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Random thoughts

This little poster has been showing up on Facebook:


Here’s my issue with this: it exemplifies the execrable egocentrism of many religious folk in our society.  As my favorite liberal evangelical blogger Slacktivist would say, it’s a moral trap to want to believe that your virtue is enhanced and sustained by the unvirtue of others.

These believers look at this poster and identify with Noah and his family—”Yes, Lord, you are mighty we just bless your name for all your mercies to me etc etc etc”—without ever thinking that God also brought all the other people in this painting “to it.”  What other people, you ask?  The people under that water.  Those people.  The doomed, the drowned.

Ah, but those were bad people, wicked people, says the believer of this poster.  And that’s the moral trap.  Whatever the values of the cautionary tale of the Bible, our believers transfer that to their relationship to actual people here and now.  Those people are bad, not like me.  God will bring me through “it,” because I am Godly.  Those others?  They deserve to be under the black, cold sea.

So this morning, as I was doing my doctor-mandated walk and listening to Dream One… again… I lost interest in the music qua music and began thinking about staging, specifically the opening scene.

When I got home, here are the stage directions I typed into the libretto:

Icarus is in the sky again. The Event is on. Observers (CHORUS) attend the moment in amazement and delight.

[In the rear, projected sky.  Two vomitoria flank the central playing area.
Large overhead screens flicker to life: corporate sponsor logos, Icarus 2014 splashscreens, on-location reporters, tweets, selfies, etc.
Beneath, we hear control room sounds, commercials, reporters, etc.]

[emerging from the SR vomitorium]
[Among them are a handful of Old Believers, who still worship in the old ways.  Their dress may be a bit more ceremonial, and they would not be carrying electronic devices, which the rest of the CHORUS most certainly are.]

I think that would be one kick-ass opening.  The idea of Old Believers would not be central to the plot, but I think it would reinforce the idea that the Event is actually an ancient ritual, one that became laden with meaning for some and that has now achieved the status of religion, while for the majority of us it’s just another entertainment.  Think Christmas.  Or Independence Day.  (I also am amused by the idea of not explaining these people or even referring to them; they’re just there.)

I suppose I should get back to orchestrating “I am alone”…

3 Old Men: skirts & stakes

Hello, my old friend Holkeboer:

Back in the day, in costume design class, Dr. Jackson Kesler—who is a god—had us do “book reports” on a long list of resources.  We evaluated them for usefulness, and that list of books became our go-to library for the rest of our lives.    (Which was his intent, and which is why he is a god.)

Patterns for Theatrical Costumes was not published until 1993, but it would have been one of the tops on the list.  It’s skimpy on details, but it’s great for basic shapes/drapes/silhouettes:

So there’s the basic pattern for the ceremonial skirt that the 3 Old Men wear as officiants for their labyrinth.

Did you know that a new patio is a great costume shop space?

Five yards of muslin.  Step One of any costume, Dr. Jackson Kesler taught us, is to mock it up out of cheap fabric.  We had bolts of some cheapass cotton sateen that we called “grahdoo green” which was our preferred mock-up of choice.  (Generally speaking, the mock-up—after we used it for fitting and then disassembled it for the pattern—became the lining of the actual costume.)

It being a beautiful day, I thought I might as well set up the entire shop:

All told, it took me about an hour and a half to get the first mock-up put together.  More later.

That was yesterday.  Today, I removed the labels from 144 tent stakes:

Three plastic tubs, 144 16-inch stakes, water.  And then I peeled the labels.  Sometimes the work of ritual troupes is merely tedium.

Dream One: “I am alone” orchestration

All right, I’m a little over halfway done orchestrating Icarus’s first big moment, “I am alone.”  So far so good.  I thought I would share it so that you can hear from this time to the next how I go about smoothing out the rough edges.

Dream One, 3. “I am alone” | piano score [pdf] | orchestral mp3  (sound’s a little wonky…)

3 Old Men: the labyrinth

All right, class, who can tell me what this is?

That is correct, it is a right triangle made of rope.  Each of the three corners is actually a metal ring to which the ropes are tied.  Stake it out and the ropes will automatically form a right triangle.  The Egyptians used something like this to measure acreage.

The right angle, though is not the angle we care about.  It’s the angle nearest us, which contains the arc between the short radius of an octagon and the long radius.  This is what we will use to lay out the octagonal labyrinth that is at the center of the 3 Old Men ritual.  You can’t see it in this photo, but the short radius is marked off every two feet with a little piece of blue duct tape, and the long radius is marked similarly with red tape.

So we’ll use our staves to form an 8-foot square, stake out the center, and position the triangle with the short radius along one of the directions of the compass.  From there, we have ropes with stakes already threaded through—we use the tape marks to determine where to place the stakes.  Flip the triangle, repeat.  Move the short radius to the next compass point.  Repeat.

This is theory.  Practice may turn out to be something else altogether.

Here’s what 144 (give or take today’s shipment of the final 16) tent stakes look like:

There were two additional boxes already downstairs.  Apparently there is not a warehouse anywhere in these United States that is capable of storing a gross of 16″ tent stakes, so they came from everywhere.  That’s fine—they were delivered in two days and for free.

Unpacked and counted:

Notice the two spools of rope, not pictured in the second photo.

I’m getting very excited about this project.

Reality television show #2

The other day we were retrieving an old family recipe from one of those old church cookbooks that proliferate in one’s cabinet like so many cockroaches, and we made the mistake of actually flipping through the thing.

Oh my.

You have never seen such a collection of canned foods, American cheese, Italian seasoning, and A-1 Sauce in your life.  Most of the items were absolutely repellent—we could not imagine anyone preparing, serving, or eating any of them.  (“Coney Island Surprise,” anyone?  It’s split wieners with cheese covered with cans of something…)

Ham & Banana Hollandaise, no really

We had a kind of socioarchaeological discussion about the artifact, reconstructing the why of these recipes.  The easy answer is that it was the 1970s.  These were our mothers, and these recipes were by and for women like them: cooking for a large family without a lot of time or money to do so.  Throwing cans of stuff into a casserole dish and heating it for 20 minutes at 375° was the way it was done.

As for the ingredients—canned everything, you guys—it helps to remember that there were not a lot of options.  Kroger didn’t carry kale and leeks and sea bass and tilapia and cilantro.  Julia Child was just beginning to have an impact on American kitchens, while Madison Avenue was very solicitous in providing time-saving and delicious recipes on nearly every page of every magazine.  It was a completely different world.

So our reality TV show is called Mimeograph Kitchen, and besides its host will feature three couples: 1) someone our parents’ age, 70-80, i.e., the generation that produced these things; 2) someone our age, 50-60, the generation that grew up eating this stuff; 3) someone our kids’ age, 20-30, who have never known what it’s like not to have fresh salmon with dill cream sauce and a side of roasted broccoli.  The recipe is presented and discussed by all three couples (reminiscences, reactions, etc.) , and a sample is provided for a tasting.

Then, each couple updates the recipe so that it is more in line with the 21st century and brings the results back to the table for everyone’s comments.  (It’s not a high pressure competition show; they just go do their thing and then come back.)

It’s got nostalgia—along with the implied “good god can you believe people used to cook like this?”—intergenerational mocking, and creative cooking.  You could take the show on the road, doing a repeat in varying communities across the country.  Or you could just sit in Newnan and have nine seasons of the show in the can in no time.


In other news, it came as a shock to me this morning that I haven’t blogged in a couple of days.  Must have been busy.  Or lazy.  But I am orchestrating “I am alone,” so I’ll have a report on that soon enough—and the materials for the 3 Old Men labyrinth were delivered yesterday, so that will be a fun report as well.

Dream One, 1. “Joyfully gaze” orchestrated

Here’s the opening number.  It’s been done for about a week now, but I haven’t felt like putting it up for review yet.  Made a minor tweak this morning.  Again, I fear I am over-orchestrating.

Dream One, 1. “Let us joyfully gaze” | piano score [pdf] | orchestral mp3

That’s all you’re getting today, because I am now setting out to work in the labyrinth all day.

Reality TV show #1

Occasionally, my lovely first wife and I will come up with silly—yet viable—ideas for television shows.  Here’s one of our favorites: Mama’s Stuff.

The premise is very simple: each episode focuses on a family who is stuck trying to decide what to do with Mama’s stuff.  See?  Great idea—you’ve already tumbled to the possibilities, haven’t you?

Perhaps Mama is deceased.  Perhaps she’s alive and downsizing—moving into a smaller house, or into a facility, or in with one of the children.

Perhaps nobody wants Mama’s stuff, or worse, everyone wants it.

Our hosts are comprised of an appraiser, an estate sale planner, and a counselor.  You can see the need for the talents of all three, I’m sure.

Is there a Daddy in the picture?  Did some of the stuff come from the Other Side of the Family?  Are there relatives who want certain pieces retained in the bloodline, so to speak?  Did Mama make off with some favored trinket in a previous generation’s episode and now Cousin Sally sees an opportunity to get it back?

Are some siblings simply unaware of the value of some of the stuff?  Are some of the siblings… not nice people?  Would the stuff clearly be better off in the home of one of the siblings (as opposed to the double-wides of the others)?  Are any of the siblings hyper-emotional about Mama’s stuff?

Some episodes could be about the interfamily drama.  Others could be about the sadness of a life’s end without any really meaningful artifacts left behind (and by “meaningful” I’m not saying “valuable”).  Some episodes might focus on Mama herself; others, on the heirs.

With the richness of personality types (…) available to us in most American families, I think it would be easy to craft a narrative for each episode that would keep viewers coming back. And of course, we’d be providing a service for the nation by holding up these families as models of how to go about dealing with Mama’s stuff.

TLC, you have my email.  Let’s do lunch.

The Patio: done, for a ducat

So today I finished the patio landscaping with the paving stones for the back gate:

Still a tiny bit of mulching to do, but otherwise, the patio is done.

On to the firepit:

That’s a little over 500 pounds of flagstone there, and it looks as if it’s going to take another 1,000 pounds to lay out that area.  Excelsior!

A confession

OK, I confess: I have developed an obsession with my new friend kaolin.

The discovery that I can have all the white body paint I want for practically nothing has me dazzled.  Yesterday I realized that instead of dipping chunks of the stuff in water, I could go ahead and dissolve all of my holdings into an earthenware bowl.  Even when it dries, it becomes like my own personal bowl of pancake makeup.  Woot!

Of course, the dissolving itself was fascinating:

Isn’t that just grotesque?  I love it!

Soon, of course, I will need to test it out to see how much it takes to cover my person so that I can make plans to create enough paint for our venture at Alchemy.  That’s where I will draw a discreet curtain over the process.

Dream One, “Fly and fall” — orchestration

Here you go.  We’re going to call this a first draft.

I’m not posting a full score—if you’d like one, email me.

Dream One, 2. “Fly and fall” | piano score [pdf] | orchestral mp3

I have not posted the orchestration of “Let us joyfully gaze” yet.