Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Blurred Lines My Fine A**

Reason Why I no Longer want to Live in This World Number 11,316: Entertainment has become awful. The lowest common denominator seems to be the target audience of every aspect of pop culture. When I go to a movie, people in the audience are cell-phoning and talking to the big people on the screen. Pop music is either an auto-tuned diva or an electronic backbeat accompanied by grunts and profanity. Now some song called "Blurred Lines," has been top of the charts all summer. Curious about the popularity, I made an investigation.

I had never heard of this song before, and I couldn't understand a syllable of the lyrics, so I looked them up on this newfangled Interweb. The lyrics, if you can call them such, express a fundamental disrespect for women in general, romanticize adultery in particular, and the underlying theme is that just because you want to sleep with someone, by golly, you should be able to no matter their relationship status. And the way to get a good girl is to talk to her like you're both in junior high school. Respect? Rapport? Geddouddahere. Call her a b***h and brag about your sexual prowess. That'll win her over every time.

The creaky geezers on the Today Show have been flogging this 'earworm' to death, because, you know, Matt Laurer and Al Roker are hip and with it. I imagine them shaking their calcified hips to the admittedly-catchy retro rhythm just before bedtime and right after their bowl of Fiber One, and Matt singing to his lady to back that fine a** up to him. In my mind's-eye madness, I further see Matt's lady packing her bag to go stay with Oprah for a few days. And wow--even as I write this, Robin Thicke is on the Today show. The geriatric Bad Girls of television, Hoda and Kathy Lee, are hanging on the edge of the stage. Blurred Lines, indeed. These two have blurred the line between decency and common sense.

When asked about the controversy, Thicke replied he just wanted to make a funny song to get people on the dance floor. He says the song respects women because the line "That man ain't your maker" is a feminist line. No it isn't--it's a come-on line. Even back in the winsome 80's horny guys were saying "That man ain't your husband, girl. He don't own you." And many women, especially those in relationships that were going through a rough patch, fell for it.

I have never been a chap who hung out in clubs or bars (even though I've performed in more than I can count) and never even considered a relationship with someone you would meet in a club or bar.  I am, I've realized in my own middle-age--a prude. I've never had any interest in sex as recreation or just-for-fun.  The most intimate physical interaction possible between man and woman should be an affirmation of love. Anything less seems to me too much trouble, not to mention a depressing waste of time and energy. However, another reason I've always felt I was born in the wrong place and time is that at fifty-something, I have encountered very few people who share this attitude. Most guys I know would have sex with a hole in the wall if they thought nobody was looking.

People go to bars and clubs to drink and get laid, so probably Robin Thicke is preaching to an already-converted choir. Perhaps no more than a funny dance song, harmless, except all my life I've heard people derive their life's philosophy from pop songs. In fact, as a person who makes his precarious living in show business, my personal favorite is "If you ever get annoyed, look at me I'm self-employed. I love to work at nothing all day." So will 'good girls' invite aggressive sexual overtures, and will testosterone-fueled men approach attached women with promises of mind-blowing sex with their titanic tool? Judging from the popularity of this song--Yes. This song has tapped into the zeitgeist.

When famous people advocate a thing, it makes it okay for us to do it too. The rise of Buddhism in this country owes in large part the high-profile Hollywood Buddhists, and fashion styles are quite often spearheaded by celebrities. But aggressive sexual advances toward another guy's woman isn't a passing spiritual trend. It's an affront to decency. Some lines aren't meant to be blurred, like the line between organ meats and ice cream. You're either committed to someone or you're not, and if you're not, it's time to get out of the relationship. A lesson I learned in my youth is that actions have consequences. Accountability is important and we have to accept the consequences of our actions. If some jerk were to speak to my beautiful woman like the guy in Blurred Lines, I would rip his trachea out.

Then make him sit through Madama Butterfly a few times.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Life, Love, the Piano, and Various Obscure Mythological References

Even though I'm currently without a teacher (my last one moved to Seattle) I've been practicing as much as possible, shoehorning keyboard mangling in the aftermath of a recent 350-mile transmigration from Indiana and subsequent lifestyle adjustments. Add to this meeting the person with whom I want to spend the rest of forever, and scrabbling to re-establish my business, and convincing my paranoid feline this is NOT the place where they kill cats. Sneaking in practice has been a formidable exercise. Not quite as laborious as Hercules swabbing out the dung-encrusted Aegean Stables, or Sisyphus shoving his rock up Mount Hades, but somewhat trickier than matching your socks in the dark or alphabetizing your Victorian erotic flower collection.

One thing I've learned about Indiana, especially Bloomington (code-named "Mordor" by my friends and family) is that people don't move to Indiana, they move away from it. I've joined the rank of escapees and returned to my hometown Knoxville Tennessee. It is a great enablement that my sweet lady seems to like my piano. Support, validation and approval within a relationship is such a new and awe-inspiring sensation that I haven't quite worked out an appropriate response. "Thank you," seems inadequate, and even "I love you," only expresses a tiny drop of the gratitude and wonder. I don't think most women realize how much her man desires her approval. This is why knights of old went off on heroic quests: to earn the admiration of their ladies.

 I think many people expend a considerable amount of time and energy, like Pygmalion with his Galatea, trying to remould their partner into the perfect mate. I've always felt a woman should love the man she has, not a fantasy-construction embodying the best qualities of Ryan Gosling, Gandhi, and Steve Tyler. And the same applies to guys, of course. Stop fantasizing about whoever is on the cover of MAXIM this month and love your own lady. So what happens when you meet the perfect partner, already crafted through the machinations of genetics, experience and karma, and you wouldn't change a thing about this enchanting creation? I can't speak for anyone else, but I call it home.

But enough rhapsodizing about matters of the heart; let's look at the piano. The piano survived the seven-hour drive from Bloomington to Knoxville, and I will tell you I didn't feel settled until I moved my piano and my cat. Currently I'm working on Music of the Night and David Lanz's arrangement of Whiter Shade of Pale. The latter piece, originally released by Procol Harum, has a lovely melodic line based on J.S. Bach's Air on the G String from the Orchestral Suite Number Three. It also incorporates the most difficult left-hand chords I've ever attempted. Most of them are tenths, and playing a tenth is the outer extreme of my hand span. I have to play these chords on the very edge of the keys so I don't slur the chords through the addition of unwanted notes. It's much fun to practice techniques that stretch you--in this case, literally--and witness incremental improvement day by day. The Andrew Lloyd Weber arrangement of Music of the Night is relatively easy and I have about 2/3rds of it licked.

I'm also playing with some blues material my friend Charles Scott sent me.  My goal this year is to find a new teacher and learn blues and jazz.

Vacation starts tomorrow, and the lady and I are traveling to various lovely locations. I also am very close, the month of May to be exact, to my third year as a pianist.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Divorced Again? Naturally.

Hot on the heels of my recent third divorce, I get asked this a lot: "Why do you keep getting married?"  My response is that just because you don't get something right the first time, it doesn't mean you should give up. It's like if you buy a dog, and the dog eventually dies, you think, "Well, I'll never buy another dog. They die." Not that spouses are like dogs. Unless, of course, they are, but that's the topic of next week's Dr Phil: "Is your man a dog?"

Some of my hipper Buddhist friends say in response to my admittedly disastrous romantic past, "Everything's impermanent," meaning, I assume, that these marriages were bound to end someday. Impermanence is often interpreted to mean that things end. I've had a lot of experience with things apparently ending, and I think that this is not true. Marriages may end, but the relationship doesn't. It changes. Sometimes even within a relationship, the changes can be radical. Sometimes these changes are survivable; sometimes not.

I've never been one to give up, on anything. Failure isn't an option. At age fifty I went back to college to finish a degree I left hanging thirty years ago, and begun seriously studying piano, the first music lessons of my life. I finished that degree, so now I have three college degrees, none of which are currently marketable but my head is full of all kinds of arcane knowledge.

Last semester my Italian teacher asked me if I was ever going to marry again. I answered, "Amo le donne," ('I love women,") and she laughed. "You will, then." And I might. I'm neither bitter nor disappointed. Furthermore, I'm in love. Like I said, amo le donne, I so amo le donne very much, one in particular who.has been like the light coming on in a dark room for me. Or a lovely piece of music you suddenly hear from out of nowhere.

Speaking of music (and aren't we?) The first piece of "classical" (actually Baroque) piece of music I fell in love with was J.S. Bach's Third Brandenburg Concerto, and I fell head-over-heels with it. It was played from a scratchy LP by my seventh grade music teacher. I related this on my blog Fifty Year Old Pianist and how something inside me awakened forever. I asked all kinds of questions about this piece, who wrote it, was there more. My music teacher was impressed, although all my friends thought I was insane.

The joy and passion of this piece still awakens my heart. It just soars from variation to variation. I like to think Bach was in love when he composed this, as it is the music I hear in my heart when I'm with the one I love.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday, October 7, 2012

School, Piano, etc.

I don't have my usual "oomph" this semester. Kinda dragging through, doing the required work and my mid-term reviews were all 'As' except, of course, Italian, and after performing the calculations required to convert the strange point system they've substituted into the one the rest of the world uses, it looks like I'm running my usual shaky 'B' in there. But the stress of managing classes where most of the work is essentially unchallenging busy-work and balancing my work, along with personal issues, is taking its toll, I think.

By unchallenging, let me give an example. I have a core requirement called "Depth of Inquiry," which is a choice of classes designed to hone and refine the analytical skills of freshmen. I took "Eyes and Vision," which is a fairly interesting class involving the history of vision research, involving the investigations of ancient Greeks, the Renaissance masters, Isaac Newton,  Descartes, etc. Fine so far, except the class scrapes the very thinnest epidermal layer of these mighty intellects. Okay, I understand it's a survey class. But now get this: we get a weekly study guide with the answers to the tests. Basically it's a list of questions with asterisks next to the questions that are going to be on the test. So we look up the answers, fill them in, and remember them for the quizzes and tests.

I've also discovered all the art classes--and I've taken three so far--all teach the same things. They have a party-line and you can pretty much learn everything they have to teach in about three weeks.  My senior-level Drawing Class (Drawing IV) has non-majors in it. To my surprise. And these people, not to hold it against them, can draw about as well as my four-year-old-niece.  As I said, I don't hold it against them, as they're neither artists nor art majors, but they're in the same class as I, who am both.

My ennui seems to be shared by my fellow students. Last spring semester had an air of electric desperation about it, as we all struggled to keep up with the assignments and to outdo ourselves. This fall, everyone has a "whatever" cloud of indifference hovering over them.

Of course, my particular dissatisfaction stems from m growing realization that IU, and possibly all universities, is operating a scam on the level of a time-share operation. I transferred to IU with 120 credits. You need 121 to graduate. But the credits from my former colleges weren't up to the exalted standards of IU, because they prefer transfer students have at least 20 hours on campus. Very well. That's a couple of semesters.

THREE semesters later, they're still adding classes to my requirements. I applied to the Individualized Major Program because apparently in order to get a BFA, I would have to begin all over as a freshman. Never mind my 120 credits--it's a long story. But the IMP program would allow me to use them. I would be out in two more easy semesters. Or so it would seem.

I put together a proposal that meets (actually exceeds) the requirements for graduation for IU, my proposed major: Literary Illustration. Translation: Writing and illustrating my own books. I submitted a draft and it was "suggested" that I and my adviser consider expanding my proposal to include three or more classes outside my major to add diversity. Understand two points: (1) there are already core requirements for diversity which I have already met (2) three or more classes adds at least one more semester. Remember that Time-share scam? I have no doubt in my mind that even if I do this, I'll apply for graduation to be told I need to take one more semester of something or other, and it will be some easy, totally BS class like Kenyan Folk Dance, because due to a new university policy one or more of my transferred classes are no longer an acceptable replacement for cultural diversity. No doubt. In my mind.

Bottom line is this. I don't need this degree, it's unfinished business from my past which would give me personal satisfaction to close. If my proposal is refused or addenda are suggested, I'll thank them for their time and this will be my last semester at IU. After all, it's not like there's a job waiting for me at the end of this. I'm a guy ten years away from retirement, and a degree in Literary Illustration ain't going to make me a hot ticket. I'll mourn over not finishing my business, but I'm not going to be scammed just to get a piece of paper.

But I may be tilting at windmills. It may all work out and my next big life achievement will be the world's only person holding a degree in Literary Illustration. We'll see.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Cristofori's Dream

I  finally got this sounding fairly good. It's a little clunky in spots but overall. not too shabby. video

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Another Semester Smoked

Summer Semester I took two classes, one four-week intensive (Ethnomusicology) and one eight-week intensive (The Craft of Fiction). I learned,in the former, about all sorts of ethnic music in America. In the second class, I wrote all kinds of essays about various works of fiction. I got an A+ in the first class and an A in the second.

Fall Semester has started and I have three classes: Drawing Four, Italian II, and The History of Eye, Vision and Brain Theory.  Off to a good start.

In piano news, plugging away, working of theory, dexterity and various pieces including a jazz version of Over the Rainbow, a piece of music I seem to be obsessed with.

Ciao!