At the end, the manner of my “passing,” as the pious so delicately refer to death, was as much a disappointment to the dewy-eyed acolytes of god-worship as it was to me, although for rather different reasons. For more than a year after I publicly announced in June 2010 that I would begin chemotherapy for esophageal cancer, the stupidest of the faithful either gloated on their subliterate Web sites that my illness was a sign of “God’s revenge” for having blasphemed their Lord and Master, or prayed that I would abandon my contempt for their nonsensical beliefs by undergoing a deathbed conversion. The vulgarity of the idea that a vengeful deity would somehow stoop to inflicting a cancer on me still boggles the mind, especially in the face of the ready explanation supplied for my illness by my long, happy, and prodigious career as a smoker of cigarettes and drinker of spiritsRTWT here. Somewhere, Christopher must be smiling — on several counts.
In April, at Milan's La Scala, [Domingo] sang Boccanegra again, this time following surgery the previous month for a cancerous polyp in his colon, discovered in February while he was conducting in Tokyo.No kidding? We wonder just how that might have been accomplished. Is a puzzlement.
A music critic for the Orange County Register in California felt the life being sucked out of him during a concert last week but was able to continue working to the end of the event. Timothy Mangan, the newspaper’s music critic since the latter part of the 20th century, sensed that he was “losing his will to live” during a performance of Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances by the local orchestra on Thursday. “I just couldn’t take it anymore,” Mangan told reporters in the locker room afterward. “It was an odd feeling — hard to describe, exactly.” But the veteran scribe didn’t panic. “These things happen at this time of year,” he said. “It’s been a long season and we’re all playing hurt. I just have to man up and carry on. It’s all about executing.”RTWT here.
I’m just pulling into the lot in front of the Surf Super when I see my neighbor, Marcel Proost, getting into his pickup truck. Marcel usually wears Ben Davis overalls, a checkered flannel shirt and an Oakland Raiders hat. But today I see he’s got on a clean pressed shirt and tie, and his hair has that weird look of a wet cat, kind of slicked down and unruly, like it doesn’t want to be combed. I also notice he’s got a notebook under his arm and a ballpoint pen behind his left ear. “Marcel,” I say, “somebody die?” “Naw. I just come from the concert at the Arts Center. I gotta get home and file my review.” “Your what??” “I’m covering the concert for the Independent Coast Observer. Didn’t you know?” Turns out that Marcel had offered his services to our small newspaper as a music critic. This, as you can imagine, truly puzzles me, because I do not think Marcel is in any way qualified to pass judgment on classical music. “So what kind of concert was it, Marcel?” I am thinking to myself he couldn’t tell a septuplet from a septic tank.Hilarity ensues. RTWT here.
[Note: This post has been updated (1) as of 8:54 AM Eastern on 19 Jun. See below.]
Perhaps it's not entirely out of place on this Bloomsday to direct your attention to this video and remark that, good-fun stunt though it may be, there's something curiously right about this performance of the (abbreviated) first movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5.
(One of the YouTube commenters explains, "My Japanese friend Ami has said that they are arguing about what to eat for breakfast: 'asa gohan' is Japanese for 'breakfast'. Apparently some want pure rice, others? rice with vegetables and mushrooms etc.")
(Our thanks to Chris Foley of The Collaborative Piano Blog for the link to the above YouTube video.)
Update (8:54 AM Eastern on 19 Jun): Here's a video of the classic 1950s Your Show of Shows sketch done by Sid Caesar and Nanette Fabray that embodies the very same idea as Asagohan. We wonder, Did the creator(s) of Asagohan know this classic TV sketch, or was it the music itself that suggested the very same idea to him (them) as it almost certainly did for the creator(s) of the original Your Show of Shows sketch?
Inquiring minds want to know.
Here is the four-part audio-only version of Anna Russell's hilarious (if not altogether accurate) classic take on Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. There exist on YouTube audio with image videos of her 1984 recreation of this routine, but they lack the bite and charm of these audio-only originals.
(NOTE: These audio-only videos seem to be hung-up at the moment, but they're still there, so try again later if you can't get to them on first try.)
Here y'are twitterers (or tweeters or whatever it is y'all call yourselves). This here is high culture custom-made for your Po-Mo, ADD, Web 2 sensibilities. Don't ever say we at S&F are unmindful of your needs, elitist though we may be. (And don't miss listening to the voice-over on the closing credits.)
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Let me be brief and blunt.
In Season 4 of House, you wrote yourselves into a corner from which it's almost impossible to extricate yourselves successfully. You gave Dr. House three new fellows who just don't work with the considerable chemistry of the previous three, and as a consequence the show has suffered meaningfully. You tried to have your cake and eat it too by letting Dr. House's previous three fellows drift back to Princeton-Plainsboro as their own independent persons so that they would have some presence on the show. But having things that way is simply not the same nor even remotely as good or effective. You urgently need to lose Taub, Kutner, and Thirteen (I confess that losing Thirteen will cause me no end of pain as I seem to have developed a case of the hots for her), and restore Foreman, Chase, and Cameron to their original capacities as Dr. House's fellows or as his new partners. Losing the former three is a piece of cake; restoring the latter three to their original capacities as Dr. House's fellows or as his new partners, almost impossible to do in a convincing way (the "it was all a dream" ploy just won't cut it here), but do it you must. You simply have to find a way for the show's sake. And while you're at it, make Foreman lose his suit (he needs to be dressed in his lab coat) and Cameron her newly-acquired blond hair and puffy-shoulder blouses. They're most unattractive indeed.
Hoping you'll accept the above in the spirit in which it's offered, I am,
Long-term House Fan
Enough of all this serious talk about culture. It's bloody August, and everyone's out to lunch on the beach or in the mountains or wherever anyway, so it's the perfect time for an episode of...
About 10 years ago, I went shopping for a living room armchair and was appalled by the prices. I had fixed in my mind a gorgeous leather armchair with matching ottoman I'd bought many years before (around 1963 or so), and for which I'd laid out some $500 which in terms of that year's money was a huge sum. The approximate same thing 10 years ago had a price tag of some $2800!
Screw this, I thought. I'm going to buy me one a them tacky La-Z-Boy recliner thingies instead; you know, the ones that have that built-in footrest that pops up when you sit back hard against the recliner's back.
So I set off shopping and I'm stunned. Those tacky things cost some $500 at cheapest! Not for me. Not in this life. I simply refuse to lay out that kind of money for something that tacky. I'm about ready to go home when I see an armchair on sale at the back of the store. A really cheesy-looking, no-name, non-La-Z-Boy-type regular stuffed armchair upholstered in yucky beige corduroy fabric. Price: $125.
And that's the armchair I've been living with for the past 10 years, and each time I sit in it I expect it to start falling apart so cheesy is it. But it hasn't done so yet even though it's made threatening noises suggesting it was about to do so a couple times. And whenever I settle in to listen to music, or read, or watch a movie, I have to drag a table chair from the kitchen to use as a footrest. It's a royal pain in the ass to have to do that, and it doesn't feel right when I put my feet up on it because the seat is a bit too high for a footrest, but what can I do but make do.
Last night, I wanted to watch a DVD, but the air conditioner is making such a whooshing racket I can't hear the TV sound very well, so I figure I'll just drag the armchair closer to the TV for the nonce, and set up there. I try to manhandle the thing by grasping it by its back, but it's damned heavy, and I have to drag it on a wood floor and then over a rug, and it's giving me all sorts of grief, so I switch tactics. Instead of grasping it by its back, I go round to the front of the armchair, grasp it under the upholstered front panel that runs from the seat to the floor, lift the armchair onto its back feet, and start pulling.
Uh-oh. I'm in trouble now. The damn front panel starts breaking away from the armchair, and I immediately let go of it so that the front of the armchair drops back down onto its front feet again. I try to assess the damage, but can't see under the armchair to see just how extensive the damage might be. Then I think, "Oh, the hell with it! If the panel breaks off, it breaks off. It's time for another armchair anyway. And this time, tacky as it is, I'll spring for a La-Z-Boy recliner so I'll at least have a proper footrest."
So I grasp the armchair under the upholstered front panel again, lift, and start pulling. Sure enough, the panel again starts breaking away from the armchair, but I keep on pulling; keep on pulling until the panel breaks away from the armchair completely, revealing itself not broken but the top portion of a built-in La-Z-Boy-recliner-type footrest — a two-position footrest, the first for an almost upright sitting position, the second for an almost fully reclining position, that pops up when one sits back hard against the armchair's back — that's been there all along for these past 10 years, but which I never knew existed.
Now I ask you, How stupid is that?
Kudos to Matthew Guerrieri of Soho The Dog for the latest in his ongoing series of Strauss-Mahler Favorite Movie Moments. This time it's the season-appropriate, The Ten Commandments.
While we had decided to post nothing about this event as we’ve no strong feelings about it one way or the other, I suppose we really ought to say something just for the record’s sake. And that something is best expressed by the following old Jewish joke.
Moishe is dead. Friends and family gather for the funeral service before the burial. The rabbi mounts the pulpit to deliver the eulogy and intone all the appropriate prayers. Poor, dead Moishe is in his coffin just below at the foot of the pulpit.
Somberly, the rabbi begins by reciting the life of Moishe to the assembled mourners, replete with expressions of sorrow at the good man's passing. There's not a dry eye in the packed house.
Suddenly, from the rear of the funeral chapel, up jumps a man, and in a voice raucous and insistent, declares loudly, "Give Moishe some chicken soup!"
Shocked, everyone turns to see what lunatic has been let loose among them. The rabbi, momentarily nonplussed, quickly regains himself, decides the best course of action is to ignore the meshugener, and almost without missing a beat, continues with the eulogy.
"Give Moishe some chicken soup!" the wretch again cries out.
Once more, the mourners turn, and once more the rabbi decides to ignore the rude outburst and continue with the eulogy.
After a minute, again, but even more urgently, "Give Moishe some chicken soup!"
The rabbi, thinking that perhaps the man has gone demented with grief, decides this time to address him directly and sternly. "Poor Moishe is dead. What good will chicken soup do him now?"
"Couldn't hurt," replies the man.
I swear, by all and everything I hold near and dear, that I'm not making any of this up, nor am I adding even so much as an iota of exaggeration or embellishment; devices normally excused as an exercise of "poetic license" or some such. The following is merely a direct bit of truth-telling, straight up.
Regular readers of Sounds & Fury know about my acquisition a few weeks ago of a new toy: Microsoft Office Word 2007 (hereafter referred to as Word). I obtained my copy of Word by downloading from Microsoft online the entire Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 suite containing the Word application as, oddly enough, it's the cheapest way to acquire Word which is the only application in that suite of four applications I'll be using as I can see no reason to ever have to use any of the other three.
What I downloaded is called a Trial Version. The Trial Version operates exactly the same as the regular version except it works for only 90 days, after which time it simply ceases to function unless you choose to "convert" it into the regular version. The Trial Version is free, and a neat way to try everything out before deciding whether or not to actually buy the product. A sharp marketing move on Microsoft's part, and one that benefits both Microsoft and Microsoft's customers.
The way one converts a Trial Version to a regular version, or Perpetual Version as it's called, is to simply buy the retail version from any retailer, online or brick-&-mortar; open the CD case; and read off from some location therein or thereon a 25-character code called the Product Key which uniquely identifies that copy of the software. One then simply brings up any one of the four Trial Version Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 applications in one's computer, clicks on a button labeled variously (depending on the application) Activate or Convert (there are other methods provided, but they all do the same thing), types the Product Key into the text box that appears, clicks the OK button, and the Trial Version software then converts itself automatically into a Perpetual Version, registers itself online with Microsoft, and you're home free with a brand-new Perpetual Version of the entire Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 suite without having to either uninstall the Trial Version, or install a new Perpetual Version from the CD.
Simple, slick, painless, and foolproof. Typical Microsoft.
So, after using Word for some weeks and loving it, I order from Amazon the retail version of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007. Amazon ships on 22 September by snail-mail, and the expected delivery date is quoted as 29 September to 9 October using Super Saver free shipping. On 14 October the package has still not arrived, and so I call Amazon, they assume it's been lost in the mail and so ship me out another by regular snail-mail with a quoted delivery of 18 October. The package arrived yesterday — the original shipment, that is, not the replacement which as of this date has yet to arrive.
No problem. I now have my retail copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 which contains the Product Key, and I'm all set to convert my Trial Version by the above outlined procedure.
But there is a problem. I can't open the very sexily- and totally unconventionally-shaped Lucite CD case (see illustration at the above Amazon link) to get inside and read the Product Key. I don't merely mean the case is hard to open. I mean I can't figure out how it's supposed to open. The bloody thing is like a Rubik's Cube, only more complex because no obvious way of manipulating it.
There's a clue, however. There's a little red-colored strip of tape sticking up from the case's top edge all but inviting one to give it a pull. And so I give it a pull. Nothing. I mean, nothing budges; not the little red strip nor anything else. I give the strip a harder pull. Again nothing. The strip is strong, I'll give it that, and it's not snapping from my pulling, but it refuses to budge either itself or any other part of the Lucite case.
After about three-quarters of an hour of pulling and tugging, along with a number of thoughtful but unsuccessful attempts at trying to figure out how the Lucite case is supposed to open, that little strip of unbudging red tape still remains my only hope. And so finally, in an access of sheer frustration and desperation, I get a pair of pliers, grasp the little red strip in its jaws, and give a healthy pull, upon doing which the tape finally snaps away from the Lucite case, defiant to the very end, and I'm now left completely helpless and bereft of hope in the face of this unyielding Lucite monster.
Now I'm really pissed. I get on the phone to Microsoft. I get one of their outsourced "technicians" somewhere in India. Oh Christ! Not this, too. But I'm at my wit's end, and I'm now really, really pissed, and nothing — nothing!, not even a barely understandable, outsourced Indian "technician" — is going to prevent my getting to the bottom of this, and getting that damn case open.
I tell her the problem as calmly as I'm able. She tells me it's easy to open the case. All I have to do is to "gently" pull that little red strip up and back, and the case will then swing open on its hinged bottom.
Hinged bottom? There's a hinge? Turns out, indeed there is — if one knows where to look for it. I tell her that the little red strip exists no more because when I pulled on it "gently," it snapped. She says, no problem. Microsoft has a special website that tells one, step by step, how to open the Lucite case, and there's certain to be another solution there waiting for me.
Microsoft has a special website devoted to telling its customers how to open its products' Lucite CD cases? What is that? Some kind of ironic or perverse joke?
But I've come this far — this far being something over an hour and a half at this point — and I'm not going to give up now. I'm going to get that bloody Lucite case opened come hell or high water. I ask her for the website's URL. She begins to spell it out for me. When she gets to the 32nd character with a promise of many more characters to come, I explode. I throw down the phone, go to my toolbox, get out the ball-peen hammer, and smash the Lucite case to smithereens. Mercifully, the CD is left unharmed, and — mirabile dictu! — staring at me from one of the shattered fragments is the 25-character Product Key. I pick up the phone, thank the "technician" for her help and bid her adieu, fire up my computer, load Word, click on Activate, enter the Product Key into the text box, click OK, and within seconds I'm home free and the proud owner of a brand-new Perpetual Version of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007.
Piece of cake.
We're not exactly fans of C&W music, but that doesn't preclude our recognizing a winning song when we hear it. Like this one, for instance (for those of you with tender sensibilities, a caution: repeated use of the F word ahead if you click on the Play button):
No matter how many times you've read 'em, they're always fun reading again. And if you've never read 'em, well, then, desist from eating or from sipping or drinking any liquids while reading, otherwise things could get messy.
"Mom, when I grow up I'd like to be a musician."
"Well dear, you know you can't do both."
What do you call a beautiful woman on a trombonist's arm?
What did the drummer get on his IQ Test?
What do you call a guitar player without a girlfriend?
What's the similarity between a drummer and a philosopher?
They both perceive time as an abstract concept.
Why do some people have an instant aversion to banjo players?
In the long run, it saves time.