Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Black Composers

My intention was to observe Black History Month by posting videos of music by black composers two or three times a week. Well, I didn't quite make it. It turned out to be more like one a week. But I discovered a couple of composers I wasn't aware of and I really like what I've heard.

I'm going to end the month with probably the most famous African American composer, Scott Joplin. Like many people I was first introduced to Joplin's music by the movie, The Sting, still one of my favorite movies of all time. The arrangement of The Entertainer from the movie is still my favorite. Here's another favorite that I first heard in The Sting.

And from Joplin's opera Treemonisha

Monday, February 26, 2018

Tell a Fairy Tale

Did you know that today is Tell a Fairy Tale Day? What a wonderful idea for a Day! Also, did you know that there is a classification system for folk tales? Oh, that site looks like an incredibly fun way to waste an afternoon! Here's a history of the ATU Folk Tale Index.

Bobby McFerrin

You probably remember Bobby McFerrin for his novelty song Don't Worry, Be Happy but he is much more than a one hit wonder and one man orchestra. He has remained active in music all these years since that fun, silly song, writing more serious songs as well as entertaining audiences with his unusual vocal talent.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Random Linkage

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur - I haven't paid much attention to cartoons for a long time but something about this appeals to me.

Gray Squirrels Good at Problem Solving - And in other news water is wet. Anyone who has ever tried to keep the little buggers from stealing all the birdseed knows this already.

Happiest Facts Ever - These are delightful.

Donuts Are a Girl's Best Friend?

The Louvre's Secret Apartments - Gorgeous rooms!

Elizabeth Cotton - Interesting life story

Underwater Garden - strangely clear flood waters

Monday, February 19, 2018

Black Composers

Adolphus Hailstork "Sonata da Chiesa" for String Orchestra (1992)

This sonata sounds a bit like spring to me, which seems appropriate right now even though spring is still weeks away.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Black Composers

I was already slightly familiar with William Grant Still but I hadn't heard this particular piece before.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Random Linkage

World Wide Weirdies - Sounds like a take-off on the World Wide Web but these are actually from the 1970s.

Wooden Money - but no wooden nickels

Embroidery Portraits - Wow!

Creative Hyphenation and places your mind goes

Colorful Houses of South India

Customer Stories - I never get tired of these. I just keep reading and going, "What the hell was wrong with that person?" My fantasy is that some of the bad customers will read these, recognize themselves and feel shamed. (More likely they would get angry but I did say it's my fantasy.)

Car in Space - No, not that car. This is another blast from the 70s.

The Secret Teachings of All Ages - Hmmmm... I must explore this sometime.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Black Composers

Another one by Florence Price

Cold Weather Vices

Hot chocolate! In particular, Land O' Lakes hot chocolate in wonderful flavors like cinnamon and caramel. I don't have any right now. Last year I ordered it from Amazon. The Reasor's here has it and I did buy a couple of the big containers but they don't have all the flavors.

But anyway, that's gone now and I wasn't going to buy any more because calories. I decided (again) that I'm just going to drink hot tea this winter but last time I was at Walmart I saw they had Great Value salted caramel hot chocolate mix in the big round containers. (which turned out to be only half full. I know stuff settles but really?) I hesitated to buy it because I was like "Ewwww Great Value brand" but "salted caramel" won. I bought it and darn it, it's actually pretty good. Not up there with Land O' Lakes but really not bad and it mixes up as well as Land O' Lakes. It doesn't leave lumps that won't mix no matter how much you stir like some other cheap hot chocolate mixes.

I have some Chocolate Candy Cane tea from The Spice and Tea Exchange and it is heavenly but there's just something about hot cocoa - the creaminess of it - for which there is just no substitute. Someone on Twitter suggested Swiss Miss because it has on 60 calories per packet? Sorry, that makes sense but it also tastes like it only has 60 calories.

There's no fix for this. I will just have to consume less of something else and hope the weather warms up soon.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Good Guys Drink Tea

Yesterday was Charles Dickens birthday. As a fan I should have known that but I didn't until I came across this article about coffee and tea drinkers in Dickens' novels. Of course as a tea drinker myself it makes me happy that more often than not "the good guys prefer tea while the dodgier ones plot and scheme over coffee."

This also inspired another thought: that both what we consider elite and what we consider sinister or evil is at least partly due to a lack of familiarity. Here in America we think of tea (we're talking about hot tea here) as more elite than coffee and we imagine proper Brits sitting around in elegant parlors drinking tea from beautiful little tea cups. Never mind that that's probably no longer reality, if it ever was.

This also explains why a certain kind of movie villain always listens to classical music. Most people are not familiar with it so it seems plausible that it's what smart evil guys like. Wait! Is this why nobody like me? Because I drink tea and listen to classical music?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Books Books Books

It has been way too long since I wrote anything about the books I've been reading and, to be honest, there are some that I barely even remember so I'm going to go through these briefly, starting with the most recent one I finished.

Generally, I do not much like post apocalypse novels but for some reason Amazon keeps recommending them to me and darn it some of them are actually pretty good. Excellent, in fact - like The Silent Earth Trilogy by Mark R. Healy. It begins sometime after a Nuclear Winter. All life on Earth has been wiped out and all that's left are "synthetics," what most of us think of as androids. Strangely though, these synthetics are exactly like humans. They have emotions and feel pain, both physical and emotional, just like humans. The only difference is that if they get damaged they don't heal, they have to be repaired but on post apocalyptic Earth there are no repair facilities. (And of course they don't eat or drink which is the main reason I would never want to be an android. Ice cream is too important to me.)

The synthetics have formed various factions. One faction hunts down other synthetics and kills them for spare parts. Another is trying to form a new civilization. The main character is one of two synthetics who are trying to restore life using frozen embryos and seeds. This is, as I have already said, an excellent book - compelling story and great characterization. I can't really consider a book "good" unless it has characters I care about and other characters to fear and/or hate. This has both as well as a great story with plenty of action. I highly recommend this book to all science fiction fans.

I suppose you could call Adrian Tchaikovsky's Children of Time post apocalyptic also but the whole story takes place on a ship and an alien planet so I think of it as more of a space opera. A few thousand humans have left a dying Earth and headed for a previously terraformed planet. When they get there they find the planet is already home to a rapidly evolving civilization. The story takes place over a period of hundreds of years as the characters wake up from cold-sleep, go back into cold-sleep, and wake up again several times. This is another excellent story and as unique as anything I've read. If you're arachnophobic you might want to skip this one though.

I finally read Oliver Twist. Around the time I was ten years old the movie, Oliver, was a really big deal and everyone thought Mark Lester was the most adorable kid ever but I never got to see it so the book was completely unspoiled for me. I'm a huge Dickens fan so of course I enjoyed it. I did get a bit impatient with Oliver always being in some kind of danger but mostly it was a fun ride.

Sadly, I do not have a perfect memory or even an especially good one. Good enough - average, I guess you could say, but there's only so much disc space available so inevitably some things are going to get lost. I remember very little about Gemini by Ray Jay Perrault. I do recall that I thought it was interesting and different, though I can't say excellent. I may read it again sometime.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie is sort of an odd book and really hard for me to explain. I've been thinking, well, really for weeks, about how to describe it, what to say. I'll just say I liked it and I plan to read the other two books in the trilogy. If you want to know more you can go read about it on Amazon

I am afraid that there is nothing I can say about Babylon's Ashes, the sixth novel in James S.A. Corey's Expanse series, that wouldn't spoil the earlier books so I'll just say it's good - really good. Some things happened in it that were kind of disappointing to me and overall I didn't like it as well as some of the earlier books but still, it was very good and of course I will continue reading this series.

Monday, February 5, 2018

African-American Composers

Florence Price

Best Game Ever? Maybe.

I thought about not watching the Superbowl. I was almost 100 percent certain that the Patriots would win and I just didn't want to see it happen. But I knew that if a miracle happened I would be seriously disappointed if I missed it. Also, I didn't want to miss the commercials. Yes, I'm one of those people.

I mostly spent the first half dinking around on Twitter, but then gradually getting more and more interested during the second half and actually paying attention. Still, right up until the last second I expected to be disappointed; I knew that Brady had to pull it off. But he didn't! Tense, full of surprises, and the right team won. And of course Brady had to be a sore loser. (I was going to use a more crude term but changed my mind.) Seriously, I know losing is always disappointing but what the hell? The guy has won five Superbowls already. It's like he think he owns it and no one else has the right.

Anyway, best game ever? Probably not. We tend to forget other "best game[s] ever" in the excitement of the moment. The Eagles are not even one of my favorite teams but anyone who beats the Patriots is suddenly one of my favorite teams.

Oh, and about those commercials? Possibly the most lame Superbowl commercials ever. I think my favorite was the Jeep commercial with the dinosaur. Because, dinosaur! There were a few of the tug-at-the-emotions style commercials. I liked the T-Mobile(?) diversity spot. The one with the babies. Never have been wild about Bud Light's "dilly dilly" series of commercials and the attempt to make it more of a story only made me fully dislike them. Bring back the damn horses. Everybody loved those.

So, I'm glad I watched it. Now the season is over and I'm happy about that too. I do enjoy watching football (though I admit its detractors have a few good points) but what I do not like about it is the way it takes over our lives for half the year. We watch five, sometimes six, games a week. And yes, I know I don't have to watch them all and I don't always but... oh never mind. I'm not going to waste time trying to explain it. Like most things, it's complicated.