Two musical worlds (2013)

If you were to ask me what kind of music I like, I would say “yes”.

I was brought up on rock ‘n’ roll, but gradually I added classical to the mix. I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but my exposure to classical music began with Stanley Kubrick and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Say what you will about ELP, but I built a pretty nice collection based on the music they ripped off.

These days when I am in a rock mood I go back to 80s bands: Talking Heads, U2, Simple Minds, Let’s Active, the dB’s. U2 is the only band I have continuously followed.

Who do I like in the classics? Bach, Vivaldi, Schubert, Stravinsky. (I was recently lucky enough to see the North Carolina Symphony perform The Rite of Spring. It was shattering and wonderful.) I like Beethoven once in a while–he’s a little bombastic for my taste.

I have a large niche for modern composers such as Reich, Glass, Adams, and Part. Minimalism excites me; those years of listening to repetitive pop music primed me for it.

It’s nice having two musical worlds to explore. I recommend it to anyone.

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Motivation, moi? (2013)

I smile when I think of myself as a motivated person. Images come to mind of excited, dynamic speakers who have a carefully calibrated message.

I’d rather keep it simple and personal: if I want something, I have to do something to get it. This often involves praying for it first. (I believe in a giving God, but I still have to do the footwork.)

If I want the rewards of having a job, I have to work to specification. If I want the rewards of having a cat, I have to feed and clean up after her. I have to keep my motivational thinking at a simple level, because I can complicate the hell out of anything. This generally involves the negative what-if game: what if I fail miserably, endure public embarrassment, and have my human being license revoked?

As you can see, my negativity has a good imagination. Maybe I should develop as active an imagination for my positivity.

What a concept!

I promise (2013)

This is the first–and last–time you will see the word “iconic” in this space.

Nor shall I use “fail” as a noun. However, I reserve the right to use “reveal” as a noun.

I am glad I got that off my chest. Thank you for your support.

What I am grateful for (2013)

To lift my mood I make gratitude lists, like so:

1.  I am alive and mostly sane.

2. I am clean.

3. My cat did her tail-flips again.

4. I went outside this morning and it was actually chilly.

5. The shadows are growing longer. Elongated shadows make you look slim.

6. I feel a little freer than I did earlier in the week.

7. I had a little Dr. Pepper left over from yesterday. Dr. Pepper is my liquid vice.

8. My computer still works. (It is getting sluggish, though.)

9. I have money in the bank and food in the larder.

Airwaves (2013)

When I was a kid radio thrilled me. The idea that invisible electromagnetic waves would bring people and music to a little box amazed me. It still does–I am easily impressed.

Radio formed my taste in music. I remember vividly the pop music from 1964 and 1965–the Beatles, the Stones, the Supremes, and many more, tumbling out of the static on WKIX 850. That was when AM was still king, despite all the static. (Whenever a thunderstorm passed overhead, the lightning strokes blasted the airwaves. It was cool!)

I loved to listen at night as I drifted off to sleep. I could pull in distant stations like WCAU in Philadelphia with Sol Weinstein, WOWO in Ohio, and many others. Sometimes I could hear the Mexican stations. Their sounds all jumbled in the air. Digital tuning had yet to arrive, so I had to change stations very carefully above 1200 kHz.

I was an early news junkie. The other major station in town, WPTF 680, was even then a news and talk operation. On weekends they broadcast NBC’s Monitor program, which many consider the precursor to NPR. In between songs they ran the news and feature reports. Their signature was the Monitor Beacon, hard to describe but hard to forget. It was electronic music before Keith Emerson.

As I grew older, I turned from top 40 to progressive rock. The music was fine, but it wasn’t the same. I grew up on the 3-minute tune, and playing entire album sides usually left a lot of filler–I’m looking at you, Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.

I shifted to records–no commercials and complete freedom of choice. I could calibrate my (drug-induced) moods by flipping one of those wonderful black disks.

Today, radio is again pre-eminent in my listening, thanks to NPR. Programs such as This American Life conjure up images like my young days in the dark. Scott Simon warms my ears, as does Laksmi Singh.

Sometimes in the storm season the National Weather Service radiates its warning tones. The synthesized voice lurches word to word of oncoming danger… and once again, radio becomes a mystery to a little bookish kid. A soothing counterpoint to childish woes and arguing parents. All brought to me free of charge in a little plastic box.

Little facts of no consequence (2013)

1. Some truck drivers miss the little signs that tell you how much clearance you have (or don’t) under a bridge. There’s a YouTube video that I guiltily find funny.

2. My cat likes to jump to and run on the counter when I am unloading her food into the bowl. She doesn’t try to eat on the counter but drops to the floor, where I have placed her bowl. This is her way of having fun.

3. I know where Syria is on the map and I can spell it, too.

4. That same cat is sleeping in my nearly-empty laundry basket. Too cute!

5. I was in fourth grade when our gym teacher lined us up at the foul line and told us to make a free throw. Not being athletic, I figured I would fail at this as I did at other games. Instead, on my first try, the ball went perfectly into the hoop. The other boys, who teased me regularly, were dumbfounded. As was I. Sadly, it was the only shot I made all day. I guess you could call this peaking too early.

6. My first kiss lasted 45 minutes.

7. I don’t care how many people like them, I can’t stand mushrooms. Or oysters. Squid is borderline tolerable.

“Simple pleasures are the best”

Watching my cat chase her tail, in the standing position and the rolling position.

Looking out my big, bright windows into my tree-lined courtyard.

Writing what I want to.

Being in a classroom discussion led by a really good teacher.

Watching old sci-fi movies and making fun of them.

Seeing the flag wave.

Tuning in rocket launches on YouTube.

Reading a funny comment on Facebook.

Taking a photograph.

Retelling a funny family story.

Writing this.

My other blog

My other blog is called Shutterchance. It’s based in the UK, and I have been a member about six years. Here’s the URL: http://larryb.shutterchance.com/blog.php

As the name suggests, we are devoted photographers. We are British, Dutch, Canadian, South African, French, and American. Most of us have sophisticated digital SLRs, but we let in cheap souls like me who use point-and-shoot cameras. Anyway, in photography the most important instrument is the discerning eye, without which even a Hasselblad produces junk.

We’re a congenial bunch; we even have a married couple who met in our galleries. We appreciate good photography and each other.

In this sharply critical world, there’s a lot to be said for appreciation. Drop on by and enjoy the pics. Click on the word “random” on our pages and you can start meeting us.

The inevitable post… (2013)

I am contractually obligated to write about my cat. It’s not in the WordPress terms and conditions, but since I am a cat person par excellence, I have no choice.

I have had four cats in succession for thirty-odd years: Pandora, Elmer, Callum, and now Kai. If you like any of their names, I can take no credit. Other people have named all my cats.

I kept trying out names for Pandora, and failing, until a friend looked at her litter box and said, “There’s Pandora’s box, and that must be Pandora”. So she was christened. She didn’t seem to mind her name’s origin.

Elmer was so named because he had black and white spots like a cow’s. Borden dairy products had a female cow named Elsie on their packages, and Elsie had a “husband” named Elmer.

Callum was named by a foster parent at the shelter where he found me. He reminded the woman of a character in a novel. (Which novel she didn’t recall.) He had a very sweet temperament.

I don’t know how my current cat Kai got her name. Maybe she was named after Kai Ryssdal, the Marketplace host. She is a sprightly cat, ever finding new ways to get revved up about something. Like all cats, food revs her up the most. She is not too old to chase her tail.

And you: please regale me with cat tales! (Pun not intended, but accepted.)