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Jan. 27th, 2016

Over the years, I've wanted to write fiction in my LJ, but I have only rarely done it. Almost all of the times I did that were in connection to a commemoration of the birthday of Lewis Carroll, the 19th-century author of fantastic and children's literature. He was born on this date in 1832. The idea of "Rabbit Hole Day on LJ" pretty much started here in 2005, and got a little bit of notoriety. It tried to spread to other social media, but then it kind of dried up.

A few days ago, I told myself to try to come up with an idea for this year. But then I didn't. All I have is a list of what I did in previous years:

Every once in a while, I go back and read them for fun. I dunno, it's one of those things that made LJ special.

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Jan. 22nd, 2016

Well, let's see what has happened to ol' Charlie since the last time I related anything.... Dave was here last weekend, and we went to the Detroit Symphony to hear them play Mozart's 38th symphony (a joy) and the world premiere of "Desert Sorrows" by Mohammed Fairouz (mixed; I liked it, Dave thought it was gimmicky). We also ate at most of our favorite restaurants, and even co-created some tasty spaghetti for dinner one night. No, we did not go to the auto show. (Actual auto show link here.)

I think I managed to miss reporting that I spent New Year's at Dave's house, just hanging out and going out to eat at our favorite Louisville restaurants. (Notice a pattern here?) For New Year's Eve, we created crock-pot sauerbraten from one of altivo's holiday gift cookbooks, and it was splendid. Then we rang in the year with Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin on CNN, as we usually do.

Otherwise, things have been unexciting. The weather has been cold but not very snowy, unlike parts of the country to the south and east. What little snow has fallen has stayed, since it's not melting. I don't mind; this is about what winter should be, finally. I noted as I walked into my office from the parking lot that there was a passel of robins (that's an ornithological term, "passel"). Apparently we will have no "first robin of spring" because they're not going away in the winter anymore. I hope they make it through the next few weeks.

I've been spending a good bit of time in Second Life, working out the learning curve so that I can actually have a little fun and not just walk off a boardwalk into the ocean all the time. Though, I guess I could also be a merman if I really can't stay out of the water; I found an avatar for one that looked pretty cool. I seem also to have outgrown the motion sickness I reported back in November. That pleases me no end, as motion sickness is one of my less favorite things. I've done nothing to facilitate this except keep playing; no meds or anything else.

Anything else? Not really. I played an open mic a couple of weeks ago, and that's been the only time I played guitar all year. I have to make some time for it this weekend, because I think I actually have started missing playing.

Bluegrass genius

The Danger of Genius: Bill Monroe and Tony Rice, by Ted Lehmann (from No Depression magazine's website), in which the author shares thoughts from his reading of the book The Geography of Genius by Eric Weiner and relates it to the history of bluegrass music. I'll leave the details to be discovered in the article (read it, read it!).

I started off with a great interest in bluegrass in the early 1980s, though in the last few years I've both played more oldtimey music and listened with awe to musicians who've taken bluegrass to different areas (Bela Fleck, Chris Thile, etc.); bluegrass is kind of the middle in that continuum. I guess you can say it all started for me with Bill Monroe. Tony Rice is one of my guitar heroes, though.

My 2016 New Year's Resolutions

In 2016, I resolve...

1. To invent a new musical instrument, the saxotar, or maybe the guitaxophone, so I can join a rock and roll band and play two solos per song.

2. To watch a DVD that I own but haven't seen, or read a book I own but haven't read, or maybe listen to a CD I bought but haven't heard, or even eat food I bought but haven't eaten. (OK, maybe not the last one, depending on the freshness date.)

3. Or maybe just to build more shelves for media storage.

4. To call her up, a thousand times a day, and ask her if she'll marry me in some old-fashioned way.

5. To create a meme so potent, it goes retroviral, not just viral. (Too soon?)

6. To re-lose the ten pounds you gained back after I lost them for you in 2012.

7. To actually reduce my use of the word "actually" in sentences. Hopefully, it will literally be the best improvement I could do for my writing.

This is my fifth set of resolutions, and they clearly have made me the man I am today. See past years' editions at the tag resolutions.
So. It's time for the 41st annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. Leading the list is my biggest pet word peeve of the last year, the word "so" used unnecessarily at the beginning of a sentence. You've undoubtedly heard if if you've heard any news reporter on public radio:

HOST: Do the refugees have enough clothing for the weather in the Balkans?
REPORTER: So. It's winter and ...
The "so" is a totally useless thing there, and used in all sorts of answers. Dave says it sounds hipsterish. It's problematic at best.

Oh, yes. "Problematic" is on the list. Sounds overly complex and academic and vague, they say. The list also includes "conversation" as used in the sense of an invitation to add comments to an online article or story, which of course is not a conversation at all but a bunch of people making their proclamations, often really uninformed ones.

There are more in the link above. So, my stakeholders would be well advised to refrain from these words and phrases, so they will not have to walk back any of their statements in the coming year.

Note: This is the sixth year I've written a post on the LSSU Banned Words on New Year's Eve. Find others by checking out my tag words

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The Christmas report

Hey, we made it through Christmas again. Now the days are getting longer up here in the ol' Northern Hemisphere (not so you can tell yet, but it's true). Now we just have to make it to spring, all those weeks away. Yes, it was almost 50 degrees and sunny here for Christmas day, but that really wasn't spring.

I got a moose for Christmas! Bet YOU didn't get a moose:
Merry Chrismoose

(Apparently Flickr changed their method of cross-posting to LJ again. I'm amazed this worked.)

I hope your holidays are going well. My preparations were all crammed into the last week, due to some really poor planning on my part, mostly. I guess I should just accept that this is what I do, procrastinate till the last minute and just muddle through at the end.

I meant to go wren-hunting yesterday, but we had too much rain and I decided to let the wrens (and other birds) be.

Now it's time for the downhill run to New Year's. Huzzah!

Weekend music report

I forgot to write about the show that was coming up, didn't I? This was Friday night at The Dovetail coffeehouse in Warren, with my good friend Mike Dorn. Mike was visiting his family here; he moved to Florida a few years ago. We got some old regulars from Gotham City Cafe to come out along with most of Mike's family, and we had a ton of fun. I played a few songs, Mike played a few, we repeated that a couple of times, and in between caught up with everyone. We made no money in tips, which has never happened before, but I don't think we were trying to make money. It would've seemed churlish to try to extort money out of the crowd this time. They listened so closely and sang along, and that was payment enough. I know that's corny, but it's true.

Last night, I got to be strictly audience at the Solstice show by my friends Finvarra's Wren. I've been to quite a few of these Solstice shows now, and it might be the only holiday tradition I appreciate nowadays. Finvarra's Wren is a fine Celtic band with a little bit of American old-time mixed in. They have an original song, "The Solstice Song," which is a great song for all to join in to sing back the spring. So we sang it, and we were warmed by it.

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Dear Non-Muslim Allies:

This went around Facebook and Twitter last week. I retweeted it, but thought it would be worth finding it in a form that I could post here:

Guest Editorial: Dear Non-Muslim Allies, Now Is the Time to Stand Up and Defend Your Fellow Citizens' Human Rights (The Stranger, Dec. 9, 2015)

Dear non-Muslim Allies,

I am writing to you because it has gotten just that bad. I have found myself telling too many people about the advice given to me years ago by the late composer Herbert Brun, a German Jew who fled Germany at the age of 15: “Be sure that your passport is in order.” It’s not enough to laugh at Donald Trump anymore. The rhetoric about Muslims has gotten so nasty, and is everywhere, on every channel, every newsfeed. It is clearly fueling daily events of targeted violence, vandalism, vigilante harassment, discrimination. I want you to know that it has gotten bad enough that my family and I talk about what to keep on hand if we need to leave quickly, and where we should go, maybe if the election goes the wrong way, or if folks get stirred up enough to be dangerous before the election....
The author is a public interest lawyer from Pennsylvania, and is a devout Muslim who was born in the U.S. Let me reiterate: She is an American citizen who fears she may have to flee her home country.

The biggest threat from public figures such as presidential candidates "speaking their mind" about the so-called Muslim threat in the U.S. is that ordinary people will take it upon themselves to act, to firebomb mosques or attack children in schools. Their freedom of speech does not mean freedom from the consequences of their speech. This is why statements by people like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and others are, frankly, dangerously irresponsible.

Dec. 13, 2015: The rest of the past week

1. The weather has been utterly ridiculous. We broke record high temperatures the last two days, and last night broke the record the highest minimum temperature (i.e. the warmest low). It has also been largely cloudy if not foggy, with very little rain. You can see all the moisture coming out of the ground; if things don't change soon, I fear for agriculture here in 2016. We haven't seen a low temperature below freezing since December 7th, and a high temperature of 32 or less since last winter! (We've gotten highs of 33 twice since Nov. 1.)

2. I've done no gift shopping yet. This, I recognize, is very bad. But no one has communicated any gift ideas with me, except Dave and I already HAD ideas for him. It's for small children that I really need ideas for, or else they're going to end up with a large orange and a $25 U.S. Savings Bond. (Do they still have those?)

3. Instead of shopping, I've been online a lot. I'm slowly making progress in making my Second Life character look the way I want him to. I'm also breaking my SL time up into small bits so I don't get motion sickness, and I've been teleporting more.

4. Oh, I have a show coming up this Friday! With my good friend Mike Dorn, at the Dovetail. (I'll make a cleaner announcement about this soon.) So to prepare, I went to open mic last Tuesday. I played two of my songs, but for the middle song I made up a medley of two of Mike Dorn's songs, which actually worked despite never having performed them in public before. (The Ott Lake Rambler used to marvel at that ability when we were in college.)

5. I saw my doctor to get meds renewed and have blood tests. I gained eight pounds since my last visit three months ago. But he didn't give me a lecture, nor did he put me on the short bus to the fat farm. After the holidays, I will try, I really will (but this is not a resolution, because you know what my resolutions are like).
Last Saturday, Dec. 5th, Dave and I attended the Detroit Symphony Orchestra concert featuring Gustav Mahler's second symphony, "The Resurrection." We had been looking forward to it since it was announced. Now, the Chicago Symphony played it in 2008, and we went to that, and when the CSO plays Mahler, it stays played, you might say. But the DSO did an amazing job, and if you ask me, it was just a little better. I'll explain why later.

The first piece on the program was a short work composed by the DSO's music director, Leonard Slatkin. Titled "Kinah", it is an elegy to his parents, who were a noted violinist and cellist in the Hollywood of the 1940s and 50s. If you saw a film from that period, you heard them almost certainly. They were about to make their debut performance together, playing Brahms' double concerto, when Leonard's father died unexpectedly. "Kinah" is thus based on bits of themes from the Brahms work, all fragmented. To make this even more special, Slatkin's brother, Fred Zlotkin (who is principal cellist for the New York City Ballet), played their mother's cello, and the DSO's associate concertmaster played violin with him in the wings. Orchestra Hall has the best acoustics in wings that I know. Anyway, I got weepy. How could one not?

So then there was the Mahler. If you are unfamiliar, the very high-level view is, the first three movements are fairly chaotic (for a late 19th century work), but the start of the fourth movement finds a redemption that carries through the fourth and fifth movements, at first softly, building to thunderously. This is done with not only a very large orchestra but with a chorus, in this case the Wayne State University Chorus augmented with additional singers. I held it together till the fifth movement, but the climax overpowered reason and it got very damp suddenly. (A certain friend was verklempt long before that.) We left the hall unable to make sentences.

Why do I think this performance was better than the CSO's? First, of course the CSO performance was ne plus ultra and was very special. The edge for the DSO's performance comes from the building. At a late point, there is a small chorale of instruments (brasses and a timpani) that plays offstage. In Chicago, they played in the balcony. In Detroit, they played (I think) in the lobby, and was very bright yet definite in its space. It was like a call summoning ... well, what the work is meant to summon. It was breathtaking.

So, it was pretty good. 10/10, would hear again.

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