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I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged about this before, but the bizarrely synchronous events in my life seem to me to be considerably above the proper average that statistics have laid down for our guidance.

For example, it’s a rare day when the New York Times crossword puzzle does not have an answer that reflects directly on something going on in my life, often a phrase, name, or word that pops up on the television show my lovely first wife is watching while I am working on that very clue.

Today in rehearsal during a break in the action, I was not involved in whatever was being discussed and idly opened one of the prop books on the table in front of me.  It was one of those bound volumes from Great Literature, and since I didn’t have my glasses on I could not read the text, but I could make out the headers on the left and right pages: CHARLES LYELL | GEOLOGIC EVOLUTION.


Flashback to teaching information skills to 3rd graders: one of my favorite activities to teach them how to use the dead-tree editions of the encyclopedia—because it was on the test that’s why shut up—was to have them look up their last name and see how close they could get.  I had an introductory presentation which demonstrated guide words blah blah and finally I would light on LYELL, CHARLES.  We’d scan the article and I’d show them how to extract the information they would need when they did their own name.  (I would also point out multiple times that I hadn’t found my exact last name so stop whining you little twerps.)

(We would also then turn around and use the online World Book and lo! almost every kid would find someone with their exact last name—and those that didn’t ventured over to Wikipedia.)

That was certainly worth a nostalgic chuckle, but then just now I was reading a Wonkette article on our next never-going-to-be-President, Rafael E. Cruz, and there in the comments was the following:

It turns out it wasn’t until the Alverez team published their findings about the KT Impact in 1981 that Mass Extinction was even talked about in the science community, all thanks to Charles Lyell, a lawyer who argued that catostrophism was absurd and advocated a more natural cyclical theory to life on earth.

With a link to the Wikipedia article even.  Mercy.  It’s harmless, but it’s certainly also unnerving.  I’ve learned to live with it.

update: Let’s add another one: using Slate’s Reincarnation Machine, I amused myself by following the chain of famous folk who died/were born on the same day, starting back from my birthday.  Eventually we arrived at Otto I, who was in the crossword puzzle yesterday.  (I also got Julius II in there somewhere.  Fun web activity!)

another update: So yesterday I mentioned info skills at Newnan Crossing.  One of the last lessons I invented was to teach a fourth grade class the difference between figurative and literal language.  They had to create a Keynote presentation on the new iPads that illustrated the metaphors in a Shakespeare sonnet.  I demonstrated with Sonnet 18 (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”); they had to go back to class and work on Sonnet 73 (“That time of year tho mayst in me behold”).  This morning’s Writer’s Almanac?  Sonnet 73.

That time of year thou mayst in me behold,
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self that seals up all in rest.
In me thou seest the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

A thought

An interesting aspect of re-jiggering old pieces, as I have done with Christmas Carol at least twice now, is that I have left a trail of modifications and improvements over the last 30 years and I haven’t taken care to go back and update all the previous versions.

This means that even last year’s 11-piece ensemble version is not the same in minor details as the current project.  In painting, this would be called pentimento, where the artist made changes and adaptations in the course of work and which can be seen through careful examination or infrared/X-ray/or other technology.

Past novelists of course kept their drafts for the most part, and it’s a cottage business in academia to scour these for the differences in the original artistic impulse, a kind of tracking of Successive Approximation.  (Christopher Tolkien has made a career of this.)

Composers, in the past, are the same.  Leonard Bernstein famously did an entire program on how long it took Beethoven to get the opening measures of his Fifth Symphony right, based on material from Beethoven’s sketchbooks and papers.

Nowadays, of course, revisions and editing and evidence of crashing and burning evaporate with a shift of the electrons of which everything is made now.  This has been a matter of some interest/concern for scholars—and artists themselves: how will the future learn of our creative processes when we leave no trace?

That’s one reason, actually, that I start a Finale file for Abortive Attempts and then transfer things to a “clean papers” file—usually—once I’ve settled on melodies and harmonies.  There’s still a lot that evaporates in the process, but I feel as if I have left a little bit of a path to understanding how I did what I did.

That’s it; no grand essay, just a thought.

Christmas Carol: Cratchits’ Prayer

Otherwise known as the “Gag a Maggot Song.”

I think it’s finished.  I’m pretty sure I’ve fixed all the really gross harmonies that were still bugging me.  It may or may not have been a problem of voice leading, about which I have little to no clue.

The Cratchits’ Prayer | mp3

What’s going on…

I’m sitting here in my room in the Springer Opera House—yes, that’s a thing—waiting for the first rehearsal of Born Yesterday, the Garson Kanin comedy that closes out the Springer’s season, and I’m being very good, waking at 6:00 a.m. and actually working on Christmas Carol.

I questioned whether to bring my own coffee pot since there’s one in the communal kitchen here, but then I realized that if I open that door before 9:30, I’ll start being sociable with my fellow cast members and never get any work done.  So I’m glad I have my coffee set up in my bathroom; I’ve actually been productive this morning.

I’ve picked up where I left off some weeks ago, starting to get “The Cratchits’ Prayer” re-orchestrated.  As I’ve said before, none of this process is very hard since most of it is just deciding where to copy and paste the music that’s already there.  But there are issues—and always have been—with this piece, in that the harmonies twist and turn and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten them right.  I reworked them last year and I don’t think I solved the problem, so this is the time and the place where it all comes to an end.  Eventually.

This blog post is, of course, in the spirit of TASK AVOIDANCE, one of the nine precepts of Lichtenbergianism: I got to a certain point in the music and decided to stop working on it for a bit.

Today is Tuesday.  The first runthrough of this show is Sunday.  And then in another week and a half, we open.  Let that sink in: we have fourteen days of rehearsal (Mondays off) and then we open.

Let me be the first to say that, never having done this before, I have some anxiety about my ability to learn these lines in the allotted timeframe.  It helps that one of my fellow cast members, an actual professional actor, said the same thing at dinner last night.  It’s a matter of age, mostly.  Those lines just won’t stick like they used to.  In Into the Woods, I flubbed scenes in ways I never had before.  Of course, in my defense, most of my scenes began with the line “And so the Baker…,” so it’s no wonder that I couldn’t keep them straight.

Feh.  I will not only survive, I will prevail.  But I do see a lot of evenings spent chiseling those words into my brain.

Ah well, back to Dickens.

Little green things, identified

I finally remembered that I wanted to make a serious effort to find out what the two vines are that grow so prettily in the labyrinth.

This one:

…with its delicate little stems and beautiful, fern-like leaves, is actually a monster: Lygodium japonicum, an invasive climbing fern that—from the photos in that second link—is every bit as bad as kudzu or ivy.  So far, it has shown no inclination to take over anything other than the wire structures I have provided for it.

The other:

…is Clematis paniculata, also known as Sweet Autumn Clematis.  It is also invasive, and I have to say that I have found a strong cable of vine running through the ivy.  I took the remaining seeds and planted them over by the fence in the hopes that I can convince the plant to take part in my eventual privacy fence.  I will harvest more seeds next fall.

More little green things

Longtime readers may recall that I used to maintain a wonderful herb garden, but in recent years I curtailed it quite a lot, since I just wasn’t here in the summers.  Things would either go to seed or die from not enough watering, and it wasn’t worth the expense.

But since I am now at home, I find myself needing the parsley and the cilantro and the basil, and the expense has shifted to buying it in the grocery store and seeing much of it go to waste.

So here we are:


Several years ago one of us contracted with a yard service to keep everything edged.  They promptly covered up my brick edging and left it to ruin.  I have now uncovered the brick and even added to the path on the left so that we have an easier time getting to the garbage and recycling bins.  All the bricking got raised and leveled.

You will notice that the Dill Bush That Ate Newnan is back—and this is after freezing to death twice this year.  The other survivors are the parsley, chives, sage, and oregano.  And the lovage made it back!

New: basil, of course; cilantro (although I had a couple of plants emerging as reseeds); tarragon; thyme; a couple lettuces and some kale; a tomato plant; and a serrano pepper plant.  And catnip, which I’ve never planted before.

Around on the other side of the dill, I’m going to plant hummingbird/butterfly garden seeds and see what happens.  If it works, it will be fabulous.

Of course, it’s in the back of my head that there’s no better way to provoke the universe into finding you a fabulous summer job that will require you to be away from home than to make this commitment.

Little green things

As the weather warms, little green things begin their return to the labyrinth.

See that tiny little fuzzy, curled shoot?  It is the reappearance of the fern-like vine—no, I don’t know its name—that appeared a couple of years ago.  All those brown sticks are the remains of last year’s growth, and it’s already put out more tendrils since I took this photo.  I had set up a wire cage for it to climb on, but this year I bought it its own home:

That should give it plenty of room to express itself.

Another vine that just sprouted last year has returned, this one sending out new growth from the old:

Now that I know this, I can cut it back a little bit next year.  This doesn’t look like much, but it puts out hosts of delicate little white flowers that have the loveliest smell, and then the flowers turn into these ghostly seed pods:

Those dry into fluffy seeds waiting to be carried away by wind and rain, although most of them are still in place.  (If you’d like some to start your own vine, let me know.)  I don’t know the name of this vine, either.

Ferns are beginning to return, including some male ostrich ferns I planted late last fall and which promptly succumbed to the cold.  I was very pleased to see them make it back:

I’ll post more photos as they mature.

The only place where growth is not happening is in those pesky bald spots in the labyrinth.  A couple of weeks ago, when it began to warm up and before it rained, I targeted those spots with specific loving care, raking out the areas and sowing fescue.  So far?  Nothing:

I shall persevere.

I have too been working!

So what if I haven’t composed a new note in — let’s just say “a while”?  I have been working.  Well, I’ve been working this week, anyway, on reorchestrating A Christmas Carol for its new production this coming December 10-20.

I’m a little over halfway through the show, and today I thought I would share some results: the Christmas Present Street Scene.

Street Scene in 1999 production

In this number, we have the chorus just generally being Christmas-y all over the place, with loud, jolly parts interspersed with quieter sections over which touching scenes are played.  We hear the Christmas Waltz for the first time, and we end with the Chorale, which brings the mood into a somber reflection on the Reason for the Season, segueing into the Cratchits’ home.

In last year’s production, there were issues involving the inability to repeat sections appropriately, and so the music got chopped up instead of played straight through.  If only I had known about the theatre’s use of QLab…

Oh well, things are going to be much better this year.  Those who have fond memories of long-past years will rejoice to hear the full orchestration restored.

Behold, Christmas!

Christmas Present Street Scene | vocal score (pdf) | mp3


Here’s an article that struck me.

I had seen the Londonerry project a couple of weeks ago and was trying to keep track of it, because the Temple at Burning Man has always had an especial pull for me.  From its very first incarnation, the notion that this enormous structure would serve as a place for meditation and redemption in the midst of the glorious circus of Burning Man was very appealing.

That seems to be the overall opinion as well: as the Temple grew in stature, Burners seemed to expect it to be there and treated it differently than the burning of The Man.  Whereas The Man was a bacchanalian release of energy/tension/ecstasy, with drumming, music, and dancing, the Temple was usually observed in silence or in tears.

Not only that, but The Man used to be burned on Sunday night, the last night of the festival—now it’s burned on Saturday night and the Temple has taken its place on Sunday.  The whole focus of Burning Man has shifted to accommodate the spirit of Dave Best’s structure.

For me, the trip to Burning Man has always been largely about being there for the Temple burn.  I’m not sure why, but it exerts a spiritual call on my soul.  I want to see if by experiencing it I can explain that call.

So when I read about the Londonderry project, I thought, “Well, that makes sense,” especially given the troubled past of the area.  And today when I saw the article about the burn, the first sentence that jumped out at me was the one about the Presbyterian minister’s concerns that the burn would “leave people open to Satan.”

Really?  That’s what you get out of this?  People from different—if not opposite—backgrounds come together to build this beautiful structure; and then people from everywhere leave their grief there to honor their loved ones; and then all that pain and beauty is released through an awe-inspiring ritual—and all you’ve got as an emotional response is a fear that all of this leaves people open to Satan, whatever the hell that means?

No, you sanctimonious prick, what this leaves people open to is forgiveness and pure-T caritas, which apparently you know only as a word from your Greek class.  It’s pitiable, it truly is, how badly some people misunderstand God and cannot see it even if it’s transpiring right in front of them.


As you may have heard, our own Georgia General Assembly is trying its hardest to pass SB129, the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act,* to provide for the “preservation of religious freedom.”

You are probably astonished to hear that our religious freedoms were under duress here in Georgia, what with the astounding number of churches littering the landscape, but it seems that there is a very strong feeling that it is.

So, you know what the difference between this bill and the following is?

They don’t post the signs anymore.


*No, I can’t contact my representative about it.  He’s one of the freaking sponsors of this abortion.