Archive - Apr 2013

Date

April 12th

Rachmaninoff

On the trip home from Minneapolis today, the roads were clear and I was able to enjoy an album of the great Sergei Rachmoninoff playing his own music in 1911-1915, when he was at his prime as a great pianist. Here, he plays his most famous Prelude, a piece he grew to hate closer to his death in 1943 because everybody insisted upon hearing him play it as if it was the only piece he wrote. It was a great piece, of course, but one can understand his exhaustion at being treated like a one-trick pony. 

I don't think there is anybody who physically mastered the piano like Rachmaninoff. So excessive was his strength that he was forced to use at least half of it to restrain himself. Horowitz just lets his strength go and the piano roars and rumbles uncontrollably. Rachmaninoff holds back and uses his strength to produce absolute accuracy, absolute control, absolute tautness. His rhythms are so controlled, so tight, so strong that one almost gets a headache imagining how much thought he put into a piece before executing it to perfection. 

We are lucky to have these recordings (look up "A Window in Time") which were made by a piano roll machine long before audio recordings were of any quality. The rolls were discovered in the 1980s and a piano was constructed to replay them. Thanks to these rolls, we know how the scowling Old Man intended his piano pieces to sound. Would that we had the same for Bach. 

UPDATE: At least we have Rachmaninoff playing Bach, anyway! 

Scully

As the Twins lose badly to the New York Mets tonight, I am reminded why baseball is such a great game: We still have the opportunity to see Joe Mauer ply his trade every couple of innings at the bat. What a pleasure. Mauer is one of the great hitters of all time, and watching his every at-bat is a worthwhile endeavor no matter how out of reach the game. 

Last night, the Dodgers and the Padres had a brawl. Zach Greinke, the Dodgers' $140 million pitcher, broke his collarbone in the altercation. But what most people are enjoying is the rendition of the incident by legendary broadcaster Vin Scully, 84 years of age. Watch as he makes sense of a senseless situation as only Vin Scully could. 

Scully is a national treasure. What a joy to watch him get credit for his excellence while he is still plying his trade. I preferred our own Herb Carneal, of course. Home town favorite. More Minnesotan, despite his Virginia drawl. But that Scully's old school excellence is recognized for what it is warms my heart. 

Forty-seven years ago, Vin Scully called a perfect game pitched by the equally great, equally legendary Sandy Koufax. Here is Scully's poetry describing the event as it occurred. It is a legendary passage in broadcast history. As you get into the broadcast, Scully starts time stamping the event. At the end of the tape, Scully finally explains why.

Dodger players report that transitor radios of Vin Scully calling the games are so prevalent at Dodger Stadium that they hear him calling the game as they play it. 

UPDATE: If you skip the other recordings, do listen to this one of Scully's tribute to UCLA coach John Wooden. 

 

April 11th

Playing it safe

After viewing the weather for an hour and finding the conditions on I-94 less than optimal, I decided to get a hotel room. Bonanza! The Hilton had a room for $68. So, I have been toodling around downtown Minneapolis today. I ate at my favorite restaurant downtown, Zelo, and am now enjoying my 15th floor view of the snow removal operations in the city. I do like to be around the activity. Spent the afternoon at Barnes and Noble on Nicollet and had the pleasure of watching an 80-year-old woman tear into a young cell phone user who was disturbing the entire second floor of the store. "You are rude!" she said. "You have no manners!" She was right. And the young man shut up in shame, as he should have. Nice suit nonwithstanding, he was being a jerk. He blushed as she tore into him, so at least he had some shame. 

Slush bound

After two days in the Twin Cities, I was to drive home this afternoon. However, things look nasty in central Minnesota, and I have no desire to push things. I might just stay over. Like a cat, if I am in, I want out, if I am out, I want in: I thought about staying down here a bit, but now that it is forced upon me, I find I want to forge my way home. Stupid impulses. 

This morning was a slush fest as I struggled to a meeting. Got there 1/2 hour late. Then found a Tibetan restaurant on Nicollet Ave. with a parking space out front. Ordered some pork noodle soup, which was outstanding. Fresh veggies in a broth with strips of grilled pork. Very healthy, I am allowing myself to imagine.

Last night, met my cousin and her partner at a Thai place in the Seward neighborhood. We said hot, and they spiced it up! I think it cleared my chest, which was still rattling.

Earlier in the day, I dropped of a friend in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood. I had never been there, either. So many little neighborhoods to explore in the Cities. 

Traffic has been bearable. I think the Minneapolis freeway system is engineered a little funny: I don't know anywhere else where you compete with traffic merging onto the freeway for a hundred yards as you try to exit the freeway. It gets stressful. 

This morning, I cleared the snow of the car, got on the freeway and immediately pulled all the way to the left because I knew I would be on that route for quite a while. However, when it came time to slide right, I found out I hadn't cleaned off the right rear-view mirror. I couldn't see a thing to my right. So, I just signalled and waited for a horn to honk.

One hour on the streets this morning. That's enough for now. I am drinking coffee at the Dunn Bros. coffee shop on N. Washington, trying to decide where to go next. 

 

April 7th

New pope, good old ideas

While a cardinal, the new pope co-wrote a book with a rabbi. Here are just a few excerpts. Cardinal Bergoglio's thoughts are refreshing, especially his views on athiesm and fundamentalism. His co-author states what I have always believed: Agnosticism is the only tenable position, even if one tends towards belief or disbelief. People who dogmatically state that they know there is a god are usually pretty sure that said god agrees with them on everything from women's rights to taxes to gun control. 

On another matter, fundamentalist biblical literalists love to throw around Old Testament pronouncements on homosexuality, but when it comes to passages like the below, suddenly they sing a different tune:

Leviticus 25: 44 Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

Clearly, we have here an endorsement of human trafficking and slavery. Clear and simple. The Bible says it, and I believe it. Case closed!

While lobbing around Old Testament verses, biblical fundamentalists value only those verses which they can use as a weapon against those they hate. I suspect the new pope, of all people, would abhor this practice. 

UPDATE: Later in the morning, I stumble across this, from the recently deceased pope of film. 

April 4th

Pro-violence

Sean Hannity defends the ousted Rutgers basketball coach, who hit his players and threw balls at them. I knew it was a matter of time before some right-winger would defend the use of violence by those in authority against those beneath them. It is one of the great right-wing beliefs: The little guy needs beating every now and then just to keep him in line. Kids? Spare the rod, spoil the child. Weirdos? A little bullying goes a long way. Gay kid? Whip him at the right time and all will be well. World problems? Invade countries one-twentieth our size and kill a couple hundred thousand civilians. If it doesn't work to solve the crisis, (which it hasn't) at least it will make us feel better. Criminals? We need more guns so we can have one big shoot-out between the good guys and the bad guys in the school hallway! That'll solve it! 

When right-winger's advocate violence, it is never on a even playing field. It is always the powerful having license to inflict pain on the weak for the good of the weak. It is sadistic. However, when there is the potential for violence and the outcome is in doubt, the right-wing cowards head for the hills. 

Cost of Alzheimer's

Here is confirmation of what should be obvious: Alzhieimer's disease is not only costly, it costs more than heart disease or cancer. 

I worry that we'll just look away. 

The Democratic-led Minnesota House and Senate are proposing $150 million in cuts to heath and human services. For nursing homes, costs go up but reimbursement goes down. Who will suffer? Not just the employees, who haven't had a raise in years, but the residents are going to feel the impact of lower staffing levels and lower morale amongst staff. 

Sadly, I think we are entering grim times in eldercare, particularly for those who are going to enter eldercare instutitions. There is no will whatsoever, even in areas you would usually find the will, to take care of those in need. None. The "all government is evil" mantra has so hynotized politicians (and many citizens) that anybody who brings up the actual pain caused by cuts in services is ignored in the name of fiscal belt-tightening. The tight-wads have won. I don't buy that they are simply looking at fiscal reality. These people who look down at the ground as soon as you bring up human suffering use fiscal matters as an excuse for human coldness, which is what really gives them joy: The opportunity to be cold and mean and have it seem noble and necessary. Some people live for that.

The belt-tightening will fall hardest on those who don't have voice to protest. Alzheimer's patients have no voice. They will suffer most. Other nursing home patients are next. Then come those who work in nursing homes, who have no organization and are generally on the edge of poverty themselves. 

Is it a radical notion that people who do the hard work in a nursing home should be paid well enough to have no problem buying a car, buying a home and taking an occasional vacation? That's the way it was thirty years ago! But no more.

 

April 1st

Tigers 4 Twins 2

Thus starts what promises to be a long, excruciating season for Twins fans. Tigers' starting pitcher Justin Verlander was his ornery self. The Twins' attempt to mount a rally against the Tigers' relievers after Verlander was removed was thrwarted when Chris Parmelee swung and missed two fastballs in the dirt. I can understand swinging at curveballs in the dirt, as you might have been led to believe that they were going to stay elevated. But low fastballs? They start low and aren't going to get any higher. Swinging at them indicates you made up your mind to swing at anything before pitch left the pitcher's hand. And that is not a sound baseball decision, especially with the bases loaded and the count in your favor. The Twins could have walked their way back into the game, but Parmelee's eagerness prevented that. 

Joe Mauer had two nice hits and a third, a squibber, which might have been called a hit but was ruled an error. Everybody else looked pretty shabby, including rookie center fielder Aaron Hicks, who probably won't start hitting until the Twins get to hit against weaker pitchers. He was overmatched against the excellent Verlander. 

Watching the MLB network, I get this feeling that the Twins have been left behind. I hope I am wrong. But there are so many hot-shot pitchers out there throwing flames. Every team seems to have a couple––except for the Twins, who have nobody. 

Grim. 

Another complaint, while I am at it: There is no reason for the baseball season to open in Minnesota. Put the Twins on the road for two weeks until the weather gets better. The fans were freezing today. 

On the positive side, I did think Worley did pretty well in his Twins' debut. I look forward to seeing him pitch this year. He's not a flame-thrower, but he has a fighter's approach, which alone separates him from Blackburn, Liriano, Slowey, Baker, Capps and the rest of the the unlamented departed uninspired mediocrities.