Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Even More Wit and Wisdom from Wesley Clark

And now, it's time for more quotable quotes from everyone's favorite Generalissimo!

A man who's so lovable you can't stand him: How do you think I could have succeeded in the military if everybody didn't like me? It's impossible. Do you realize I was the first person promoted to full colonel in my entire year group of 2,000 officers? I was the only one selected. Do you realize that? ... Do you realize I was the only one of my West Point class picked to command a brigade when I was picked? ... I was the first person picked for brigadier general. You have to balance this out .... A lot of people love me.

A man who knows when not to follow orders (even when they come from the President): The worst thing you want in the military is a guy who follows the gang, 'Hey, I'll just go along to get along.' I was never that kind of a leader.

A man with plans for health care: I have a plan. I'm not sure the president has any plan at all.

A man who can hold any position he damn well pleases: You don't want to have positions that are so hard and fast that you can't pick and up and grow in the process of running.

A man who believes what he says, and maybe what he doesn't say, too: I always knew I had something to say. It was time. If you really believed in the things you said, you had to move forward.

A tolerant man: I’m a fair person. I don’t care if a person is a Russian, a Chinese, a French or even a Republican.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Well, here's another thing we're all going to hell for ...

The Russian Orthodox Church in the Urals has just declared jaywalking a sin. According to the Telegraph, one Father Germogen informed his parishioners that when you cross against the light, "you are violating the law of God!"

For those of you who suspect a less-than-spiritual motive behind all this, Germogen later told a reporter, "I cannot but be angry when people just throw themselves under my car." You know, I'll bet they're not too thrilled about it either.

Brain Burnout (with a short review of the Avenue Q cast album)

All those essays I wrote last week on same-sex marriage left me with a mild case of burnout. Since the Virginia Film Festival is starting on Thursday, and will keep me going at full throttle all weekend, I'm resting for a few days.

In the meantime, I just bought the Avenue Q cast album. From what I can tell, the show is a spoof of Sesame Street, complete with furry puppet pals and a multiethnic cast. But the self-consciously "outrageous" book is strictly for grownups: References abound to unsavory topics like drunken hookups, political correctness, and Internet porn. To its credit, Avenue Q tries to transcend this puerile concept with gooey heaps of sentiment, as well as several sharp-tongued songs soon to arrive at your local cabaret.

If you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like -- and I just happen to like it a lot. The chirpy "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" is the funniest number here, even though South Park has covered the same musical and thematic territory for years. Go figure.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Program Notes

When I attend a concert or listen to CDs, I sometimes take written notes. Usually nothing comes of them. But while cleaning house the other day, I found several old programs and a stray notepad with some interesting marginalia. I couldn't keep them, and I couldn't just throw them away, so I figured I might as well type a few up and post them here. Enjoy!

Beethoven: String Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 74 (a.k.a. "Harp Quartet"). Grand symphonic gestures and eccentric innovations (esp. pizzicato in first movement, hence "Harp" nickname). First three movements full of high emotion. But finale refuses to provide catharsis, opting instead for perfunctory theme and variations. Stirring, beautiful, but lacks climax.

Erno von Dohnanyi: Sextet for Clarinet, Horn, Piano and String Trio, Op. 37. Dohnanyi often seen as a stylistic reactionary, but tonal instability and cavalier thematic development mark him as distinctly 20th-century. Final movement alternates between chugging Latin-American rhythms and a quasi-Viennese waltz, concluding with musical joke worthy of Haydn. Seldom recorded, but a surefire crowd-pleaser. Beauty, brains, personality: What's not to love? Naxos CD only adequate (alas).

Darius Milhaud, "Scaramouche" (for two pianos). Milhaud is like cole slaw: Cool, crisp and tangy if good; bland, soggy and lukewarm if not. In some ways, "Scaramouche" is the perfect Milhaud composition -- sun-dappled, percussive, vibrant, only nine minutes long. Budget EMI Classics recording (in Milhaud compilation) dates from pre-digital 1970s, otherwise top-notch.

Antonin Dvorak, Piano Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 87. Sort "East-meets-West," as Dvorak's Czech nationalism meets traditional Viennese style. Dvorak always delightful if played well, I think.

Clara Schumann, Three Romances for Violin and Piano. Modest, unassuming salon pieces with solid sense of melody. Put together, pieces run a little over ten minutes. But if talking about women composers, give me Amy Beach any day.

Walter Piston, Three New England Sketches. Rare (for Piston) programmatic suite is breezy and fairly short. Piston sometimes compared to Brahms, but P. usually more audience-friendly. 3 NE Sketches about as far from German Romanticism as can get and still have Western music. Crashing waves in first movement ("Seaside") are thrilling -- more sudden and violent than Debussy's rolling breakers [in La Mer]. Excellent Naxos "American Classics" recording features the world-class Seattle Symphony led by Gerard Schwarz -- WOW.

Morton Gould, Stephen Foster Gallery. Yippee! Tribute to America's most popular composer doesn't know if it wants to be cubism or folk art, so veers wildly from one to other. Too many singers avoid controversy by sticking to Foster's sentimental parlor music -- blecch -- so it's good to see Gould give his lusty minstrel songs their due. Naxos recording couldn't sound better, "American Classics" an amazing series.

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