Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Grow up, Huntington

Watched the first two installments of Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution tonight and I was struck by one serious problem. The adults here, most of them anyway, were not willing to even try. The bitchy little frown factory in the kitchen made me want to scream. She actually enjoyed when things went wrong, and actually believed that everything is just fine. That arse on the radio needs an attitude adjustment.  Hope his bravado and fake John Wayne will be strong enough to carry his stupid ass to the cemetery when it is time for him or someone he loves to die.
I am living proof of what diabetes can do, and that is just one of the problems Oliver tries to warn this town about. I am sore all the time. I do not have the energy I need, and I get sick much easier. I cannot enjoy some of the simple physical tasks, like sitting on the couch, an arm around one of my kids, and often doing my job, something I love,  is very difficult because of the pain. But while genetics plays a small part of my troubles, I did most of this to myself. Though I’m trying to eat better and do the things I need to do to get rid of the weight, I still live with the fear that I might still have a stroke or a heart attack.
This is a reality show, and I generally don’t like reality shows. I won’t get into why here. But I will be watching this a least a little longer, hoping that something changes. Right now, I see a lot of adults who act more childish than their kids.
Huntington, if you really think everything is okay, then be brave enough to look your kids in the eyes and tell them they don’t deserve to grow up with parents, because Mom and Dad thought everything was just fine. Sit them down and explain, thoroughly, why the habits you are teaching them about eating, though they may shave decades from their lives, are really you just being a “good parent.” While you are at it,  write a letter to the fast food companies and their marketing and advertising geniuses. Thank them for being so good at their jobs, for making money so much more important than the health of their consumers, that even after a demonstration on how chicken nuggets are made, children still want them more than chicken prepared with health (AND TASTE) in mind.
This isn’t about snooty restaurants or eating “nuthin’ but lettuce all the time.” This is about fixing what so many of you think isn’t wrong. Often we parents have a child who isn’t willing to try something new, complaining that they don’t like it. And we say, “How do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t tried it?” Well the reactions of many of those children and adults tell us that they are ingrained with the idea that processed food is the only food and that mix with water and microwaving is the only way to prepare food. Well try something new for a change.
You know, one way we know children are growing up is that they don’t use such goofy logic as saying they hate what they haven’t given a fair chance to. So grow up, Huntington.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I took these pictures because my wife likes tulips, and these looked particularly bright today. Flowers, for me, are nice, but just decoration. Usually. Maybe the nice weather made me unusually romantic.

This first photo was taken in the morning on my way to the division office. I walk by here often, but was suddenly struck by the vibrancy of the colors. I don’t know why I never paid attention before.

The second picture was taken later in the day, early afternoon. Sorry about the finger. I don’t know if it shows, but the flowers seemed open and leaning to the sun which was at my back. It was like children smiling toward a priest offering communion.

I wish I could write a poem about the two pictures, but it would just come out cliché and silly. I also wish I could have sat down at the table a few feet away and just enjoyed the sun as I imagined these did or as the students who were already there chatting affably probably were. But I won’t lament the call to work. I saw something beautiful and new today. That’s plenty of joy.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Music Notes -- Orchestrion

It doesn’t matter that Pat Metheny, on his new solo project, has redefined “solo,” or that he has created (with the help of some very talent craftsmen and inventors) something unique in the way of creating music, or if he is making yet another protest against established methods of recording and performing. None of that matters if the music itself isn’t good. Thankfully, it is very good.

Orchestrion contains five terrific songs. In fact, my main beef with this project is that it is too short at 51 or so minutes. I wanted more. Much more.

The title track opens the set with Metheny’s trademark runs and textures like some kind of furious painter, here accompanied by one of the percussion instruments, there by a piano, all controlled at the guitar. It reminded me in some places of the most moving sections of The Way Up. But this is one guy, not a whole band. And this song stands well on its own.

“Entry Point” is the second tune, one reminiscent of Metheny’s softer, more introspective pieces like “The Bat.” With the exception of some piano tinkling here and there, it is very much a trio piece, with the bass guitar and percussion doing more than filling in the space around the melody and solos.

The middle song on Orchestrion is “Expansion.” Here I am reminded of some of the group projects recorded during the 90s. Again the texture built with the other instruments makes Metheny’s lightening solos shine even brighter. Like the other songs on this album, I was amazed by the composition around which the improvisations fly. The song ran to a fantastic climax as well as my favorite songs from Speaking Of Now, “Proof” and “The Gathering Sky.”

“Soul Search” is an interesting suite of a tune. The first four minutes are a gorgeous ballad, but then we are treated some bluesy chords and runs that are likely to have feet tapping. At the six and a half minute mark, the song returns to its theme, resolving nicely like the last sip of your favorite drink.

The project closes with the beautiful and stirring “Spirit of the Air.” This song is my favorite. (That is, until I start the disc over and hear the other four). I’m not a fan of the cymbal play about four minutes in, but the solo there is sweet and lively, and when Metheny returns to the head of the song I find myself grinning so wide each time I hear it, my face hurts. But that’s mighty fine pain!

At first, I was a little put off that each song on Orchestrion reminded me of other tunes in Metheny’s extensive canon. But these are not knock off pieces now getting space. Metheny is a consummate bandleader, and though this is a solo album, he is still leading a real band, not just playing an interesting array of instruments. One might even argue that for his first foray into this territory, he is wise to avoid too much experimentation in sound. One might also argue that the new instruments are enough experimentation to satisfy most adventurous listeners. And as a composer, Pat Metheny ranks among the best of our time. I can easily see (or hear) these tracks being covered by any number of artists, in small groups, solo, or big bands. The more I listen to Orchestrion, the more I remember that the music is the thing. Here, it is a rather wondrous thing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bookmarks -- Learning to Kill

I found this book in a sale at a library and what a bargain I got! Learning to Kill is a collection of short stories by Ed McBain written during a kind of apprenticeship he had as he worked for the Scott Meredith Literary Agency in the 1950s. The stories are not arranged in chronological order, but grouped into categories, like "Private Eyes," "Cops and Robbers," and "Innocent Bystanders" so as to show the different kinds of crime tales he wrote during this pivotal time in his career.

For a crime buff like me, these stories are very enjoyable. I have come to enjoy the story that does not rely on technology to pull together the plot,and as these were composed during the time McBain was literarlly learning how to piece together and shape good, sellable fiction, these tales are gold. At first, I was put off that they did were not arranged chronologically, but now I think this strategy works, since each group represents a different kind of crime sub-genre. There is even a group called "Gangs," which seems appropriate considering this is also the man who wrote The Blackboard Jungle (published under the name Evan Hunter).

Learning to Kill is certainly going to appeal to those who prefer McBain's 87th Precinct novels. But on their own, the stories here are well worth reading and I suspect many will stand up over time. What I found most valuable besides the stories are the insights the writer provides into the their composition and into the publishing world at that time. Most of the stories in the collection were originally published in Manhunt, and they provide a nice idea of what was read in one of best markets for crime fiction at the time. They also provide good clues as to why McBain's work would continue to sell.