Monday, July 31, 2006

Training Day

Today, in lieu of Real Work, I got to attend the university's mandatory staff orientation, along with about 25 other new hires. Rather surprisingly, this involved being driven around New Haven by Denzel Washington, who had us all smoke marijuana laced with PCP and visit the twisted underworld of cops who make all their own rules. Fun fact: the Latin motto "Lux et Veritas" translates to "King Kong Ain't Got Shit on Me!"

Ha ha, no. . . . That's a woefully inaccurate description. Mostly the day involved eating little danishes while listening to details about the university's 403(b) enrollment. Though there was a bus tour involved too.

I opened a new, local checking account this afternoon, which means that I'm fairly well caught up in the Functioning Citizen department, having already forwarded my mail and registered to vote.

Speaking of the vote, I finally stopped thinking too hard and decided to throw my political influence behind Ned Lamont. Basically I realized that I wouldn't even consider voting for Lieberman if he was a Republican, and therefore don't want to vote for him as a Democrat. I don't hate him the way other lefties around here do, but I never really liked him.

Lamont has very limited political experience, but he appears to be competent enough and I think that's about all you can hope to gather about a guy. I always liked Bloomberg in NYC and for that reason the business-to-politics transition doesn't strike me as a negative.

It's not about Lieberman being a "hawk"; if he was using his hawkish street cred to make the right criticisms about the conduct of this war (even while maintaining his stance on its justification), things would be different. But why carry water for the administration here?

Obviously, whichever way it breaks, this election won't really help anything in Iraq. But, you know, it's good to have something to think about.

Other things that may have subtly helped me make up my mind include Stephen Colbert, the New York Times' endorsement, and a pickup truck driving around New Haven this weekend with a paper-maché sculpture in the back portraying George W. Bush kissing Lieberman. In fairness, it should be said that the actual kiss wasn't on the lips, and I think their mouths were closed.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


I'm also happy to see that the BSO is putting on Ralph Vaughan Williams's Sixth Symphony this January, with Sir Colin Davis. I pulled a CD of this out of the NY Performing Arts library at some point last year (having listened to it once before a few years back) from which point forward it's been safely ensconced in my own personal "This Should Be Performed More Often" list.

He composed it in 1948, and it's still informed strongly by a wartime atmosphere. Most of the first movement is written in long, winding phrases lashed to a snare-drum-driven 6/8 forward momentum, if you can imagine a kind of abstracted military-music vibe but with the triumphalism replaced with subtle desperation. The two middle movements (slow, fast) are bitter and bleak; the final movement is eerily quiet and inscrutably creepy to the extent that basically everyone (with the notable exception of Ralph Vaughan Williams) decided from the start that it was written about Hiroshima. So for an apparently traditional four-movement symphony, the RVW Sixth is fairly far out there.

But the crown jewel of the piece is near the end of the first movement, when the tersely dramatic opening theme blossoms without warning into a lushly sad lullaby of a song, like something Rachmaninoff would have written. It breaks your heart for a minute and a half, and then goes away, and nothing in the rest of this desolate piece sounds remotely like it. But it centers the piece emotionally and sentimentally, and ups the stakes for the half-hour of bleakness that follows it.

This is also a great reminder of how sentimentality is a real, legitimate emotion (and one really well served by orchestra music too!) that can really make sparks fly in a work of art when combined with your sterner, more serious emotions. I think a lot of contemporary classical composers miss the boat by avoiding anything whatsoever that could be construed as sentimental.

It's Spanish for "The Niño"

While checking the Tanglewood schedule to see if there's anything worth going out of the way for later this summer (answer, for me at least, not really) I was reminded to check the BSO's fall-winter calendar.

Put it on your calendar: John Adams's "El Niño," Saturday, December 9. David Robertson conducts; Dawn Upshaw leads the cast of singers. Come on, Nate, winter road trip to Boston, you know you want to.

Adams's website, by the way, has a snazzy new design. It says there that there's a new book out about him, or rather a newly compiled anthology of essays by various music writers.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Don't Do What Donny Don't Does

Best question on the university's mandatory online Fire Extinguisher Training quiz:

7. When using a fire extinguisher to extinguish a fire you _______.
  • Always have your back to your exit
  • Pull the pin and throw the extinguisher in the fire
Someone should manufacture that kind of fire extinguisher.

Is it humid like crazy in your neck of the East Coast? My shirt's been sticking to my back by the time I get to work, and that's at 8:30 in the morning. By the afternoon, being outside feels like walking across the bottom of a swimming pool.

I tried a new beer this week I wouldn't really recommend, River Horse Brewery's slow fermented lager. It's fairly watery and has a kind of rusty aftertaste.

On the other hand, I found a really great peanut butter: Arrowhead Mills' Organic Crunchy Valencia, which is so tasty I wonder if they're surreptitiously sweetening it. Especially good is the top third of the jar if you're too lazy to stir all the oil into it thoroughly.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Mark your calendars: the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden in Astoria, Queens (neighborhood motto: Now With Electricity!) has its annual Wine Festival on Saturday, September 16, and its Octoberfest celebration on Saturday, September 30.

The Wine Festival, Nate, is the one you were in town for last year, when they had the folk dancers and the brass band from the Czech Republic, and where Nick was there too & got interviewed by that hot Czech TV reporter. And Dad was in town, too. That was a good weekend.

Probably a good time to get into the city again.

The Magical Synesthetic Lunchtime Experience, with Meat Loaf

As I was eating part of my turkey-meatloaf sandwich at my desk a few moments ago its taste suddenly became oddly familiar, in a hard to place way... After a couple seconds I realized it tasted exactly the way department stores smell. (Something about the relative quantities of mustard and sage in that exact region of the sandwich, I think, as well as the meatloaf being excessively dry.) This is a disturbing realization to have about one's food.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Kickin' It Old School

You gotta admit, however kickass our man-made Global Warming is becoming, it's still nothing compared to the massive Global Warming at the beginning of the Eocene period, 55 million years ago. For reasons apparently not yet understood, trillions of tons of carbon were dumped into the atmosphere over several thousand years, causing tens of thousands of years of atmospheric changes, oceanic upheaval, extinctions, and flora & fauna turnover.

I didn't know about any of this before reading about it just now. It's like the musical scene, man: everyone can sing the contemporary climate-change tunes that got popular, but no one knows about the hard-core early roots when "Global Warming" still meant something dangerous and new. Like changing all the oceanic circulation patterns, and putting jungles in northern Canada, and so forth.

Anyway: Here's what taught me about this, a very cool and vivid account from science writer Carl Zimmer, focused on the Eocene spread of early primates. This is also a neat portrayal of different scientific disciplines coming together to bear on a common point of study. (I recommend Zimmer's blog, which is mostly about evolution; I came across it recently and it's consistently fascinating.) Wikipedia is also informative.

It's worth mentioning that the scope of carbon release & concentration was vastly greater in the early Eocene than today — up to 2–3,000 ppm of CO2 in the air, compared to our current 380 ppm. So, even with our own troubling warming-feedback issues (let's pull something off the internet: here), we're obviously not doing the same thing yet. (This, in turn, is not to say that our own smaller-scale Global Warming problem won't cause us unpredictable and potentially huge problems, especially given population pressure.)

I think it's pretty awe-inspiring to think about these kinds of natural upheavals. The idea of tropical trees spreading up through North America over 10,000 years is pretty wild.

Also, when you're talking about timeframes beyond the reasonable expected lifetime of human civilization as we know it, you're more apt to get a "Life Goes On" vibe from the thought of the same thing happening again, even if we do manage to touch off something of this eventual scale and duration.

Workday Nine

With vacation over, work continues apace. The last two days haven't been overly hectic, but I'm still learning all the processes and organizational systems, and I will be for a while. This produces a strong "My brain is full" effect starting at about 3 PM.

The library room in which I work is a real thing of beauty: wood paneling, bookshelves lining all the nooks which house the editors' desks, a balcony level that fully rings the space while overlooking a large boardroom-type table. I'm up on the balcony, and I have a window right there too. I need to get some plants.

The department is extremely accurate and organized, to an extent that much of what I have to learn involves what schedule spreadsheets to update and when, and which transmittal forms to fill out in triplicate while sending revised proofs to the design department, etc. Everyone is extremely friendly, and well in the quirky-intellectual territory that is my own element. They all know exactly where to put their commas too, needless to say.

After my brain got full today I spent the last half hour catching up on filing while trying to think of better names for various office supplies.

That's, starting at top left, "blandbuffer," "grindum," "slizzer," "magnit," "penciltorium," "staple toothy," and "extra lubs." It's "extra lubs" because there are like eight more of these than I need on my bookshelf.

Proofreading tasks occupy less of my time by volume than the administrative tasks, but somewhat more time by weight, if that makes sense. I'm told I have a very good eye for this, which is good, because I find proofreading surprisingly satisfying.

I will be copy editing small sections of books here and there, basically whatever prefaces or other new material is added to reprinted books. It's good to have this on my desk too, since it's likely to be relatively interesting. (Copy editing can involve reworking the text for phrasing, clarity, or even larger scale structure, whereas proofreading involves essentially catching typos and grammatical errors in a previously edited text.)

So, I enter the double-digits of my working days optimistically.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Box-Score-Free for Four Weeks and Running

Do you miss paying attention to the Pirates, but don't want to read anything about how they're playing? Then you'll find this article in The Onion extremely gratifying, as well as spot-on hilarious.

Further Pirates-related humor from this point forward is probably unnecessary.

Speaking of baseball writing, I can wholeheartedly recommend Buzz Bissinger's Three Nights in August, a slick and nuanced account of Tony La Russa and his 2003 Cardinals, taking as its focal point one late-season three-game series against the Cubs. The details about ballplayer personalities & similar intangibles are especially interesting.

It's also great to read about a classic National League Central rivalry that intensifies as the season stretches towards its climax: I've heard that those can be exciting. Well, for the Pittsburgh connection, Bissenger manages to note in passing the Randall Simon sausage-whacking incident that also happened that summer. So there was that.

Okay, okay, I mean it. Further Pirates-related humor, etc., no more, starting . . . now.

Update: Additional worthwhile baseball reading can be had at Slate, which posted an entertaining and resonant article today about the decline of childhood baseball card collections.

Slate no longer runs the "Uni Watch" columns it used to, but they're on now. A guy named Paul Lukas writes them; they're all about sports uniforms. Especially for sports writing, it's nicely quirky & entertaining. I guess it's not really sports writing.

Friday, July 14, 2006

X is the New Y

Post-Friday, pre-vacation blogging.

More on the invention of fake words. Here's a highly word-geeky but professionally done example: snowclone, meaning a cliché template that can be fitted with words as needed, such as:

"If Eskimos have N words for snow, X surely have Y words for Z."

I find this a very pleasing fake word for three reasons:
  1. It's a clever play on words, referring to the Eskimo/snow example above.
  2. It's a subtle metaphor, evoking a flavorless medium being lazily filled with syrup to create something cheap and nutritionally empty.
  3. It creates a concept, albeit a small one, where none existed before.
I think this is the standard to which all fake words should aspire: unique and referential on different levels.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Astoria Onscreen

The New York Times has an article today about an independent movie about Astoria, or rather about a guy's 1980s young adulthood in Astoria. The article interview takes place on 24th Avenue, part of it in the Bohemian Hall beer garden, a few streets away from where I lived for the last four years, until three months ago.

The movie itself appears to bear little relation to the Astoria of my life, where "the rugged draw of the place" had to do with the pleasant neighborhood environment, good souvlaki, and the aesthetic pleasure of a very attractive train bridge, as opposed to getting mixed up with mafia elements.

But who knows, maybe if I'd had this guy's rougher upbringing, I'd have turned out to be a Santa Monica-dwelling former underwear model too. The world's a funny place.

Here's that train bridge, in a picture I took this spring. More on the 90-year-old Hell Gate Bridge can be read here. (I did not know until now that the "Hell" in "Hell Gate" is from the Dutch for "beautiful." Hell Gate is the part of the East River the bridge crosses.) For my money, this is the most handsome bridge in New York City.


Seeing the Al Gore movie, as I mentioned at the time, made me curious about the actual prospect of curbing global warming, given the persistence of CO2 in the atmosphere. A couple of evenings ago I looked up that three-part New Yorker series from last summer at the campus library, made copies, and read them in the music library while listening to late Mozart piano concertos on CD. Somehow I've never really gotten around to listening to Mozart's piano concertos.

Actually, I only read two of the articles. Part II ran in an issue the library hadn't properly catalogued, so I've got I and III. They were written by Elizabeth Kolbert (probably not pronounced to rhyme with "Colbert Report," unfortunately) and are portentiously titled "The Climate of Man." Part III is about future prospects. Therefrom, a basic outline:
  • The current CO2 level in the atmosphere is about 380 ppm. This has increased from 360 ppm in the last ten years, and is trending towards 500 ppm by the 2050s. The pre-industrial revolution CO2 level was about 280 ppm.

  • CO2 persists for about a century in the atmosphere.

  • Under "business as usual," emissions are predicted to double in the next 50 years (from 7 billion metric tons of carbon per year to 14 billion). According to Kolbert's two main scientist sources (see below), an urgent social & governmental effort to curb emissions could stabilize emissions at today's level — 7 billion metric tons per year — by the mid-2050s.

  • In terms of atmospheric CO2 concentration, the emissions-stabilizing goal more or less corresponds to keeping CO2 under 500 ppm. Atmospheric CO2 was last at 500 ppm around 50 million years ago.

So, if the question is whether we can reverse the warming effects we're observing today under 380 ppm of CO2, the answer would seem to be "no." It appears that the question is more about how drastic the changes turn out to be.

Also, the kind of urgent social & governmental effort they're talking about would have to be drastic, immediate, and legitimately difficult. Junking the Green Car may have been a constructive first step to stabilizing emissions trends, but it is not nearly enough.

I haven't read the following links yet, but here's more on Kolbert's two main sources: Princeton engineering prof Robert Socolow (see here, and for a PDF article about his "stabilization wedge" concept, here) and NYU physicist Marty Hoffert (long essay, again PDF, here).

I'll bring copies of the Kolbert articles to Rhode Island next week; they're worth reading, and written very well.

In terms of some more upbeat observations, the late Mozart piano concertos are extraordinarily lovely: graceful as Mozart always is and often almost as poignant as his Clarinet Concerto. (But not as poignant. That's an impossibly poignant piece of music right there.) Listen especially to the last movement of the Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K491.

Oh man, what a fabulous sound from 1786.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ranking the Numbers One Through Fifteen

A couple weeks ago, inspired by Jack's description of a "Death and his String Band" performance and Alex Ross' passing-along of some mostly apt one-line descriptions of Shostakovich's quartets, I followed through on some reductive Shostakovich-based thought I vaguely formulated a while ago. I jotted this stuff down on a sticky note and then misplaced it on my nightstand for a while, but I type it up now: It's a little rainy-day (or, alternatively, slowy-office) game I call "Ranking the Numbers One Through Fifteen".

Shostakovich composed fifteen symphonies and fifteen string quartets, so the idea is simply:
  • Rank each of his symphonies from your favorite to least favorite, one to fifteen.
  • Rank each of his string quartets from your favorite to least favorite, one to fifteen.
  • For each number one to fifteen, assign a pair consisting of the rank of that number symphony and the rank of that number string quartet.
  • Rank the numbers one to fifteen based on the sums of the pairs, with lower sums ranked higher. Break ties when possible by giving the higher rank to the number whose pair contains the lowest number. (Intrinsic qualities of the numbers one to fifteen not related to works by Shostakovich, including their actual numeric values, are ignored for the purposes of this exercise.)
  • Congratulations! You now have a fairly abstract measure of how good the numbers one to fifteen are in comparison to each other.
That sounds more confusing than it's worth, and I can't argue against that, but it's at least easier to do than to describe. Since the two bodies of Shostakovich's work don't line up with each other stylistically or chronologically the resulting list most likely won't map onto your rankings of either his symphonies or quartets and can cast a different light on both (i.e. "Why is fifteen lower than I thought it would be?", "Why are four and five in that order?"). Mostly I just like it as an easy framework for thinking about all those pieces and their relative merits, which ones are relatively underrated, etc.

Anyway, here are my results. Also, for no reason other than that it's possible, I'll display the ranks as hexadecimal digits, 1 to F.

1. 14
2. 13
3. 10
4. 8
5. 15
6. 4
7. 5
8. 11
9. 1
A. 3
B. 9
C. 6
D. 7
E. 12
F. 2

Feel free to play at home, compare, contrast, question my usage of free time. This game does kind of presuppose that you have an opinion off the top of your head about each of the thirty works in question.

Maybe someday I'll write up full rationales for my relatively firm mental Power Rankings (to lift a term from of Shostakovich works, though it'd be longer and not much more useful than the above.

R.I.P. The Green Car

As Dad pointed out in an email earlier today, the green car departed us last weekend in sudden and somewhat dramatic fashion at a Citgo station, or rather on the residential property adjacent to it. At least, as Dad aptly put it, "the mechanic wasn't run over, and the house didn't explode".

Anyway, in honor of the dear departed '95 Sable, I offer the following brief reminiscence about each of our special relationships with the vehicle:

Multiple, baffling, ultimately terminal problems when starting the car

Late-night starter engine failures, summer 2000 and winter 2003

Fell asleep on afternoon commute while listening to modernist horn music on the CD player, crashed into another vehicle

Mostly just filled the car up with garbage every time he used it

...Where there are endings, there are beginnings, however: Last weekend I also received the title to my own car in the mail, having paid off my auto loan in full. So do any of you know a guy around here with a piss yellow deuce coupe, supposed to be hot stuff? I'm totally going to race him for pink slips.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Corrections

One part of my new job is to maintain the correction documents that are kept on file between printings of books. This duty is just as clerical as it sounds, but at least it gives you a sense that you're aiding, in your own small way, the advancement of factual truth and intellectual clarity:
I was writing to inform you that in ———'s new text, [fashion-related title] she misidentifies Connie Girl as RuPaul in a photo on page 121 and in the bottom paragraph on page 120.

I feel that Connie Girl's lack of popstar power when compared to RuPaul makes the significance of this mistake important to Ms. ———'s thesis.

That was sent in by a random guy in Brooklyn.

An unrelated but equally pointless anecdote:

Tonight I ate dinner at a bookstore/cafe right off campus, which makes a very tasty barbecue pork wrap, which I've ordered several times before. This pork wrap comes with, as its only side, a little pile of shredded carrots and purple cabbage. And each time I order one of these sandwiches, I feel a little more ridiculous eating this little pile of carrot and cabbage. It's too much food to throw away, but it clearly doesn't add up to an actual menu item. I mean, what are you supposed to do, bring your own mayonnaise and make it into coleslaw? Also it's very hard to eat this with a fork.

Yeah. Okay, so, ever since one of Pete's posts a while back I've been trying to think of a good word for an anecdote that starts out with some degree of, as they say, mild interest but then turns out to be completely pointless. I'm leaning towards the word "anec." What do you think?

Do you wish you were still a kid?

Maybe you guys already know about this--maybe not.

I saw an interesting preview for a movie coming out next summer before seeing Pirates of the Caribbean last night.

I hope this one won't make you cry.

Oh yeah, and google the word 'failure'; it's sort of funny.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Myrmecological Edutainment

I've always thought that ants were fascinating, and (at least at a younger age) that messing around with ants was equally fascinating. For example, around age 12, spraying the hose on high pressure into a large backyard anthill at close range, to observe how the ants go about freaking out.

Anyway, I'm sure these legitimate grown-up scientists are enjoying both the ants-fascination and messing-with-ants-fascination aspects of their work. What a very odd but ingenious way to test their hypothesis.

Closer to home, my new apartment does not appear to have Tiny Ants in it like the last one, which is good. On the other hand, I don't have any food here yet, so there wouldn't be much reason for them to come out anyway.

Friday, July 07, 2006

By the way...

How was Pittsburgh?

You guys should have totally clued me in to the fact that you were going home for the fourth... an email at the last second (what, like 5 days in advance?) doesn't cut it for a member of the working poor like myself... I almost certainly would have made an attempt to go home as well.

Odds N. Ends

Happy weekend! I'm going to a party later tonight, so it's totally not lame to be doing a blog post even if it's Friday . . . The Green Car managed to stay functional long enough for me to move last Saturday and then to drive it back to Pittsburgh, but it then promptly refused to start the next day. Dad gave a good shot at repairing it, replacing a couple of likely-failed parts, but still no go. More news will eventually follow . . . Last Friday I rode my bike from East Haven to the state park where the company picnic was being held, about 18 miles away. This was good exercise, even if upon my arrival I consumed two beers, a hot dog, a slice of pizza, and two jelly-filled donuts within about twenty-five minutes. I was hungry! There's some nutritional value in that food, right?
. . . Meanwhile, after biking home I felt like I'd been thrown out the back of a moving vehicle. Stamina: gradually increasing . . . In memory of the beautifully voiced mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, you could listen to her smoldering "Memorial de Tlatelolco" movement of John Adams's El Niño. I heard her in a performance of this a couple of years ago. By all accounts all of her performances were this illuminatory, but I missed much of this, unfortunately, by not really being an opera fan . . . If you were to take a supply of hardcover books, remove the insides, and re-equip them with paperback covers, would you call the process "Strip and Bind"? This sounds rather off-color to me.

New Streets on the Block

Like the East Haven house, my new apartment has a porch, this one on the third story. This is the view from it.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Arresting Developments

Last night as I took a drizzly little stroll around the grounds of my apartment complex (enough to get some fresh air, which was in fact almost unbearably muggy, but close enough to my front door to sprint there if the rain started in earnest again) I saw what looked like a taxi cab right ahead of me with a spotlight beaming through the windshield onto a first-floor apartment in one of the buildings. "Huh," I thought. "A taxi with a spotlight. Peculiar." As I started to cross the parking lot to the opposite sidewalk (SOP for dealing with peculiarities on the grounds of the apartment complex) a megaphoned voice from the taxi announced, presumably to the target of the spotlight, "You're under arrest! Where's your green card?"

This afternoon when I pulled into the lot in front of my building there were two police cruisers parked there, with a man about my age (apparently a resident or guest of one of the apartments in the building immediately next to mine) getting cuffed in a fairly relaxed way by a female officer.

I figure it's probabalistically reasonable that the number of arrests I've witnessed within 100 yards of my home in the past 24 hours equals the number of such arrests I've witnessed since moving in. Still, there's a sort of childishly paranoid part of my brain that wonders whether tomorrow night they'll come for me.

Back to Work

So today was the first day of work, and it zipped by, which is a good sign. I'm still pretty tired, a situation which is advanced a bit by the fact that I'm not unpacked from my move yet.

Forthwith, some things I wrote last week and never put up on the blog.

Mike, you should post some of your Australia pictures.

Words on Music

[Thursday night 6/29.—ed.]

Recently read: a book called "The American Symphony Orchestra," by a fellow named John H. Mueller. [Since discovered: he was a sociology professor at the U of Indiana; died 1965.] I had found this in the Yale library system a couple of months ago, tried to check it out, learned that I could not do so under temporary employee status, and managed to find a used copy at The Strand bookstore in New York a little while later.

Mueller wrote this in 1951. In it he covers the history of the symphony orchestra as an institution in the USA, reviews the repertoire they performed, and attempts to describe how cultural tastes in orchestra music are shaped.

It’s an interesting read if you’re an orchestra geek. I was interested in finding a perspective on what the founding impetus was for orchestras, and what sort of society-wide support they were given early on. You get some of that, though the book is very observational, as opposed to analytical, so Mueller doesn’t discuss a lot in terms of social motivation. And he doesn’t dig into why philanthropists believed that their home cities — Chicago, St. Louis, San Francisco — "should" have had symphonies as part of their civic development. (There might not be much of a question there; maybe it just goes without saying that there was a classical cultural priority at the time.)

You might instinctively think the 50s would be a signature time for American orchestras, but actually they came more into their own in the 60s: big grants, primarily from the Ford Foundation, funded more orchestras to employ their musicians year-round, as opposed to seasonally; and you had Leonard Bernstein on TV spreading the word popularly. So reading a book from the early 50s is even more out-of-date than it first appears.

(Joseph Horowitz’s recent book Classical Music in America gets into the nitty-gritty of orchestra-music consumption habits throughout the century a bit more, and I’m thinking I should re-read that now. Pete, I think I lent this to you sometime last year. Do you still have it?)

Repertoire-wise, not a lot seems to have really changed since the 50s, or for that matter for most of the time Mueller surveyed. Early orchestras were very Beethoven-centric, also concentrating a lot of energy, in some cases, on Brahms (as Beethoven’s cerebral successor) and Wagner (though obviously he was more of an opera guy). When you get down to it, a huge part of the original artistic impetus for founding these orchestras was getting people to hear, for the first time, the same standard repertoire we have today. The fact that we’ve had two full generations of people used to hearing music recorded and not live, with 500 recordings of every piece of standard rep on the shelf, must account for a huge chunk of today’s orchestral existential crisis.

Mueller’s writing style is fun, since it’s extremely readable but cast from a noticeably antiquated, erudite-by-intention kind of linguistic metal. For example, a description of an early Russian conductor of the New York Philharmonic:

The daringly garish interpretation of his fellow-Russian composers by this musical Tartar turned out to be an impossible mannerism, aberrant and irresponsible, when applied to the general repertoire. Eschewing the baton, he employed a fistic style of direction, vehement and theatrical, which called for rude contrasts and extravagant rhythms and tempi.

In closing, I’ll just say that whoever originally owned this book put a sticker on the inside cover, featuring his name typed below a printed picture of an angry-looking imp, wearing a peaked cap, sitting legs folded on a stool while poring over an oversized book. Highly creepy.

And Now a Word from Our Sponsor

[Thursday night 6/29.—ed.]

This weekend’s packing and moving process is brought to you by the Cooperstown Brewing Company’s "Benchwarmer Porter." Benchwarmer Porter: taking the sting out of having to pack and move since 2006!

Tasty too. Dusky, almost chocolatey low register & a nice substantial texture.

The best part about drinking beer while you’re packing up is that you realize, Hey, This is totally something I can do like tomorrow or early Saturday. And so shall it be.

Speaking of actual benchwarmers, my week-long streak of ignoring the Pirates ended today at the gym, where the TVs set to ESPN were showing highlights of their day game against the White Sox. Freddy Sanchez won the game with a walk-off homer, after the Bucs blew a late lead. Apparently this was the end of a 13-game losing streak. I knew that no longer paying attention to the Pirates was a good thing – and I really mean that, it’s been a noticeable weight off my shoulders – but I had no idea it was this much better than the alternative.

Strange behavior from the Green Car tonight: the battery appeared to die when I tried to start it this evening, but while I was sitting in the car weighing my options (see below), the interior lights came back on. So I tried to start it again, and again it failed; but the third time I waited for about 10 minutes after the lights reappeared, and it started just fine. Is this battery behavior? I would have thought the battery would just die once & be done with it.

I spent the 10-minute wait replying to a text message from a friend. This is the first text message I’ve ever tried to write on my cell phone, and it went something like this:

[One sentence conveying substance of text message.] Please disregard following mistyped characters I dont know how to delete. 7Jgh

I know how to insert the right characters but not how to get rid of the wrong ones. Also, since I don’t have text messaging on my plan, text messages cost me something like 10 cents each. Due to the vagaries of mental accounting, this is disproportionately annoying.

I might also add that tapping out the phrase "Please disregard following mistyped characters I dont know how to delete" takes about 3 minutes. Text messaging blows.

Anyway, the salient Green Car options are: (1) Call cab for ride home, remove license plates, and disavow knowledge of Green Car; (2) Call tow truck; (3) Ignore situation until it improves. As usual, I started with option (3), and this time it actually paid off.

The real options I’m trying to figure out are (1) Leave Green Car at home in Pittsburgh this weekend; (2) Keep Green Car, as Dad has generously offered. Since the Green Car has been misbehaving more and more frequently of late, I’m worried that option (2) will just lead to a Money Pit situation; and I don’t have the financial will or wherewithal to deal with even a small Money Pit situation. And unlike fictionalized Money Pit situations, I wouldn’t be able to just watch this once on Comedy Central sometime during the mid-’90s and then forget about it.