3 Old Men: The 1000 Commands

One of my 2016 Lichtenbergian Proposed Efforts is to continue my work with 3 Old Men, my Burner theme camp.

For over a year now we have joked about expanding the camp to include a 50-foot square, roped off, with a deer stand at one end where one of us would sit with a megaphone and yell commands at any hippies who stepped into the square.  Well, deer stands are a) expensive; and b) heavy, so we’ve never gotten around to doing it.  (Needless to say, we already have the rope from the old version of the labyrinth.)

But I think getting this idea off the ground is going to be my major 3 Old Men focus for a while.  First of all, we can give up the deer stand idea—just a tall bar chair would do, especially if we put it on a small platform.  So that’s a major hurdle we don’t have to clear.

The second major item on the agenda is what exactly would happen if hippies wandered into the enclosure?  I have a vague idea of contact improv/InterPlay/Twyla Tharp movements, but once I’m sitting in that chair,  what happens?

To that end, here’s my newest Waste Book:

When I’m trying to avoid other projects, I can pick this up and start imagining what would be interesting, amusing, or beautiful in the arena.  I also intend to engage the rest of the troupe in the project, probably through a Google Doc.

Also too, I have to come up with a name for it.

Classic Lichtenbergianism

So I have two options this morning: pound out another 3 Old Men post, or implement an idea I stole from another composer to solve the “reboot” problem in the fourth movement of Symphony No. 1.

If you guessed “None of them, Katie,” you are our daily winner!

The timer went off on my phone, which meant I had to go downstairs, remove the sheets from the dryer, and get them on the guest bed so they “won’t be wrinkled.”


Anyway, as I was preparing to finish getting the top sheet on, I was struck by the morning light.







So there’s that hour gone.

I suppose I should head back over to the Symphony now…

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.

95 days: Busy, busy

A preview of what I have on my plate tonight:

  • cooking supper
  • paying bills, planning my finances for the next few months
  • putting together a video of our hearing-impaired students saying the Pledge of Allegiance for Friday morning’s announcements, complete with closed-captioning for those who are not hearing-impaired
  • my exposé of me for over at lichtenbergian.org
  • a job description of the GHP media position, plus communicating with our three applicants, which I should have done over the weekend
  • laying out the program for this weekend’s concert of Fauré’s Requiem, if I get the rest of the info from Bizarth
  • writing letters of reference for some GHP instructors
  • perhaps some work on the symphony

I’ll have updated results later.

later: I got the first three done. Cras melior est.

III. Allegro gracioso

Saturday and today I worked on the GHP parent orientation video, and I finished it.

Yesterday, as I posted then, I worked on IV. Lento, hammering out a stürm und drang section that may not stand.

But then I got bored of the heaviness of it all and took a break by sketching out themes for the third movement of the symphony. As you probably all know, the third movement was a minuet in Mozart/Haydn’s day, and then Beethoven ramped it up into a scherzo, where it’s stayed with a few modifications here and there. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Mahler.)

So I’ve decided I want mine to be a waltz, a luscious, swirling, Straussian waltz. When I’m walking around, I can actually improvise waltz themes with an amazing felicity, but everything I wrote down yesterday was pretty leaden. I think what I need to do is get a little handheld recorder and take a walk and just sing into it. Then I can transcribe it all when I get home.

Fulfilling Lichtenbergianism’s core principles

The Lichtenbergian Society has been a godsend! Just when I thought I might force myself to work extremely hard on the songs for Day in the Moonlight so I could in all honesty begin work on the symphony in January, along comes the Society, and above all, its Charter!

Since it’s been well-documented that I’m a font freak, no one will be surprised that I took it as an excuse to buy the Declaration font from P22. This is a replica of the writing in the Declaration of Independence, and it’s the first time I’ve ever bought a really professional set of fonts. It has not one but four complete fonts, plus a fifth one that consists, and how marvelously useless is this?, of nothing but the actual signers’ signatures. Need my John Hancock? That’s a capital A.

What are the other four fonts? One’s the basic Declaration font, then a separate set of alternate letter configurations, then a complete set of the blackletter used in the title and other places (think Old English), and then finally a set of the most common variations of letters and ligatures seen in the document.

What this means is that it’s not enough to type out the Charter in Helvetica and then convert it to Declaration Script, you also have to step back and look hard at the aesthetics of the thing. My first pass revealed a lot of horizontal lines running across the lines: the lower case t’s crossbar is a long and mighty thing, but too many of them and it looks like your printer has issues. The very word procrastination has a line running across half the word.

Not to worry; there are this many t’s in the complete font:

Yes, there’s even an alternate The for the beginning of a sentence, typed with the capital T in the Sorts font. So you make aesthetic choices about which t to use where in order to break up all those distracting lines. Part of it is remembering that the Declaration was not typeset but engrossed by a scribe on parchment; it’s handwriting, after all.

See what I mean about this being a Lichtenbergianismist’s wet dream? Seeking out all the medial s’s and replacing them with the long s; seeking out all the initial th’s and replacing them with the ligature, as well as the tt’s, the st’s, the ll’s, the rr’s , ff’s, wh’s, etc., etc., etc. And terminal consonants at the end of a sentence: is there a swash alternate? Capitals, same thing. Where will Blackletter make a statement?


Later: Mike Funt emails me not one but two successive approximations of the seal. I’m posting the second one for your marvelment:

Future me

Remember this post?

I certainly didn’t until I got email from myself today. As promised, futureme.org allowed me to email my future self to check up on me.

So how have I done?

  • shepherd A Visit to William Blake’s Inn to a stage. It would give me great pleasure not to have to be in charge of this, but I know that’s what’s going to happen.
    • Well, we know how that one turned out. Brave attempt, total integrity. No backing.
  • get Lacuna jumpstarted, with its own domain and website.
    • We did that. What we’re doing now is another story.
  • make great strides towards starting and finishing A Day in the Moonlight for Mike Funt.
    • I’m still working on this, and I think I can get a lot of it done by Christmas.
  • compose at least one movement of my symphony.
    • Probably not going to happen, although if I can get a lot done on Moonlight, I might take a stab at sketching a movement out in December, thus making it just under the wire.
  • get the Newnan Crossing 100 Book Club off the ground and functioning.
    • It’s functioning, but not at the level I’d like. Still, it’s functioning.

So what’s my score? One yes, one maybe, one meh, one probably not, one absolute no. I am not impressed.

Further musings on copyright (Day 363/365)

It did not work out for me to produce original stuff today, but this article in the New York Times caught my eye. In it, the Chinese are having a riproaring good time with Harry Potter. J. K. Rowling’s subcreation is a huge hit even in the Middle Kingdom, and there, copyright doesn’t mean what it means here. Mostly, it means nothing.

Quick sidenote: today was the first day back to work at Newnan Crossing, and one of the boxes waiting for me was the box from Bound-to-Stay-Bound containing our two copies of Deathly Hallows. As I pulled the books from the box, I noticed an orange slip of paper in each. They were my warning notice to keep them secure and not to display them or show them to anybody before 12:01 am, July 21. In other words, if I had been there to open the box when it came in, I would have had copies of the final book before any of the rest of you. Behold the power of the librarians! Bwahahaha!

Anyway, copyright in China. In China, you can buy Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows from their equivalent of Scott’s Bookstore or Barnes & Noble. You can also buy it on the street, photocopied and bound, for a lot less. But you can also buy Harry Potter and the Showdown, by Li Jingsheng, a textile factory manager who had bought the first six books to read to his son, and in response to his son’s wanting to know how it ended, wrote his own, 250,000 words worth.

Mr. Li made the mistake of posting his version on the intertubes, where it quickly logged 150,000 readers, and now you can buy it on the street. Not that Mr. Li is making money off it: Chinese pirates will rip off anyone, not just billionaire Scottish authoresses. (Mr. Li’s readers have begged him for book eight, which he has already begun, unlike the ungrateful Ms. Rowling.)

But you can also buy (and I’m getting to a point soon, I promise) Harry Potter and the Hiking Dragon, Harry Potter and the Chinese Empire, Harry Potter and the Young Heroes, Harry Potter and Leopard-Walk-Up-to-Dragon, and Harry Potter and the Big Funnel. I’m not too sure about that last one.

Rowling’s publishers have of course taken steps to quash all this, but I’m sure once you get over into the Qinghai province, you don’t have much of a presence as a Western litigator.

So here’s the deal: wow. A fifth of the world’s population is so taken with your creation that they have an entire black market economy based on it. Wow. They’re writing their own, melding it with their own culture. It cannot be suppressed, and their government’s pretty darn good at suppression.

Copyright, as we’ve said before, was put into place to protect a creator’s work for a limited time so that he/she can make money from its sale before it gets subsumed by the Commons. But it does get subsumed by the Commons, precisely so that the rest of us can use it to spur our own creations, be it Harry Potter and the Big Funnel or The Winter’s Tale (yes, I’m looking at you, Mark Helprin.)

Now, when Joanne Rowling was a starving artist with a wee bairn, then absolutely Bloomsbury and Scholastic should have guarded her interests with as much ferocity as the law allows. And yes, I know that legally nothing is different now that she’s the world’s first billionaire author. But you know what? It is different. Copyright was designed to allow her some space to get income off her creation if she could, and I think, by any standard, she’s done that. She can’t even give it all away in her lifetime, and it’s not as if the end of the series is the end of her income. She is, to put it mildly, filthy rich.

I also think she’s done more than amass an unimaginable fortune from her copyright: she has given the world a huge gift to their narrative pool. Enormous. Stupendous. Unequalled in the 20th/21st century, even. Harry Potter burst the bounds of normal copyright considerations years ago, look at all the fanfic online, the slash fiction, the YouTube parodies, and now an entire Chinese industry. A completely alien culture has taken her work and run with it, churning the narrative pool in what I think is a very exciting way. If I had made a fortune off of William Blake’s Inn, I’d be thrilled to see the entire planet riffing on my stuff. Shoot, even if I hadn’t made a fortune, I’d be thrilled.

So while I support the lawyers in their quest to shut down the fake Deathly Hallows sales or the books that purport to be actually by J. K. Rowling, that’s a direct violation of the ethos of copyright, I am not so supportive of any efforts to suppress the rest of it. If I were Rowling, I’d instruct my lawyers to go collect all of it. I’d want my personal copy of The Big Funnel. Translated, of course.

Stuff less bad? (Day 362/365)

So, I thought, what if I put the first part of the chorus (and all of the verses) in the minor, and then switch to major with the end part? This is what that sounds like (along with the inevitable ritard at the -ex rhyme.)

In other news, last night I watched The Five Obstructions. In it, two Danish filmmakers play. Jørgen Leth, the elder, agrees to remake portions of one of his first films, The Perfect Human, under amazingly restrictive obstructions set by the younger, Lars von Trier. For example, the first little movie must be made 1) with no edit longer than 12 frames (about half a second!); 2) in Cuba, where Leth has never been; 3) without building a set; and 4) answering the elliptical questions in the original narration (Why does he move that way? How does he move that way?)

The frame movie is a documentary of the two men as they move through this process, which takes a couple of years. I’m not sure what von Trier is up to, he seems awfully abusive in his intent, and Leth seems quite sanguine about it, but it’s a fascinating study in creativity. Leth is apparently incapable of making crap, which is von Trier’s stated goal. No matter what the obstruction, Leth turns in a gem. This seems to irritate von Trier, until he finally makes the fourth obstruction one so hideous that both men blanch: it must be a cartoon.

Needless to say, the cartoon that Leth turns in is a masterpiece. So the fifth obstruction is even nastier: von Trier will direct it, Leth will be credited as director. Leth also has to narrate it, reading a letter to von Trier from him that von Trier has written.

Finally von Trier gets his wish: it’s crap. The narrative letter is opaque in a way that only Marc can explain for us, but it’s essentially a nannie-nannie-boo-boo that von Trier has written to himself about his failure to bring Leth down. The visual accompaniment, made up of black and white shots of the two men culled from the footage, is pedestrian, and that’s being kind.

What’s fascinating about the whole venture is the way that Leth scribbles down all the instructions, the obstructions, furrows his brow, goes away very depressed, and then sets about remaking his 1967 movie, itself a perfect gem and included on the DVD, using the obstructions as tools. He expresses this directly after the first one: the 12-second edit was like “a gift.”

And von Trier recognizes his error right away. He switches from technical limitations to personal issues, but nothing slows Leth down. It’s a truism, but it’s fun to watch two geniuses confirm it: limits are a spur to creativity, not a hindrance. One of my most creative productions ever was the 1997 Midsummer Night’s Dream, when NCTC had $200 in our checking account. (It was one of those years when I relinquished the treasurer’s duties to someone else.) We could buy practically nothing, and so everything we did had to be made from what was on hand. It absolutely worked.

Of course, that was luck, having on hand materials that lent themselves to that particular creative solution. And I would certainly not want to tackle a fullscale William Blake’s Inn with no money, in fact, I am in the process of not doing that even as we breathe, but limitations are certainly one way to get yourself moving if you cannot decide how to “be creative” next.