Wednesday, March 1, 2006
After being too much of a cold weather sissy for a few weeks, I went out and did my three miles this morning. I made it around in a few seconds under 32 minutes. That's passing on the Marine fitness test for guys over 46. To get a passing score for ages 40 through 45, I have to get it down to 30 minutes.
Thursday, March 2, 2006
Recently I read a couple of great books. The first is Cheyenne Memories by John Stands in Timber (1884-1967) and Margot Liberty. Beginning in the 1890's when he was a boy, John Stands in Timber interviewed old timers who remembered Cheyenne life from before the coming of the whites. He took notes on their mythology, religion, history and daily life. He gathered eyewitness accounts from participants in the Indian wars of the 70's and 80's, and heard their versions of the Chivington Massacre at Sand Creek, the Custer battle, and other historic events. Margot Liberty worked with Stands in Timber in the last years of his life to turn his notes of more than half a century into this book. For anyone with an interest in American history, this one is a must read.
One of the stories in Cheyenne Memories is of the burning of the Alderson cabin, and so the next book I picked up was A Bride Goes West by Nannie T. Alderson (1860-1946) and Helena Huntington Smith. Nannie Alderson tells the story of moving with her cowboy husband to the Montana frontier to run a cattle ranch. She describes their pioneer life, and gives the settlers' version of some of the stories told by her Cheyenne neighbors in Cheyenne Memories. To borrow a phrase from Tom Mix, Nannie Alderson is a straight-shooter. She's a wonderful story teller, and speaks her mind. One of her comments should be in everybody's mind when we hear a politician pontificating about God and morality: "I've always said there were two things you never needed to talk about---your blue blood and your religion; if you had a speck of either, it was bound to show in some other way."
These two books together show us the Old West in ways that we don't often see in movies and on television, told in the words of people who were there.
Saturday, March 4, 2006
Recently I saw that a fellow blogger was posting some of the music he had heard lately. Since I'm not above stealing a good idea, I'll do the same. What should I start with? Easy choice. Why not begin with the absolute best? Beethoven, of course. No, young folks, he's not a dog. He's a composer who lived two hundred years ago and wrote such great music that people are still playing it and listening to it today. He wrote a lot of music, including nine symphonies. I think my favorite is the sixth symphony, called the Pastoral because it's based on a walk in the country. It even includes a storm, with lightning and thunder. It was used in the 1940 Disney film, Fantasia, in which the Disney artists set it in the countryside of ancient Greece, with centaurs, satyrs, and other mythical creatures. I first saw the film when I was about seven or eight, then went to see it again in its next release when I was fifteen. I loved the film and I loved the music. What's so great about the Sixth Symphony? I'm not expert enough to explain it musically, but I can tell you why I like it. The big symphony orchestra can make a lot of sounds, and a lot of them are really beautiful. The sounds created by Beethoven are some of the most beautiful ever. He also came up with some wonderful melodies, a feature lacking in a lot of today's music.
This recording is by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Herbert von Karajan. You can get it from cduniverse.com for less than $10, or you can get a CD of the 1961 Chicago Symphony recording for over $50, if you can find it. With a net search, you may find some other recordings of it. I would say find it while you can, because our plunge down the cultural toilet has made classical music wildly unpopular, and the greatest music may soon become unavailable at any price. The title: Symphony #6 (Pastoral), by Ludwig von Beethoven.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Egad, another week has swirled down the drain of eternity without a blog entry. This is due to not much of interest going on. I did make some progress on the bathroom project, installing most of the east wall and getting some spackling done. Sanding the stuff sure kicks up a cloud of dust.
This week's musical entertainment comes from Vicente Fernandez. One reviewer called him Mexico's Frank Sinatra, but with a better set of pipes. Based on his movies, I think of him as sort of like Burt Reynolds with a great singing voice. In short, this guy is one great singer, which has made him one of Mexico's greatest stars. He has owned the franchise on ranchero music for the past thirty years, and has a huge body of recorded work. There is not a trace of rock or other US influence in a Vicente Fernandez recording. None of the synthesizers or other electronic noises that have contaminated some other Mexican music, just traditional arrangements beautifully combining guitars and orchestra backing up a great singer. Like most other Mexican singers, Chente sings the words so clearly that anyone who knows Spanish can understand every word. This is a practice unknown to most US singers today.
The pictured CD is one of the two from Volume 15 of Sony's 22-volume limited edition, remastered, 35th anniversary series. Any of these 44 discs would probably contain some gems, but I picked this one because of two songs. One is Que te Vaya Bonito by the great Jose Alfredo Jimenez, and was a big Fernandez hit. The other is Amor Indio, known in English as Indian Love Call. Yep, the same song sung in the movies by Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. This is a great performance of a great song, by one of the best singers still performing.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Last night I went to Restaurante La Birría again. Had tacos de barbacoa, then a delicious burrito de chorizo that was huge. What a great meal! But if I did that too often, I'd soon weigh 400 pounds.
Today I worked on the bathroom some more, sanding the spackling I did yesterday, fixing a leaky faucet, and getting the first coat of paint on the ceiling. That last chore is always a hassle, trying to keep paint from dribbling down my arm. One more coat and I won't have to mess with the ceiling any more.
Monday, March 13, 2006
After work this afternoon I drove up to Wichita and got a new radio installed in the car. This one includes a CD player. It also seems to be a lot better than the old one at pulling in distant stations. I would have stayed with the original radio if it hadn't developed the habit of skipping from station to station in warm weather. It got pretty annoying to be driving along listening to the station I wanted to hear, then suddenly be listening to something you couldn't pay me to put up with, and having to whack the dashboard to knock the thing back to the right station.
Since it was a pretty chilly day, while I was in Wichita I went to MannaWok and had a bowl of kimchi ji geh. If you're not familiar with Korean food, I'll explain. It's a spicy soup, served bubbling hot. You get a bowl of steamed rice and three kinds of kimchi to start with, and by the time you get through most of that, the soup has cooled down enough to eat. It's a great dish for a cold day.
Friday, March 17, 2006
This afternoon, with the ceiling painting done, I installed the lighting fixtures in the bathroom. Yesterday I ordered tile for the shower and the floor. The end of the bathroom project is in sight. Maybe another month will see it done.
Friday is Tamale Night, time for one of my favorite meals. Two pork tamales (not those pathetic canned imitations, but real ones, hand made by a real Mexican lady), buried in chili beans and topped with grated cheese, jalapeño slices, and chopped onions. Yummy!
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Made it around the three miles in 31:40 this morning. Not too bad for a geezer pushing 65, I guess.
This week's music is from Leon Redbone. The pictured CD is Up a Lazy River, and contains the usual entertaining mixture of vintage songs and Redbone originals. The retro master delivers all in the distinctive Redbone style with able assistance from the likes of Arnie Kinsella, Alfredo Pedernera, Dr. John, Cyndi Cashdollar, Vince Giordano, and other top musicians. Any Leon Redbone release will include familiar classics from the golden age of American popular music, like Up a Lazy River, but a great part of the fun is in obscure gems like At the Chocolate Bon Bon Ball, a real hoot, and When Dixie Stars Are Playing Peek-a-Boo. These are songs created long before the death of melody infected pop music, or are written as if they were, and many of them delight with lyrics witty and clever. A Redbone CD may include the occasional duet with the likes of Merle Haggard or Ringo Starr, but mostly you get Redbone and a few great musicians, bringing you some of the best songs of the past century. You can't go wrong with other Redbone CD's like Whistling in the Wind, From Branch to Branch, and Leon Redbone Live.
Today I drove down to Ponca City to get some fancy trim at Lowe's for the bathroom windows. I looked at all the various samples and picked the molding design that looked best for what I had in mind. I needed a couple of eight-foot pieces to do both windows. There were two pieces in stock, both of them so badly warped in two directions as to be completely useless. There were plenty of pieces in most other styles, so I settled for a second choice. I also wanted some decorative rosettes to go at the corners of the windows. I needed eight for the two windows. After sorting through the stuff mixed haphazzardly in two different bins, I finally managed to gather eight of the same kind. I cleaned out the store's whole stock of that item. This little story demonstrates that even when you make a sixty mile round trip to a giant-box store that supposedly has everything, you're lucky to find what you want.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
As Bushy Tail Squirrel said when Santa brought him a sack full of nuts, "Oh, I am so happy!" After a parched January, a bone-dry February, and a desert-like first half of March, this weekend finally brought some relief. From Saturday morning to Sunday morning, an off-and-on light drizzle brought about .4", and today some real showers arrived. Intermittent light rain has provided enough moisture to make actual puddles. The best part is that the forecast shows a 100% chance of rain or snow off and on until Tuesday morning. After a few days of 40's and 50's we're supposed to hit 70º again next weekend. The little frogs haven't been heard from so far this year, but all this weather ought to get them going.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
This music is a ride down Memory Lane for me. It's June, 1963. The semester has ended at Pepperdine, and I'm riding with Jim Johnson, Tim Shamroy, Maurice Hawkins, and Bobby Matthews in Jim's 1958 Chevy convertible. We're taking Bobby home to Muskogee, Oklahoma. As well as I can remember after 43 years, we started sometime in the afternoon. By the time we got past Banning and through San Gorgonio Pass it was dark, and the radio was picking up 50,000 watt KOMA, a thousand miles away in Oklahoma City. As we drove in shifts all night through Arizona and New Mexico, the radio brought us the top hits. Most of what we heard that night has faded from memory, but I remember three songs distinctly. One was what has to be the most unlikely hit in the history of Top 40 radio, Kyu Sakamoto's Sukiyaki; another was also an import, Rolf Harris singing Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport; and the third was Sweet Dreams of You. Patsy Cline had died in a plane crash just three months before, and Sweet Dreams was a huge posthumous hit. If you were around for Top 40, you know that the really top hits got a LOT of airplay, and you would hear them at least every hour, and on some stations every half hour. With a couple more days in that car, we probably could have learned to sing along with Kyu Sakamoto in Japanese. But with all the repetition, I never tired of Patsy Cline. She had a clear, strong voice, and knew how to use it. Decades later, listening to her is still a pleasure.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
We used to make fun of my dad for always watching the Lawrence Welk show, with all that square, hokey, old-fashioned music. Thirty years later, things look a little different. Perhaps it's wisdom to realize that there's nothing wrong with old-fashioned, especially in the hands of talented professionals. Last night I turned on the TV, and there was Lawrence and all the gang. Yes, the music is definitely old-fashioned, and some would say pretty hokey. But there's a reason this show was on network TV for decades, and that's in the Welk talent for hiring very talented performers. In the program aired last night, Joe Feeny did a rendition of Without a Song that brought not just applause, but shouts of approval from the audience. If you want a great performance of an old Irish favorite like The Rose of Tralee, Feeny is your man. People like Ana Cani, Jimmy Roberts, Myron Floren, and Arthur Duncan, and many others on the show, were outstanding examples of good, old-time musical talent. As popular culture continues to get stupider and trashier, the old stuff looks better and better to me.
Friday, March 31, 2006
4:50 AM: I just did my three miles. It was a balmy 51º, so I went without sweatshirt and sweatpants. Made it around the course in 31:10. On the Marine fitness test that's OK for ages 46 and over, but I need to cut another 1:10 off my time for ages 40-45, and another 2:10 for ages 27-39.
Cleaned the ashes out of the fireplace this afternoon. The forecast is for lows above 45º, so there may be no need for a fire again until next fall.