Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Lo siento, my darling public. I have done not a whit of blogging for over a week. I suppose I must plead midwinter torpor. Even in relatively mild southern Kansas, by the time February rolls around I've had enough of winter. Lethargy, ennui, and malaise make the geezer want to hibernate. While not sleeping, I've whiled away the time with little chores like splitting firewood and repairing a door latch. On Saturday I went to the annual Sunflower Swap Meet at the Kansas Coliseum north of Wichita. Since Kansas now has a year of manufacture vehicle registration law, I bought a 1968 license plate to put on my 1968 beetle. I spent the rest of the day going to see Charlotte's Web, a very good movie, buying some sox at Sears, and dining at the Hong Kong Buffet. The food was good, but the selection wasn't as impressive as I expected from hearing the radio commercials for the place. How very surprising, that advertising would exaggerate!
This afternoon I decided to take advantage of an unusually warm day (over60º) to gather some firewood. After I had cut about half a load, my chainsaw started coming apart. There was nothing to do but go to town for screws to replace the ones that had fallen out. I put the saw in the truck and started up the hill to the house. I wound up walking the last half of the way, as the truck couldn't make it up the hill which was slick with mud from melted snow. I'll let it sit and try again tomorrow. Maybe a good freeze tonight will make for a more solid roadway tomorrow. If not, I'll just wait a few days for the ground to dry out a bit.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
The solution to the stuck truck was simple. At 5:30 this morning the mud was frozen solid, and I drove the truck on up to the house. Sometimes we save a lot of hassle when we think of the obvious solution.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
My knowledge of French is only slightly above zero, but I don't have to uderstand the words to enjoy the music. Apparently a lot of other Americans didn't either, as Piaf appeared on the Ed Sullivan show no fewer than eight times. The great French star began her recording career in 1935 at age nineteen, so this disc of eighteen releases from 1936 contains some of her earliest work. This is before she became the nightclub chanteuse who helped the French resistance during the war, and before La Vie en Rose and some of her other greatest songs were released, but her way with a song, which would make her France's greatest popular singer, is already apparent.
I had a bit of a scare this afternoon. I thought I'd take advantage of sunny weather above freezing and go down to the trees to cut some firewood. When I started up the truck, it made the most awful, loud screeching sound. It was so loud it scared the dog. I checked under the hood to see what was going on, and found that the water pump was frozen stuck. Apparently I forgot to put in antifreeze. I had visions of a cracked block, or a ruptured radiator, or both. I ran an extension cord from the shop out to the truck and put a small electric heater under the hood, aimed at the water pump. I went and sawed wood for an hour or so, then came back and checked the pump. I was able to turn it by hand, so I started up the truck again, and it ran just fine. I checked for leaks and couldn't find any, so it appears no damage was done. I did make sure to drain some water out of the radiator and put in a gallon of antifreeze.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Egad, I missed a whole week. Well, not much was going on to merit comment. With the cold weather that got down below 10º some mornings, and with the shortage of ripe firewood in my pile, I spent a lot of time gathering and splitting wood.
Here's a wonderful combination of great musicians and great material. Kenny Burrell has been a great guitarist for decades. These sessions from 1966 and 1967 find him playing as beautifully as ever, abetted by Phil Woods on alto sax and clarinet, Ron Carter on bass, Grady Tate on drums, Mike Mainieri on vibes, and Richard Wyands on piano. The title "For Charlie Christian and Benny Goodman" gives an indication of the quality of the material. Two of the greatest compositions from the golden age of American song are here, Poor Butterfly and Moonglow. Other familiar Goodman fare includes As Long As I Live, Stompin' At the Savoy, I Surrender Dear, Rose Room, and Flying Home. Easy listeneing has come to be a pejorative term indicating pedestrian, unimaginative simplicity, but this is easy listening in the best sense. Burrell and company are virtuosi, but they don't show off at the expense of the material. Burrell demonstrates his range and versatility without straying far from the actual melody. What Burrell and Woods do with Poor Butterfly is by itself worth the prcie of the disc.
Friday, February 23, 2007
This week I was actually too busy to blog. I volunteered to help out with the Parkerfield city website, which had fallen into disuse in recent months. I had to learn a new hostng company's system, so I spent a lot of time on the phone for support, and a lot more time actually putting up the site. One other thing I did this week was go to the county courthouse and change the registration on my 1968 VW so I can use a 1968 license plate on it. Now the license plate is the best preserved thing on the car.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
For those who weren't around in 1958, it may he hard to imagine the almost shocking novelty of the Van Cliburn phenomenon. The death of the Soviet empire and the degeneration of American culture have so utterly changed the world that you had to be there to appreciate the magnitude of Cliburn's impact. Let's go back. It was the height of the Cold War, just two years after Soviet tanks crushed the Hungarian revolution. The great bear held all of eastern Europe in its iron grip. "We will bury you," boasted the Soviet dictator. In he United States, TV variety shows were popular. Millions of viewers watched Ed Sullivan present not just rock, Broadway, Hollywood, and other popular performers, but also classical music and opera greats. As incredible as it sounds today, THERE WERE COMMERCIAL RADIO STATIONS THAT PLAYED ONLY CLASSICAL MUSIC. So when a twenty-three year old Texan went to the capital of the totalitarian Goliath and won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition, and followed his victory with a series of concerts before rapturous Russian audiences, there were millions of Americans who actually cared. It was a really big deal. This disk presents Cliburn performing Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto with the RCA Symphony, conducted by Kiril Kondrashin, and Rachmaninoff's Concerto #2 with the Chicago Symphony under Fritz Reiner. Kondrashin was the conductor for Cliburn's Moscow triumph. I won't attempt to describe these two familiar piano pieces, and their incredible beauty. If you have only one recording of these concertos, this is the one to have.