Thursday, October 30, 2008


I just remembered where I came across it.
Benjamin Britten set it to music. It's a poem by Thomas Hardy. Here's the weird thing about Britten - to me, that is. I find the music so-so. Generally too loud and in your face and not light enough. But I find his choice of poetry (and writing and writers in general) exquisite.

So here you go:

Wagtail and Baby (A Satire)

A baby watched a ford, whereto
A wagtail came for drinking;
A blaring bull went wading through,
The wagtail showed no shrinking.

A stallion splashed his way across,
The birdie nearly sinking;
He gave his plumes a twitch and toss,
And held his own unblinking.

Next saw the baby round the spot
A mongrel slowly slinking;
The wagtail gazed, but faltered not
In dip and sip and prinking.

A perfect gentleman then neared;
The wagtail, in a winking,
With terror rose and disappeared;
The baby fell a-thinking.

a word

I don't even know where I ran across it, but it's a lovely little thing.
It looks like it shouldn't even be a real word, it's so dainty.
It reminds me of one of the nerdier things I've done in the past: think up something that sounds like an English word and then look it up to see if it exists.
This word, I tell you, I wouldn't have looked up, it seems so silly.
But here it is:


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Coco Tuesday

I'm quite sure Coco has never seen Grand Wood's American Gothic, but for some reason his recent portraiture is heading in that direction.
That is, until he learned to make stars and now no surface is safe. Quite honestly, though, I much prefer the stars to all the teardrops he's been putting on his faces.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Just remembered

Julie pointed out that it's odd for someone to simultaneously be called an elitist and a socialist.
(Except, of course, that only elitists actually know what the term "socialism" refers to.)
What's even stranger is that the same people have as their ideal a sort of hybrid of the two terms, a

Madge Monday

This weekend, Madge watched some Food Network shows, which are much more pleasant to be in the room with than morning cartoons. And while cartoons make the kids want the things in the ads - wait, I need to restate that because Madge does not say she wants everything she sees an ad for - Food Network shows merely make the kids hungry. Actually, Coco totally tunes out.
Wait a second: are our two kids actually different people?
Anyway, we saw Nigella make a chocolate cake and Madge wanted to make it. So today we did. I'm not so sure about the recipe because it doesn't have the taste sensation which the food show's money shot had led us to believe. But it as fun and only moderately complicated. Maybe we'll look around for some recipes with a little more punch.
We had fun doing it but once again we had time management issues becuase Madge thinks we can bake and still do all the other things she wants to do in an afternoon, except, of course, what became clear in this exchange:

Madge: Daddy, can you write my teacher a note that I couldn't do the reading because I forgot to bring post-it notes?
[Theoretically, the reading homework entails taking post-it note notes - or is it just post-it notes?]
Me: Oh, well... Wait. I have post-it notes. How many do you need?
[trying to calmly keep the "nyah-nyah" tone out of my voice]
Madge: Never mind.
The old fox wins one. Score: Madge - 4,476,227; Daddy - 6.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Writing on the Wall

Since Biblical references are often lost on me, I have occasion to look them up online*, which has the benefit of not just referring me to various Bible translations, but also to artistic interpretations. This is Belshazzar's Feast, by some Dutch guy with an R who was great with golden colors and light.

And not only do I now know what "the writing on the wall" refers to, but I also have an incling why almost all graffiti is illegible to me: it's Hebrew.

* Today's search was occasioned** by Wodehouse's Right Ho, Jeeves, in the context of which we get, "Oh, that, yes. I've oftn wodered how that gag was worked. With mirrors, I expect."

** And I'd never use "occasioned" if it weren't for Wodehouse. Highly recommendable, by the way (reading Wodehouse, that is; though using "occasioned" is, too).

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Hello, Sailor!

I can't help myself, I just love these pictures.

You're probably familiar with the guy on the right, Henry Paulson Jr. The far left is Neel Kashkari, the director of the bailout program, and the man in the middle is James Lambright, the chief investment officer for the bailout bill.

Now the prize question is: what do these men have in common?

That's right, a love for the flag.

And they look great in drag

(what they need for that gig

is a head fit for wigs).

more market analysis

My dad likes to explain the psychology of the marketplace with the “Schweinezyklus,” the pig cycle. Meat prices rise, and the production of pigs is raised to and past the point where consumption can keep up; therefore, meat prices fall, and the production of pigs is reduced to and past the point where there is too little meat; therefore, …
If I understand this current crisis correctly, though, we have to replace meat prices with “the price of loans” which is like saying that the pig cycle is based on the barter of ribs, cutlets, and sausages. Not only that, but the ribs, cutlets, and sausages are to come from the pigs that are about to be purchased.
And right now the government(s) is/are trying to figure out to whom they should give some pigs, which they, btw., don’t really own.
I think a solution is to be a vegetarian. But since we can’t seem to figure out what that means, it’s more likely we’ll be fasting.


Madge is in band now and she chose the drums. This is good news for our neighbors because the practice pads are nearly noiseless. But she has only two sticks, and they won't be enough for the four pairs of hands in this apartment.
We may have to go to GuitarCenter soon. Heh, heh. Neighbors, watch out.
This is for Julie:

addendum: it gets "really good" about 3 minutes and 30 seconds in.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Coco Tuesday

TaeKwonDo is good for us, I think. It's hard for me, though, because I know they are supposed to practice and yet I also know that part of the appeal of TKD (like school) is that it's not Daddy doing the teaching.
So far, the best thing I've found to do it to pretend I'm doing the exercises, too, incorrectly, and have the correct me. It's tricky, though, when they teach me the wrong way and I know it's wrong (because I do pay attention, thank you very much, even though I'd rather be reading). Oh, well.
And I randomly recite the creed in order to have him hear it in a calm way rather than shouted by twenty kids. Because we don't go to church the kids are only now learning how to mouth along with a group. Important life lessons, I'm sure.

Madge Monday

Oops. I'm behind again.
We hosted a little Obama phone calling party on Saturday. I wasn't supposed to be little, but our friends seemed to have more, uh, important things to do at the time. But two wonderful ladies from the neighborhood showed up. They wanted to do something but weren't quite ready to go to a battleground state in person, so they came for the phone calls. They were really sweet.
Which is why it was doubly troubling that a person one of them called - we had chosen numbers in Indiana - said something to the effect that he would never vote for a n-word.
We didn't hear this. Her facial reaction, though, showed it. Her verbal reaction was great, though. We did hear, "Well, you're going to have one as your next president."
But then we got to explain the n-word to Madge, who dealt with it very well. By "dealing with it very well" I mean that I'm quite sure she didn't understand all the weight the word carries, but she could tell that it was momentous in the situation and she didn't press it or pose any arguments.
She has heard the word before, I'm sure. At the very least when I mumbled through it while reading Tom Sawyer to her, but also from blasting car stereos and neighborhood kids, though they tend to say "son."
Coco was just disappointed that the party wasn't a real party with, you know, chatting people and presents. Madge was excited because she got to be the data entry person.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Was that word on the McCain speechwriter's word-of-the-day calendar on October 13th?
It was by far the least Joe Plumber-y word in his arsenal and he shot it off so often that it might have, uh, backfired. Made me look it up. Apparently its base meaning is "to divorce" and the roots add up to "to un-shame". Well, well, well. Is that really what McCain did, concerning the "kill him" and "terroist" ejaculations of his mob?
It does seem like a word that is part of his ideological makeup, though. If there is a matter of shame, repudiate it and all will be made good. Otherwise, why keep going in a political career that is well into its third decade? First wife, Keating Five? I wash my hands and move on. And now W. That's really the repudiation that he's attempting. Good luck, "my friend."

a parenting word

It came up in conversation with a friend:


n., 1. the parental ability to get everything wrong; 2. the awesome power of parents to be the source and cause of everything that has gone (or will go) wrong.

Finally, the rest of the Taxi song

I went on a field trip with the Kindergarten class and very sneakily asked them to teach me the taxi song. Not only did it help pass the time on the walk back to school, but now I'm fully informed and can share. And then I can let it go. Though there's still that unaccounted-for non-rhyme, for which I'll give a suggestion. I bet you can't wait.

Oh, no, I think I lost my [mode of transportation which a child provides, such as "pogo stick"]
And usually that's bad.
Good thing I'm a city kid,
and I can hail a cab.

"Taxi! Taxi!" Riding in the back.*
Roll the window up. Roll the window down.
Put the money in the slot. "See you later! Thanks a lot!"
Sure beats walking crosstown.**

*In order to make it complete, and to match the ensuing slot/lot rhyme, I think it might at one time have been "back seat" for a Taxi/back seat rhyme. Earth-shaking, I know.

**Apart from the "good thing I'm a city kid," this "crosstown" is my favorite part of the song. It could be a contracted "across town," but since our blocks here are shaped like brand new, unsharpened pencils, the crosstown ones are the ones you dread walking, since that is not the eraser end. (The eraser end - the uptown/downtown direction - has the downside of congestion at the corners, which residents - oh, my, I get to say "we" - which we compensate for by jaywalking.)

It's also cute when songs include archaisms that kids can't know. One is the slot for money. (Thank you, whichever New York mayor wants to take credit for the improved safety of cabbies.) The other is the hand movement that accompanies the rolling of the windows. When we were in Germany, the kids were fascinated that they could roll the windows in my sister's car manually. This was their first exposure to such windows. I don't think the rest of Coco's class has been in my sister's car.

Okay. The song is now officially out of my head.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I know it's silly, but it bugs me that McCain says "meeyuns" and "beeyuns."
Not to mention "emmeteyya."


I'm surprised that the moderator was able to ask about the running mates with a straight face. The question itself is liberal media bias, isn't it?
And then
did McCain refer to his running mate as
"breasts of fresh air"?
He corrected himself, but I'd love to hear the original again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Finances with moi

The whole financial thing is just wackadoodle, of course. But it seems to come as such a surprise to everyone. It really is a lot like Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes," in which the climax isn't the townsperson pointing out that the emperor is naked, but in the emperor's realization that he MUST continue his promenade. Because, really, everyone knew that we were trading Nothing, just like everyone in the story really knew that the tailors were sewing Nothing.
And many people seem to be looking for someone to blame. Really, the one to blame would be the person who pointed out that the loans were worthless, because the emperor would have been just fine if nobody had pointed out his nakedness.
Oh, well.

The other story by which to explain this is "It's a Wonderful Life," the only real contact any true American has with the housing lending industry. "Look, I can't give you your money now. It's in his house and her house..." And even the bailout/injection seems to be a wishful-thinking version of the end of the movie where everyone brings in their cash. "I was saving this money in case I ever gets me a husband." But there, at least, you have a Mr. Potter to dislike. Instead it turns out that we're all Uncle Billy.
Again. Oh, well.

Coco Tuesday

We had taekwondo again today. Lots of shouting, lots of excitement. We finally asked what the word "taekwondo" means. I remembered some trivia thing about hand and foot and I added heel, since I didn't think the kids would appreciate hand-foot-mouth. Apparently, it's something like "the way of hand and foot." But, given all the militaristic shouting, hand-foot-mouth isn't too far off.
Coco is still digging it and now he has some creeds to memorize, which might be a little tough, but he's making up in enthusiasm what he lacks in memorization skills. In other words, I can hear the rhythms of the creeds but not the actual words.
Then, later tonight, he sang part of a song he learned in school today. So it's not a lack of memory but more of a superfluity of excitement that is going to slow him down on the creeds.
The song, by the way, is great. I don't think he knows the whole thing because there are some unaccounted for rhymes in his version, but it still rocks.

Wave for the taxi, get in the back.
Windows rolling up, windows rolling down.
"Thank you, see you later!"
Put the money in the slot.
Sure beats walking crosstown.

The rolled windows and the crosstown (only in New York) walk seem to go together, but the rest of the song is still vague. I think I'll ask the teacher for it.

Madge Monday

Poor Madge. She's been having trouble falling asleep. Something is making her cry and she can't seem to tell us or figure out what it is. It may be fear of nightmares, since she's getting a lot of monsters fed to her subconscious in this pre-halloween season. It may be anything, really. We'll see.
She got enough sleep last night and today is a taekwondo day, so at least physically she should be on schedule. We'll see what her brain comes up with. I switched our reading matter from 1001 Nights to Dahl's The BFG, because I'm a little tired of all the maidenheads being taken in the former. But The BFG begins with the abduction of a young girl with glasses who happens to be awake at the witching hour. Jeez.
It got friendlier after thirty pages or so and now we're good to go.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Syrup alert!

It's our anniversary this Sunday and tonight we're going out for dinner. Ooooh.
One of the best things among the seven hundred billion great things about Julie is that the more I hang out with her, the more I want to hang out with her (the negative flipside is that when she's been out of town it takes a while to back into a groove).
I guess you could say she's addictive.
So here's a song that reflects this. Unfortunately, I could only find it with these silly pictures accompanying it. They're pretty funny, but not really appropriate here. Also, ironically, the song often gets played with a really heavy-hitting swing, almost an R&B backbeat, but this version works best.
The words are these:

Each time I look at you is like the first time:
Each time you’re near me, the thrill is new.
And there is nothing that I wouldn’t do for
The rare delight of
the sight of
you, for

The more I see you, the more I want you.
Somehow this feeling just grows and grows.
With every sigh I become more mad about you,
More lost without you,
And so it goes…

Can you imagine how much I’ll love you,
The more I see you, as years go by?
I know the only one for me can only be you.
My arms won’t free you.
My heart won’t try.

I know the only one for me can only be you.
My arms won’t free you.
My heart won’t try.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Thanks to the large-scale fallout of the mortgage crisis, I'm doing some retrofitting in my knowledge. It turns out that knowing 17th-century voice-leading rules doesn't really help to understand the economic hoohah.
But then again, it explains it as well as anything. More so than twelve-tone techniques and set theory as applied to atonal pieces after 1945.
Anyway, enough of that. I'm catching up by means of the
Planet Money Podcast, thanks to which I can now not my head in the appropriate places when someone talks of fiscal rather than monetary policy. I highly recommend it. And I recomment getting all episodes and just letting it play and saturate your cranium. At first it's depressing and confusing. Then things come into focus and you can resign yourself to the fact that everything's a mess.
And, though my dad may be surprised to hear that I can acknowledge something like this, I still maintain that one of the main historical events during my lifetime (if not the formative one, then somehow most symbolic) was not the fall of the wall but the abolition of the Gold Standard.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Coco Tuesday

We started Tae Kwon Do today. Coco had tried it once before, a little more than a year ago, when all the shouting - think Karate Kid: "Yes, Sensei!" but less testosterone-driven - made him crumple and run to me.
Well, today the shouting didn't bother him so much. Madge was there, too, as was her best friend and a classmate of his and the whole thing went well. And then on the way home he couldn't stop talking about it and reenacting certain moves.
I'm okay. It's only his first lesson, so I can still dodge the kicks.
But I may have to take a similar class just to stay out of the hospital when he wants to practice at home.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Madge Monday

It doesn't happen often, but I surprised Madge today.
Here's what I did: I told her that I don't actually mind her watching TV. That is, after all, why we finally got one. (Between us, I think a knowledge of TV along with a basic knowledge of the Christian story - at least the part that gives us days off from work and school - is part of our cultural makeup.)
I told her what I do mind is that she tends to ask to watch the second she's the slightest bit bored, as well as the first thing on weekend (and some weekday) mornings and as soon as we get home from school. Scratch that. On the way home from school. And because she asks me so incessantly, my answers get increasingly cranky. I said that her homework is done (as it was) and we've had dinner, so of course she can watch some TV.
She was flabbergasted.
But only for a few seconds, after which she brought out a piece of paper, wrote down the days of the week and asked me to tell her what times would be good for TV watching.
Oh boy.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Oh my!

I have some Dinah Washington songs on my iPod, from a CD I recently got.
To those of you who don't know her, you might recognize her as the singer of "What a Difference a Day Makes."
Well, before she recorde jazz albums, she recorded blues and that is what popped up in the shuffle.
So imagine yourself walking down the street, hearing a bluesy intro with lead guitar riffing over a slow shuffle and then hearing the first line:

I’ve got a dentist who’s over seven feet tall.

"What the ...?" you say to yourself. Who cares and why and hunh? It being that kind of blues, the line comes again.

Yes, I’ve got a dentist who’s over seven feet tall.

"All right. So?" you think.

Long John they call him, and he answers every call.


Well I went to Long John’s office and told him the pain was killing.

All right. Okay.

Yes, I went to Long John’s office and told him the pain was killing.

Get on with it, already.

He told me not to worry, that my cavity just needed filling.

And this is when I cupped my hands over my ears to drown out passing trucks and busses and just stood by the side of a building, grinning. Enjoy the rest.

He said, “When I start drilling, I’ll have to give you Novocain.
Yes, when I start drilling, I’ll have to give you Novocain.
‘cause every woman just can’t stand the pain.”

He took out his trusty drill,
And he told me to open wide.
He said he wouldn’t hurt me,
But he’d feel my (w)hole(,) inside.
Long John, Long John, you’ve got that golden touch.
You thrill me when you drill me, and I need you very much.

When he got through, he said, “Baby, that will cost you ten.”
Yes, when he got through, he said, “That will cost you ten.
Six months from now, come back and see me again.”

Say, you’re supposed to see your dentist
About twice a year, that’s right.
But I think I feel it fobbin’ [throbbing (?)],
Guess I’ll go back there tonight.
Long John, Long John, don’t ever move away.
See, I hope I keep on aching, so I can see you every day.

In case you want to track down the song for yourself, it's called "Long John Blues."


I'm sure everyone's already saying everything that can and needs to be said about the topic, but still.
That Palin woman sure is compelling to look at and listen to, sort of like a fistfight outside a bar, but without the calming effect.*
And I think the Republicans really are trying to push that sexism envelope. She's just a taunt. Why else would she have those bad highlights, as if she had done them herself. Other than reaching out to the suburban (read: Midwestern) contituents, her head is basically saying, "Nyah, nyah, you can't comment on my bad hair or you'll be called sexist."
(On that note: Go on with your balding self, Biden.)

*Seriously, I know that far-fetched comparisons have been drawn between Obama and Hitler because they both attract(ed) large crowds/rallies, but I think that if any of the people in this November showdown have that odd maniac-ready-to-take-over-the-world vibe while still not letting you turn off the TV because, well, there's just something there that doesn't let you look away, it's her.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Do this, please, if you are so inclined

Especially if you are in Europe. I'm talking to you, Flo.
Go to this site and read the instructions.
Basically, you print a picture of Sarah Palin. (Who? you ask, and rightly so. Hopefully, soon, nobody special.) Then you put the printout in front of your face as you take a picture of yourself in front of a famous landmark and post it to the site.
I would like to see more images of the picture in compromising situations, but hey, that's just me and I don't think it'll get posted.
Anyway, have fun with it.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Advanced Guitar Techniques

I have discovered a great way to make sure your fingers dance efficiently up and down the neck of the guitar without any sliding or fudging about after placed in position:
merely slice the cushiony pad of one of them while cutting basil - though other herbs might work as well. (Try it at home and report back to me in the comments section. Experiment with fruit, too.)
Anyway, let me just say that I switched to some "creative" lyrics in "Esse seu Olhar" after switching from one inversion of an EMaj.7 to another.

The Bill

From the NYT:

“This bill has been packaged with a lot of very popular things to give it even more momentum,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, an opponent of the measure that is expected to easily clear the 60-vote threshold in the Senate, providing some momentum for the House vote now set for Friday.

So our Bailout Bill bill might read something like: $695 billion, plus shipping and handling.
But we seem to get a gift with purchase.
Wait a second. Judging by what we're "buying," it's not a "Jenna 2024" T-Shirt and button, but in addition to someone's home-loan, we get a college-loan, too.