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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 peope 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.


It’s getting warmer…

10 years

Ten years ago today, my old AOL friend Noah flipped the switch on his server out in California, and I started this blog.  [Picky readers will point out that I had started blogging over at Blogger some months before, but I defy them.  I regard them as naught.]

I was still working at Newnan Crossing Elementary, about to finish my specialist degree in instructional technology; my lovely first wife was still in charge of lots of stuff at Piedmont Newnan Hospital; my son was still in high school.  I was midway through my tenure as assistant program director for instruction for the Governor’s Honors Program.  I was beginning the final push on finishing William Blake’s Inn.  I had just made my second labyrinth, at Newnan Crossing, my ear was unpierced, and the Lichtenbergians wouldn’t exist for another two years.

Since then I’ve blogged in spurts, sometimes going for months without posting, but I always keep this tab open on my browser so that I’m reminded that I have this ongoing experiment to deal with, to write and share my thoughts with at least half a dozen people on this planet, to say things that I need to say.

The blog has never been—and never will be—a diary or personal journal.  Whatever personal issues I’ve had over these years, you didn’t read about them here—I don’t think they’re interesting, first of all, and secondly I don’t think it’s necessarily beneficial to share these kinds of things with the wide world.  If I’ve exorcised demons in writing, you may be assured that it was in some other venue/medium.

Mostly this blog has been a journal of my creative life, from my music to my writing to my adventures in Lichtenbergianism and hippiedom. It’s been fun reporting on my roadblocks in composing or my progress with Lichtenbergian goals or philosophical underpinnings of getting naked in the desert.  It’s been fun ranting against the conservative idiocy that infects our nation.  It’s been fun just putting one word after another while avoiding other tasks.

So ten years later, here we are: I’m retired, my lovely first wife now works at the Samaritan Clinic, my son is married, and this is my 1,416th post.  Onward!

Should I?

Whattayathink?  I submitted the Pieces for Bassoon & String Quartet piece five years ago.  Perhaps I should hit them with the Six Preludes (no fugues) this time.

How to do it.

Today, class, we’re going to analyze how the rightwing nutjobs [RWNJ] manage to create a reality from their fears that cannot be dislodged with facts.

I came across this article from a video posted on Facebook—not to my timeline, needless to say, but on a friend’s—which I decided not to touch, involving as it did a retired admiral who doesn’t seem to be in full possession of his faculties.  One can only imagine the consternation at the National Press Club when he was invited to speak about the infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood into EVERY INTELLIGENCE AGENCY IN OUR GOVERNMENT YOU GUYS!!!11!

I clicked through to the website, one Truth & Action dot org.  Merciful Cthulhu, people, it’s a fetid swamp out there.  This is where your drunk uncle gets all his info. All of it.  Here we go:

Texas Community Replaces Entire Police Department With Private Security – Crime Drops By 61%

There’s a headline for you.  Go read the article.  No, I don’t know why they didn’t just put the whole article on one page.  I suspect they think it’s classy/sophisticated/Web 2.0 to have a teaser.  (They may not understand the function of a “Read More” link and just have multiple pages instead.)

Here’s the quick and truthful version: the Civic Association in Sharptown, TX, let its contract with the constabulary expire and hired a private security firm instead to patrol its neighborhood in addition to the Houston Police.  Burglaries dropped from 304 in 2013 to 177 last year, which is a significant drop to be sure.  But 177 = 61% of 304; that’s not a drop of 61%.  The actual drop (127 burglaries) is actually 42%, which is still big, but continues to ignore the fact that that one category is not All The Crime™.

So let’s analyze.  It’s not easy to do so, since the article is a veritable Gish Gallop of assumptions, ignorance, and outright lies.

First things first: where is the article coming from?  Always click on the header/home page link to see what kind of website/source you’re dealing with.  Truth & Action doesn’t even try to conceal its leanings, so there’s your first clue: this is a rightwing haven, comforting itself that it alone dares to speak The Truth.  Ironically, none of the articles are signed.

Second: where did this source get the information for the article?  As I have outlined before, one thing to do when you are confronted with information that doesn’t pass the smell test is to Google that sucker and see where it lives in the wild.  Truth & Action does source the article to Infowars, but that’s just another RWNJ swamp.  Any reports on this from AP or Reuters or even the Houston Chronicle?

Not really.  Look at all those hits!  Look at how all of them are the usual circle-jerk of RWNJ swamps—they’re all quoting each other, indiscriminately, passing on all the misinformation as if it were truth.  (N.B.: This search is on Google’s Web tab.  Click on the News tab, and the citations drop to almost zero.)

The only actual news item, and apparently the source, is a news report from KHOU out of Houston.  Truth & Action embeds the video; they don’t seem to have edited it, and it does not exactly say what the post says.  The disparity between the post and the truth widens if you go to KHOU’s actual report on their website.  Right off the bat, notice the headline: “Private security patrols help control crime in Sharpstown.”


Private security patrols help control crime in SharpstownTexas Community Replaces Entire Police Department With Private Security — Crime Drops by 61%

Finally: what is it the authors of this piece want us to believe?  This is tricky, because the embedded assumptions are strong with this one.  I’ll do a bullet list and then if anything just screams to be explicated, I’ll do that thing:

  • The private sector can always outperform the government: cheaper, more effective, betterer.  Always.  Hence the belief that Sharpstown “fired” the Houston Police—that’s not even a thing, folks—and saved $200,000, got more boots on the ground for their money,  and saw a 61% drop in “crime.”
    • This is like for-profit schools: how does that even work?
  • Worship of the military: SEAL Security… Really?  It’s Texas, so the cowboy/shoot-em-up predilection is ineradicable, I guess.
  • And yet they despise “government”: the police’s thug-like behavior is backed by red-taped Marxists.  Nationally, of course.  That one phrase tilts this website towards the libertarian, if not prepper, side of the political spectrum.  If we explored the site further, I imagine we’d find more than one Sovereign Citizen piece.
    • Full disclosure: I did not have the stomach to read any comments.  That’s probably where the preppers/SovCits lurk.  My need to know is not that great.
  • Simplistic solutions: one only has to eliminate bad policing to see a drop in crime.  Their citation is a hoot: the NYPD’s slowdown resulted in a drastic reduction in summons and citations.  As we libtards chortled at the time, the police thought they were showing de Blasio who was boss when all they were doing was admitting that most of their work consisted of arrests they didn’t “have to” make.
    • No, the liberals and the libertarians do not agree on this point: we think that a decent police force is necessary; they think a decent police force is a contradiction in terms.
  • Obscure sources/quotes: The first block quote appears to be from an interview with a spokesperson for SEAL, but the last one comes from… somewhere…  It refers to “a report,” but there’s no link, nor is the report identified.  Just conclusions that wave the magic Wand of Private Industry and reduce All The Crime™.
  • Elision: one Mr. Alexander of SEAL is quoted describing all the strategies they use to reduce All The Crime™, with the implication that the Houston Police do not do these things.  Notice that he does not actually say that the Houston Police do not do these things.  I bet he’s just comparing his company’s best practices to those of the private company they replaced.   Sure, that’s it.
    • Now that I mention it, if Private Industry is always better,  how come the company that Sharpstown employed before wasn’t cheaper and betterer?  Yeah, yeah, Free Hand of the Market blah blah blah.  This is really where us libtards go head to head with the libertarians.  Their position is that you can always pay someone to reduce All The Crime™ better and cheaper, blithely ignoring that a) the majority of the populace cannot afford anything of the sort; and b) this paradise is, as usual, supported by an actual infrastructure of actual police.  Our position is that everyone deserves protection from crime, not just those who can “afford” it.
  • Buried deep under all of this is a deep-seated fear of increasing crime rates.  Everyone knows that crime is up—way up—and [here we must whisper] you know it’s because of those people.  Not true, of course.  Crime in all categories has been dropping precipitously since the 90s, but this website firmly believes the opposite.
    • I think it’s interesting that they describe police brutality as “off the charts.”  That kind of language is usually reserved for criminals.

So here is this article about how a community saved itself from high crime by firing its police department and hiring a private security firm—only it’s a lie.  None of it happened the way they want their readers to believe it happened.  Fortunately for the website, their readers already believe all of this.  They must believe it, or they would have to question their entire worldview… and that ain’t going to happen.  They like having monsters under their bed, and shining the flashlight of truth and reason is not something they’re interested in.

I would like to state for the record that when a liberal website does something similar, i.e., start with a misleading and emotionally charged headline, I will read the article with a critical eye. If—and it happens occasionally—the author of the piece deliberately misinterprets the actions or words of a RWNJ, attributing malice where there is simply stupidity, or affirming the consequent when that is not what the speaker meant, then I make a mental note not to add whatever event they’re describing to my pile of evidence of the paucity of empathy or logic of the average RWNJ.  (I exclude, of course, the wondrous Wonkette; their gleeful savagery is just good, clean mean-spirited fun.)

A little work

OK, so I’ve not been very productive.  But I have accomplished some little bits.

First, you must know that I’ve been working on re-orchestrating A Christmas Carol for next December’s re-premiere.  I haven’t shared any of that because it’s not very interesting, but here’s a taste:

Past’s Arrival | mp3

This bit of underscoring takes us from the chimes of a neighboring church to the Ghost of Christmas Present’s teasing appearance, to their transportation to Scrooge’s past: the countryside, Martin and Oliver having a snowball fight, and then fading into the schoolroom.

The process of preparing sound files for December is not at all the same as simply re-orchestrating the show from an 11-piece ensemble to a full orchestra.  Because I’m not actually working on documents for live musicians, there are lots of shortcuts and omissions.  For example, if I transpose a harp sequence up a octave, I don’t bother moving it from the bass clef up to the treble clef because who cares?  No harpist is going to have to decipher what I’ve written, and the computer doesn’t care—it will play the notes exactly where I’ve put them whether they look correct or not.

Repeats are another area: many of the pieces have vamps (bits that loop until the scene moves on) or repeated verses/choruses.  For live musicians, repeats save paper and are easier to read.  But the printed repeat signs are irrelevant to a computer program that I’m going to instruct to “loop this waveform until I tell you not to,” and so I’m leaving those out. In the above sample, there is a vamp on the flute part that you won’t hear because that will be taken care of in QLab, the multimedia sequencer I’m still exploring.

I’m in the middle of pondering whether it is going to be better to try to “slice” the repeat (with varying degrees of smoothness or accuracy) in QLab or to export each section of a piece separately so that the repeated section is clear and easy to click on.  This may become critical in rehearsal, of “A Reason for Laughter,” for example, as we try to get Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig in and out of their verses, or in “Country Dance” when we’re trying to learn new sections of the dance.

I also have been taking repeat signs out of pieces like “Country Dance,” where it’s just easier to string all the jumpbacks (from A—>B—>A—>C—>A) out into one long piece rather than deal with all my quirky repeat signs.  In fact, I’ve stopped working on the music to blog here because the challenge of untangling “A Reason for Laughter” makes my eyes cross.

Anyway, as far as slicing vs. exporting multiple files for each pieces goes, I have lots of time between now and November, so I can play with all my options.  (Who am I kidding?  I’ll take the complicated way because it will make life much easier in rehearsal.)

I have gained an assistant:

She is currently trying to keep me from typing—WHAT IS THE DEAL EVEN I SHOULD BE PETTING HER ANYWAY—and did you know that pencils, pens, and erasers make great rolly toys, especially if you knock them to the floor?

She’s been with us for a couple of weeks now but has so far refused to divulge her name, and she is the only cat I have ever met that, when you pick her up, goes limp in your arms and settles in for a cuddle.  She’ll shift, turn over even to get more comfortable, but ask to be put down?  Nope.

This is not the cat I was looking for—I prefer tabbies—but she is such a sweet-tempered beast that we were afraid to tempt fate by giving her away.  I’m trying to get used to cat hair everywhere again.  The turbo-purr helps.

Rehearsals continue for Into the Woods.  You will have to believe me when I say it is not bragging to claim that my performance will be a tour de force—it would be for anyone handling the roles of Narrator, Mysterious Man, and the Wolf.  Generally, the Narrator/Mysterious Man are combined roles, but the Wolf is played by Cinderella’s Prince.  My playing all three requires some very quick changes indeed, and so the audience can not help but be dazzled by my facility, speed, and grace.  There is one moment where I—as the Narrator—facilitate Milky White’s escape from the Baker’s Wife, only reappear seconds later as the Mysterious Man; I expect it to provoke laughter.

I am quite enjoying the chance to sing “Hello, Little Girl,” however.  It’s delicious, nasty fun.

The show opens March 19 and runs for two weekends, Thu-Sun.  Details here.

Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy is going well, if by “well” you mean “successfully avoid writing abortive attempts for Seven Dreams of Falling while not accomplishing an awful lot.”  I sit in my writing chair—that’s an official thing—and start free-associating on one of the 9 Precepts, and before I know it I’ll have two pages in a minuscule field notebook almost filled.  It’s exhausting.

So far, I don’t have any brilliant new insights to share from my writing; I’m still in the “dumping” phase, wherein all those things I’ve said and thought about the creative process over the years are finding their way out of the recesses of my brain onto the page.  I’ve also begun collecting relevant bibliographic support, so that’s progress of a sort.

Finally, a look at the labyrinth:

—click to embiggen—

A panoramic shot from the west side looking back towards the entrance—not our usual vantage point.  The winter rye grass makes for a lovely oasis of green, although I’m sure I’d be a better hippie if I learned to appreciate Nature’s own withered brownness.

I am eagerly awaiting warmer weather!