Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Potpourri of Culture Collision

YES!!!! This is why I love Theodore Dalrymple so much....besides the fact that his name is fun to say....I just love tongue twisters.

"Staying recently in a South Yorkshire town called Rotherham—described in one guidebook as “murky,” an inadequate word for the place—I was interested to read in the local newspaper how the proprietors of some stores are preventing hooligans from gathering outside to intimidate and rob customers. They play Bach over loudspeakers, and this disperses the youths in short order; they flee the way Count Dracula fled before holy water, garlic flowers, and crucifixes."

Heh! Take that!

And now for some Unspoiled Beauty.

And I will just leave the final word to Capucine....if she can say it right, that is:

Tongue twister from Capucha on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

OUAIS! Les French Are Les Toast!

Apologies to Pamela Geller at Atlas Shrugs. She gets a belated Hat Tip from moi.

Aaaaah! Let me just get this straight: The xenophobique Quebecoises, have legislated all kinds of idiotic language laws just to peess off les anglais... who for reasons unfathomable weesh to remain behind the maple syrup curtain, n'est-ce pas? While the President of Fwance, ouais, les fwancais, are in full Fwankish mode of pre-emptive surrendering la langue maternelle (which they have diligently tried to keep pure from Wretched Filthy English contamination) to their Mohammedan Overlords!

From The Brussels Journal:
Sarkozy: “Arabic Is the Language of the Future”
From the desk of Tiberge on Tue, 2008-10-14 11:14

The French government is strongly advocating the teaching of Arabic language and civilization in French schools. Not surprising, considering the number of Arabs and Muslims in France, and the unctuous deference with which they are treated by officials, beginning notably with Nicolas Sarkozy, who cannot praise enough the splendor of Arabic contributions to the world.

The French National Assembly was the scene of a meeting earlier this month of the first Conference on the Teaching of Arabic Language and Culture, attended by a variety of interested parties. There was much wearisome blather about the need for "dialogue."

In his message to the participants, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Arabic the "language of the future, of science and of modernity," and expressed the hope that "more French people share in the language that expresses great civilizational and spiritual values."

"We must invest in the Arabic language (because) to teach it symbolizes a moment of exchange, of openness and of tolerance, (and it) brings with it one of the oldest and most prestigious civilizations of the world. It is in France that we have the greatest number of persons of Arabic and Muslim origin. Islam is the second religion of France," Sarkozy reminded his listeners.

He proceeded to enumerate the various "advances in terms of diversity," the increase in Muslim sections of cemeteries, the training of imams and chaplains and the appointments of ministers of diverse backgrounds.

"France is a friend of Arabic countries. We are not seeking a clash between the East and West," he affirmed, emphasizing the strong presence of Arab leaders at the founding summit of the Union for the Mediterranean, last July 13. "The Mediterranean is where our common hopes were founded. Our common sea is where the principal challenges come together: durable development, security, education and peace," added the French president.

Well, the French are going to have to learn some useful phrases in their new tongue: I propose the following:

"How does one say 'I surrender' in Arabic?"
"Please don't cut off my head, Monsieur!"
"Can't you see that I am already on my knees?"
"You want me to do WHAT?"
"I am not that kind of Frenchman, monsieur!"
"But I have a little sister."
"Since when did 16 become too old?"
"Him, that is my little brother. He is only 5!"
"Okay, okay, adieu, Jacques, go with the nice Musulman."

Bwahahahahaha! So riche is this tidbit of news that it requires a special dinner in honor of their boastful stupidite. So, tonight's haramfest is French Dip!

Here's a variation on the theme.

1 lb pastrami
1 can Campbell's Condensed French onion soup
4 slices of Swiss cheese
1 cup of ginger ale or beer
French bread or Pumpernickel
Bacon Dressing (It's optional, but really makes the sandwich!)

Mix the ginger ale or beer with the onion soup in a small pot and heat over medium heat.
Preheat a large skillet or sandwich griddle if using pumpernickel,
Pumpernickel: Spread bacon dressing on one side of eight slices of the bread. Place 1/4 lb of the pastrami on one side and top with cheese. place other piece of bread on top. Butter outside of sandwich and grill on medium low heat in a skillet or sandwich grill til cheese is melted. It is hard to tell with such a dark bread if you over cook it, so be careful and watch. Makes 4 sandwiches.
For French Bread:
Slice loaf lengthwise in half and butter. Season with garlic salt and pepper.
On one side place the entire amount of pastrami and top with cheese. Put both the top side and the meat and cheese side of the sandwich under the broiler and toast til browned and the cheese has melted. Put sandwich together and dip away in the onion soup.

I've had this sandwich both ways, and I prefer the pumpernickel with the bacon dressing.
It must be a Pretzelvania Dutch thing.
In the meantime, the kind folks at Weekly Standard have composed a spanking new national anthem for the feckless French. Au revoir, a dieu, alors!

And now, let us bid a fond farewell, midst the rising smoke and flames of a million burning Peugeots:

Friday, January 16, 2009

The 2009 Movie Season.....In a World

...well, in Iowahawkland, that is.

Here are my favorites:
Hershey Highway: Based on the Tony Kushner play, a candy factory worker (Joaquin Seymour Gyllenhall) and an Amish teen (John Phillips Sousa Huffnagel) find forbidden pleasure in a poignant love tale set against the gritty backdrop of Pennsylvania’s chocolate belt.

Me Billy: Based on the inspirational true story of a learning disabled man (Sean Penn) who rescues New Orleans from a racist flood with a magical red beer cup.

Oh, Hell No: Martin Lawrence, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and Chris Tucker reprise their roles in the surprise hit ‘Big Fat Sassy Grandma’ in this raucously degrading comedy based on the popular urban catchphrase.

Ice Station Wasilla: Global warming unleashes Nixon, McCarthy, and Sarah Palin from a glacial tomb in this stylish post-apocalyptic horror set in Alaska. With Keanu Reeves as Al Gore.

The Royal Fluffers: Lovable band of misfit stoners with Jew-fros trick Queen Elizabeth into filming a porno in this sweet coming-of-age teen fart bong sex comedy from Judd Apatow. Starring Jonah Sethberg, Seth Justinstein, Jay Justin Jonahbluth, Ron Jeremy, and Helen Mirren. (British release titled “On Her Majesty’s Secret Cervix”)

Sex And The City II: Hot Flashes. America’s favorite quartet of pre-menopausal Gotham divas return for more breezy mimicking of gay men.

High School Musical 5: Donner Pass Prom Party. Music, love, and cannibalism are in the air as the Wildcat gang gets stranded in the High Sierras. Featuring the hit Zach Cody - Melissa Vanessa duet, “I Never Thought It Could Taste So Good.”

Cold Humpcrack Creekwater: Two retarded gay cowgirl sisters (Rene Zellweger, Traci Lords) defy a fundamentalist sherriff (Chris Cooper) and discover love in this 1930’s period piece set in the Appalachian outback of Nebraskansaw.

Muggers: Jim Carrey, Will Farrell, and Jack Black team up in new comedy about three men who spend 92 minutes yelling and making annoying facial expressions. With Jennifer Aniston as the exasperated woman.

The Red State Menace: Hollywood patriotism returns with a vengeance in this contemporary crime thriller starring George Clooney as an undercover G-Man who infiltrates a Kansas Rotary Club to uncover Republican subversives for the House Un-Obama Activities Committee.

By far, the best movies are all 'themed' after the McCarthy Era of Hollywood blacklists and the endless pity parties and wallowing which have hounded us since then:

Silenced Wood: George Clooney stars and directs in this drama about the climate of fear among liberal ventriloquists during radio’s notorious Charlie McCarthy era.

Fearful Silence: Courageous ‘What’s My Line?’ contestant (Leonardo DiCaprio) refuses to answer panelist questions in this game show drama set against the McCarthy-blacklist era. With Ralph Fiennes as Bennett Cerf and Keith Olbermann as Kitty Carlisle.

Fearful Deadly Fear: Blacklisted 1950’s screenwriter Damon Runyan (Tim Robbins) writes a secret screenplay about the the McCarthy-era blacklists, in this 1950’s blacklist drama set against the background of the McCarthy era blacklists.

Silenced 1984: Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Errol Morris interviews the survivors of Hollywood’s notorious Reagan-era ‘Year of Fear,’ when only three McCarthy-themed movies were released.

Ouch. That's gonna leave a mark. Heh.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bach to Basic Training

I have begun my education in Bach. At this point, I am going straight back to the Anna Magdalena Notebooks and starting there. I purchased some excellent downloads at Amazon of the Well-Tempered Clavier and the Inventions, to which I have also been listening intently. The first step is to become as familiar with them as I read the music while listening to them. In my lifetime, I have only played 3 of the 2 part inventions completely, and only 1 of the 3 part inventions. Maybe 1 or 2 pieces from the Anna Magdalena Notebooks and the Prelude in C major of Well-Tempered Clavier. A paltry repertoire, to be sure. So each night, I have been playing as perfectly as possible the 13th 2 part Invention in A minor and the First Prelude in C major.

I am going to add the metronome to my regimen as well. I welcome the discipline. Each day has produced some surprises. Bach only seems really fast. I find that I don't really like Glenn Gould all that much. After listening to him play the Inventions, I prefer Janos Sebestyen's playing to his. I don't know what all the hype is about Gould, but it isn't his playing that annoys me but the poor quality of either the piano or recordings that bugs me so much. The only recording of his that I like - barely, is the French Suites. And that not much.
Here is a lovely rendition of Prelude in C Major by Everwood:

Prelude in C Major (Piano) - Everwood

In the Prelude in C major, the hands are constantly flowing in a left to right motion, fluidly, with the left hand almost acting as a sustaining pedal. It is reminiscent of prayer, and yet, as the notes rise upward from the bass to the treble, there is a subtle descent into darker minor and diminished broken chord phrases which become softer, and mysterious, but only briefly, before rising upwards again with a resolved and gradual crescendo as the dominant in the bass resolves from suspense into the original joyous tonic. If it were a painting it would be light piercing the darkness. Or hope rising out of the pit of despair. This is the spiritual aspect of Bach that is such a heady elixir for me.

Here is a useful resource for musicians looking for public domain sheetmusic in pdf format.

Update: I received a very nice letter from a gentleman named Leonard Vertighel with a link to the International Music Score Library Project. The link to Sheetmusic Archive has been removed because they charge for the privilege of downloading printed music that is already in the public domain, and thus, should be free of charge. Sucker that I am, and not knowing about the IMSLP, I paid my hard-earned bucks to Sheetmusic Archive, when I could have donated the same amount to a far superior site.  

The Red Piano by Emily Martin

From the artist's site:

I took piano lessons as a girl, and I think I might've learned to do more than play by ear if I had been lucky enough to find a red piano to play on.

Oh, I don't know. It might have helped me, too, I suppose. As long as it's a Kawai.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Aborted Abortionists

Perhaps this should be logged under Psymath  or something.  

Perhaps it's just a rhetorical question.   BUT:  

How many Planned Parenthood employees have been aborted since the legalization of abortion?

Just asking.

Good Morning, Everyone!

Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!

Time to wake up, keeds! Wash your face, do all the wudu that you do and start the day!

Oh, never mind. Go back to sleep. Just be prepared for the knock on the door.
Me? I'm makin' ribs 'n' rice for dinner.

That's right, Kansas City Girl is having ribs

'n' rice.  

 I hate to break it to you KC rib connoisseurs who favor either KC Masterpiece or
Famous Dave's, but y'all ain't got nothin' on me! I make the best ribs. Dry rubbed, Memphis style, with sauce on the side.  Served over a bed of piping, hot buttered rice and corn bread on the side. Too damn cold for corn on the cob, so beans it is. Mmmmmm! I only hope there will be enough for the food police, when they come. 
Rib rub is a personal thing.  If you use 2 tbspns. of just about any kind of sugars, salts and pepper, with half amounts for cayenne, paprika, thyme, garlic powder and cumin, you will get a nice rub. Whisk it all together and save it in a plastic bag or a plastic storage container.
For winter time cooking indoors, set your oven to 325. We're going low and slow.
Fill a broiler pan half way with water and add a tablespoon of liquid smoke and begin heating it in the oven.
Rub 2 racks of ribs with a good amount of sesame oil and then generously massage the dry rub into the ribs on both sides and place on the broiler rack, and place it onto the broiler pan already in the oven.  Roast slowly for 3 to 4 hours.  You may either add the sauce to the ribs 15 minutes before serving, or you can serve the sauce on the side, for the finicky kids who don't LIKE barbecue sauce. Traitors. I told them there was ketchup in it, but they aren't buying.
Serve with hot, buttered steamed rice. 

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Time to dust off the keys and avail myself of *uggggh* practice. I will admit, my practice has suffered for the last several months. Call it ennui, or just plain drudgery, but an incident over the holidays transformed my opinion about practicing.

Pandora radio. Yep. Like Pandora's infamous box of ancient Greek mythology I peered into the radio box, and pulled out this gem, and was immediately possessed by the spirit of Bach. Which is saying a lot, since I have always found Bach to be intimidating and somewhat beyond my ken. But there I sat, totally transfixed, as if hearing J. S. Bach for the very first time in my life.

Actually, I had a terrible misconception growing up about classical music, and perhaps it was because of the way I was taught. I started off as a piano student with Anna Magdalena's notebook and progressed to Beethoven and then to Schumann and the other oh so romantic composers, then went forth to Debussy and Ravel....chronologically. Now this may or may not be a good way to teach piano, but this is how I learned, and not exactly how I teach. By the time I quit taking piano lessons, I had barely breached Bach's 2 part Inventions. I could only play one or two of them....badly. And so, for nearly 25 years, I have lingered outside the Bach clubhouse, thinking myself either too incapable of playing anything more than Anna Magdalena's charming girlish pieces or not insane enough to try anything harder. I am no better with Handel or Scarlatti.

But this year is different. We are living in interesting times. Playing the piano can now be considered an act of cultural rebellion. Playing classical music in the faces of those sons of Allah, who hates music and has forbidden his minions from ever enjoying it is the ultimate act of defiance. The tastiest of infidelicacies, if you will.

And why is Murray Perahia's playing of Bach's English Suites so vastly better and completely different from Glenn Gould's or Keith Jarrett's Listen:

English Suite No. 2 in A minor, BWV 807/I. Prélude (Instrumental) - Murray Perahia

The even more amazing thing about this recording is this bit of information via Wikipedia:

Injury and later career

In 1990, Perahia suffered a cut to his right thumb, which became septic. He took antibiotics for this condition, but they affected his health.[1] In 1992, his career was threatened by a bone abnormality in his hand causing inflammation requiring several years away from the keyboard, and a series of surgeries. During that time, he says, he found solace through studying the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. After being given the all-clear, he produced in the late nineties a series of award-winning recordings of Bach's keyboard works, most notably a cornerstone rendition of the Goldberg variations. This has caused him to be regarded as a latter-day Bach specialist.

He has since made recordings of Chopin's etudes, and of Schubert's late piano sonatas. He is currently editing a new Urtext edition of Beethoven's piano sonatas.

Besides his solo career, he is active in chamber music and appears regularly with the Guarneri and Budapest Quartets. He is also Principal Guest Conductor of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields orchestra, with which he records and performs.[4]

On March 8, 2004, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom made him an honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire.

In early 2005, Perahia's hand problem recurred, prompting him to withdraw from the concert stage on the advice of his doctors. He cancelled several appearances at London's Barbican as well as a ten-city national tour in the United States, but has returned in fine form with recitals in German cities in 2006 and at the Barbican in April 2007. In the autumn of 2007 he completed a triumphant 10 city tour of the United States and conducted master classes in Salt Lake City, but was forced to cancel activities during the first half of 2008. He returned to the platform in August 2008 touring with the Concertgebouw Orchestra under the direction of Bernhard Haitink, and is on a Asian recital tour in October and November. New recordings of Bach partitas and Beethoven sonatas have been issued in 2008.

Owing to his hand problem and on the advice of his doctor, Perahia recently cancelled a tour in the United States with The Academy of St.-Martin-in-the-Fields (March and April 2008). Other recent cancellations include: The Barbican Music Event

He will be, hopefully appearing in London at this event this year in February.

So what has this got to do with me? A complete change of mind, in regards to Bach, and the belief that I could never play his music. In the Greek New Testament it is called Metanoia or a repentance. But moreover, it means changing the mind. Think metamorphosis, and you'll get it.

How to practice. Also, a complete change of habits. But where to get help in advancing my playing abilities?

Enter Alan Fraser with the Craft of Piano Playing

While on the surface this would seem technical, boring and dry, the moment I put into play the demonstrations, my hands seemed to fly! So I bought the DVD. This isn't about scales, trills, and ornamentation, though goodness knows I could use whatever help with that I can get. It is about learning something that I was too damn scared to play. And being willing to change how I play. That is the exciting part. Another book I have, which I downloaded for free at the website, though you can buy it spiral bound from Amazon, is Chuan Chang's Fundamentals of Piano Practice, and this book has also been of tremendous help where learning how to move from an intermediate level of play to an advanced level is concerned. My only complaint is that you have a lot of abbreviations to remember, but its counterintuitiveness is key in pushing yourself forward and not relying on bad practice habits. Also, thanks to my brother-in-law
Greg Richter, for telling me about Walter Gieseking. His methods of memorization I have used and passed on to my students.

I have decided to rework, according to the principles set forth in these learning materials my whole practice routine. If you are a musician, and would like to share here in the comments your frustrations and conquests, when it comes to practicing, please feel free to do so. I'm stoked.
I am also registered as Scherzophrenic over at the PianoWorld's forums.

If I can, I will try to keep a record of my progress. Here is the handy new tool that I am going to get, and the price is just right!