in massive quantities for simply heating the home and cooking. They also seem to overlook the horrible mortality rate from simple infections. It takes pretty sophisticated technology to make the medicines that prevent death from being a constant visitor in everyone’s life.

There is some difference between climate change, which we do seem to be having a mild case thereof, and “global warming”. Climate change – available non-hyped data seems to indicate that we are an aggregate of 1°C warmer than we were at the beginning of the 20th century – a natural phenomenon of cyclical nature. “Global warming” – as defined by the left – states that all “modern” change is caused by man (particularly America), the earth having reached a stead state of perfection with unchanging climate except by the interference of man.

I do advocate the responsible and conservative use of resources. I do not advocate waste at all. I do think that we should devote considerable research to finding more efficient ways of generating and using power. I am also quite willing for people who have the need to give up all kinds of things to make themselves feel some worth to their lives to have a ball giving up anything their little hearts desire. However. Your desire to wear sackcloth must not be forced on me or any other free citizen who does not feel that particular need. If the left wishes to force someone to be more careful of resources they might want to take a look at China, India, and Africa. If only America is penalized for success, the country will not survive. Of course, the same people who want to drive us into the primitive lifestyle also want to abolish the military, don’t want to stop illegal immigration, do want to raise taxes to punish the productive and do not wish to protect us from Moslem aggression. If they don’t kill the country with one strategy, they will try others until they succeed in their suicidal desire.

Music in my life – and other things

4 November 07

It is somewhat interesting to me to reflect on the role music has played in my life. It has been a comfort, a pleasure, a challenge and a journey.

I had about 6 months to a year of accordion lessons when I was 6. This taught me to read music in the fashion of a child. I didn’t do much with it when I was younger.

Then there was playing the trumpet (poorly) in the high school band in the 9th grade. I’m not sure what that taught me other than that playing with a band could be fun.

Then teaching myself sax and clarinet and…

Then there was picking up the piano when I was 16 and teaching myself to play and read music of the bass clef persuasion (accordion only uses chord notation in bass clef). I never got to be really good, but was good enough to play boogie in a dive down on West Peachtree Street for a while. (Yes – I was underage). A side story: Sometime around the time that Herself & I first married my mother was retired and had a mania for travel and cruises. She decided that she wanted to travel in Germany and visit an old friend who was teaching at the American School in Germany. Anyway, usually she took my sister with her on trips, but Sis could not go for some reason, so she asked me if I would go with her. Herself had no objections, so I did. Rather fun (it would have been better if Herself were there, but I got closer to Mother, so not a loss). We stayed on a tour boat that went down the Rhine from Munich to Amsterdam, and stopped at every decent town on the way. (The Red Light district in Amsterdam was interesting and no, I didn’t). We left the boat in Heidelberg and took Eurorail to Wiesbaden to meet the friend. We all went to a local place to eat dinner and have some beer (of course!) The place had a really good piano player knocking out some really decent 40s style boogie. (I heard more & better jazz in Europe than in America). Anyway, when he took a break I was asked to play by mother and friend, and the owner had no objection, so I did. Really pulled out the stops on some wild stomp boogie. The patrons seemed to enjoy it. Later a gal came in with 2 men and started dancing with them (not at the same time). This gal wasn’t particularly pretty, but wow, she could really move on a jitterbug. I commented to the friend that I would love to dance with her, but that it just didn’t do to approach a strange woman in a bar when she already had 2 male escorts. (Good way to get hurt in the good ol’ USA). Friend said that I was being silly and that there was no problem in Germany. Just go ask her. Well, what the hell. So I did. So she did. Wow – that gal was outstanding. We finished dancing. Me exhausted – smoked too much and hadn’t seriously danced for a couple of years. Out of shape. But you know – I couldn’t pay for ANYTHING in that bar the rest of the night. Food and drink on the house. Loads of fun.

Anyway, that was the end of music, other than the occasional desultory plinking at the piano for a while. Work does get in the way of hobbies.

After we converted to Orthodoxy, Herself’s godfather, who was the choir director at the little mission, noticed that I was a very deep bass (not quite Russian contra, but close) and got me to singing. Bit of a surprise. I grew up a Whiskypalian (where there’s four, there’s a fifth) and could never sing a lick with the organ grinding out funeral dirge sounding music and I certainly can’t sing pop stuff. Turned out I could sing bass rather well with acapella Russian music. Thank God the Church Fathers decided that only the Human voice was proper for church music! Later we moved to a little mission that was in Alpharetta at the time. There was no choir, no director. Nothing. The music was HORRIBLE. This is a major problem since the Orthodox services are completely sung. We are talking about a 1.5 to 2 hour stretch of very painful amateurs slogging poorly. I told Herself that I liked the mission but could not take that pain. She talked to the priest behind my back (sneaky woman!). As a result, the priest came to me and asked that I become director. I had no idea how to direct. No books. Didn’t know how to give tones to a choir. Didn’t know how to direct (choral directing is NOT beating time!) I had to learn all that in a hurry. I got a midi keyboard and some software so that I could make my own books. Had to learn how to score for choir, how to read Old Church Slavonic and translate into English. The church sent me to a couple of choir director conventions where I got to meet and study with some of the real biggies. Eventually I acquired all the skills of a Russian choir director (in English). Got pretty fair. I had one of the best choirs in the South (not just my opinion!). Turns out that over the years I wrote something like 14 choir books for various services (average 1” thick double sided letter). I just looked in the directory where the stuff is stored and it is 1,337 separate pieces at 20.5 meg in a pretty efficient file format. Some short and some running up 15 pages of solid music. Not bad for a self-taught duffer. Herself has put a very small amount on the web HERE.

If you go there and look you may become a little confused if you try to play this stuff by normal western rules. Most of the stuff doesn’t have time signatures. If you try to count beats per measure, you can go nuts. Only some of the stuff written in the late 19th century (or early 20th) has strict meter. The older stuff is really a chant form, rather than a “singing” music form. The words are the important thing, not necessarily the accuracy of the meter. Some of the really early (9th – 11th century) is modal as can be and is rather strange to the modern western ear. Of course, the early stuff is really influenced by Byzantine chant. Really weird chord progressions. See the Byzantine Lord’s Prayer or the Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy) on the above web site for a taste. You can sometimes see where I have used some of this with the serial numbers filed off and the body lines reworked. You should try a listen to some decent good Russian Church Music (there’s lots on the web). I think you will like it as music. After all, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and all the Russian greats were influenced by (and wrote) church music. Matter of fact, there is a Tchaikovsky Trisagian (Holy God) and a Rimsky-Korsakov Lord’s Prayer on that web site. Normal, everyday music for us!

Anywho – I really loved directing for all those years and really miss it. But – the body can’t take it anymore. I tell you, to have a good choir respond to your every body move with glorious music, just wow. Couple of times I had really large choirs of good singers: 50 or so. Church conventions. Better than booze or acid. It is like flying when it is right. Rather physically demanding though. Standing and waving your arms for two hours is too much for an old, broke down guy. Not to mention the strain of keeping everyone in order. I never could decide whether choir directors went to Heaven because of all their travails or to Hell because they wanted to choke the daylights out of the clergy and choristers.

Old Church Slavonic – when Sts. Cyril and Methodios went to Moravia to preach to the Slavs, they followed the traditional Orthodox method of translating the Scriptures and service books into the local language. The script used is still called Cyrillic. The Slavs had a whole bunch of similar, but separate dialects. The amalgam of these dialects into something reasonably comprehensible to all of them became Church Slavonic. This is not exactly Russian, but still somewhat close. There was discussion at the Moscow Sobor (Church Convention) of 1917 about reworking the Scriptures and Service Books into modern Russian since people could not clearly understand Slavonic without some training. (The average Russian comes close to understanding, but no cigar). When the bullets started flying (literally), the discussion was abruptly shelved (and the delegates ducked). I knew some of the people that were there. These tough old Russian Christians lived long and hard (if they weren’t killed). Beautiful people. It is anticipated that sometime in the next several years this will come back up for resolution. The Church currently has somewhat more pressing things in trying to recover from all the years of Soviet persecution. (Very real. Very bad. Somewhere between 20 and 30 MILLION new martyrs).

Old Farts –

11 October 07

I like old farts.

I am past-president of a local woodworking club. I am founder of the local woodturner’s club. Most of the members are old guys. Now, not all are old. Not all are guys. But most are both. I look out and I see wrinkles, age spots, stooped bodies. These wrinkles are honorable battle scars from daily combat. These age spots are medals for honorable conduct in the course of their lives. The stoop comes from bearing the daily weight of responsibility for family.

These guys have been through the conflicts of life and emerge victorious. They are heroes. These old men are sweet, as properly aged meat is sweet. They are sharing and caring, willing and eager to share any knowledge of woodworking or any other life experience they have. After all, they have trained and raised sons and daughters to be successful humans and useful citizens, so it is an easy extension for them.

They have proven to be loving, generous and kind. They have lived with the same women for 30, 40, 50, 60 years and have been steady and loving husbands. They can still see the vivacious and vibrant (and gorgeous) young women they first loved in the grand old ladies that are their wives.

If you look closely you can still see the tall, straight, strong, handsome and proud young men still present in the weakened and aching bodies. But tempered by experience. Aged to wisdom, like fine spirits. Shaped and polished by the rough edges of life. Gentle humor as a daily way of coping.

Oh yes, I like old farts.


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