Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays

Each year goes faster than before,
They’re past before you know it,
So now it’s time for me to rhyme
And prove that I’m no poet.

This year began, as winters do,
With cold and lots of snow,
I’ll not complain, but ‘twere snow rain,
We’d had to learn to row.

The holidays last year did bring
A guest to share our rooms,
‘Twas Kaitlyn, Corky’s grand-daughter,
We hope she’ll be back soon.

Then dormant lay us all till May
When action came exploding
With news and schmooze and trips to Stu’s
All fun, with no foreboding.

We started off in Wilmington,
(That’s in North Carolina)
For Kaitlyn’s mother’s birthday fete,
And few trips have been finah.

Then later in that very month
We flew to Colorado,
Niece Aspen graduated there,
Amid much broo-ha-ha-do.

And in between the two I had
A story writ in print,
An honest-to-Faulkner printed book
With my words dropped right in’t.

(In case you all are wondering,
The plot line dealt with crime,
As this note has made very clear,
I’ll ne’er be paid for rhyme.)

In June I went to Chicago
To celebrate with Stu
His birthday, yes, the Big Five-O
With sightseeing and blues.

The summer’s end saw Corky back
In Flint to see old friends
With Suzie Ovick Diebolt Kna-
pinski her time did spend.

With Eric and with Aaron, too
Some hours she did share,
‘Twas fun, but they were too quick passed,
She sees them both so rare.

With fall came yet another feat,
In Rachel’s sophomore term,
Distinguished scholarship award
Her hard work thus affirmed.

As you can see from in your mail,
Beloved Spouse has been
Creating individual cards,
This poem to put within.

Unique they are, yours and the rest,
None has a perfect twin,
Hand-made and summoned with much thought
The craft she placed herein.

For all these things—and many more—
Our anniversary
Was special, even one day late,
Because we’ve learned to see

How everything must fit its place,
All undue stress be barred,
With friends and family like you,
That’s really not too hard.

We all hope you’ve enjoyed yourselves
As much as we’ve this year,
Now Rachel, Corky, and your scribe
Extend our annual cheer.

To each and every one of you
To find some small delight
For every time you rise from bed
May all your days be bright.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Airing of Grievances

It's December 23, and Festivus is upon us again! Stop admiring your pole (hmm, that didn't come out right), digest the Feast, and build up a good head of resentment for the Feats of Strength. That's right, it's time for the Airing of Grievances.

My grievance list:

Politicians who allow others to do the heavy lifting, negotiate against themselves to accommodate the other side, then claim a momentous accomplishment. You know who you are, Fredo.

Not using the serial comma.

Selfishness without consideration of its consequences to others.

Allowing the top marginal rate to return to pre-2000 levels would not be income redistribution any more than what happened to the tax code from 1980 - 2000 was.

And, so what if it is. All taxes are income redistribution at some level, because some activities that pertain to the common good cannot, by their nature, be self-supporting.

The Designated Hitter.

The 24-hour news cycle, which has made the word "verification" as obsolete as latin.

The sun should be up before I am. Every day.

People who are belligerent about putting the "Christ" back into the pagan solstice festival they usurped back in the Middle Ages.

Glenn Beck.

Keith Olbermann.

Athletes and coaches who can't craft an intelligible English sentence who act like what they do is too complex to explain to an intelligent layman.

Using race as a way to keep the lower classes too busy distrusting each other to pay attention to the people who really are screwing them.

Ah, hell. Politicians in general.

Those of any political description who refuse to look more than one step down the road from any decision, thus allowing the entire nation to be governed by the law of Unintentional Consequences.

The Washington DC area's reaction to snow and cold weather.

Chainsaw Dan Snyder.

Now that you're convinced I'm an embittered, cynical, old bastard (note proper use of serial comma), stay tuned for tomorrow's post. You're not wrong about the Embittered, cynical, old bastard part, but we have our moments, too.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

It's Not the Destination, It's the Ride

I work at home most of the time now, thanks to a new assignment. It's a mixed blessing. The commute is great, and frees up over two hours a day for my personal life. The lack of other people around can make it hard to feel connected to the job, and it's easy to forget how long you've been staring at the screen before a headache and the knots in your shoulders remind you. Those little interruptions that can be so frustrating at work serve an under-appreciated purpose.

Among the better benefits of working at home is the ability to listen to whatever music I want. As a reformed musician, I have a large and varied collection of CDs and LPs, divided about evenly between classical and jazz, with some R&B and country thrown in. I don't have as much time as I used to for listening to the classical CDs. They tend to distract me when writing--when I need to apply my right brain elsewhere--but can be helpful in passing the time when working. I decided last week to re-acquaint myself with my classical collection by listening to two or three CDs a day, skipping through the racks so I wouldn't OD on some of my more popular composers.

Beethoven's Fifth Symphony hit early on. My Music Literature teacher in college told us Beethoven 5 was often considered to be the most perfect piece of music ever written. The Ninth might be greater, but any change made to the Fifth diminished it.

I was lucky enough to get to perform Beethoven 5 twice during my musical days. It might seem corny to a non-musician, but it truly is an elevating experience, the kind of thing I experienced occasionally when playing in orchestras, and nowhere else. I found myself remembering what that was like while I listened the other day, waiting for what came next, hearing inner parts most listeners experience only as part of the texture but are clear as a bell to someone who has sat close to the instrument playing it. It was the most serene work day I have ever spent.

I spent almost twenty years--college, the Army, graduate school, and free-lance--trying to make a living as a musician. I'm not sorry for a second of it. Even if I set aside all the things I learned about life and myself, the people I met, became (and remain) friends with, the places I've gone, and experiences I've enjoyed that would never have been possible but for my musical life, it would have been worth it for that feeling.

Beethoven has been dead almost 200 years, but his music lives, and is important in people's lives. This is made possible by living musicians who have spent uncountable hours in poorly ventilated practice rooms perfecting their craft as much as their talents will allow, for the privilege of bringing such music into the present day. Most do it for little or no money, not even the hope of it. The reward of the performance is enough.

I was fortunate to enjoy such privileges for much of my adult life, and I do consider it a privilege to have been allowed to do so. I counsel young musicians against trying to make a living at it, as it can be hell on personal relationships and so few can ever make a decent living at it. Only those who reject my advice have a chance. Anyone who accepts it would have come up short sooner or later; they didn't want it badly enough.

As for me, I came up short later, rather than sooner. So it goes. I ended up in a far different place than where I set out for. Every second of that early musical detour was worth it, if only for the feeling I got when I listen to Beethoven 5 on my computer's speakers, knowing that twice in my life, for about 25 minutes each, others were able to hear it live, without any electronic intervention, in part through my participation. That's quite a legacy to be a part of.

Friday, December 03, 2010

A Brief History Lesson

European history is a drag, right? All those small countries and shifting borders and allegiances and unpronounceable names. Impossible to keep anything straight. Fear not. The Home Office, in its never-ending quest to make this a better world for me to live in, can now show you how World War I was exactly like a bar fight, courtesy of The Economist and The Sole Heir.