Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Holiday Memory; or Why My Gigs are Better Than Your Gigs

I was once performing walk around palm reading at a New Year's Eve party, and a friend was playing steel guitar with his band on the stage (we had both been booked by the same agent). I took a break and was sipping a cold drink near stage listening, when he nodded at me to indicate a young lady on the dance floor. She was quite intoxicated and dancing without inhibition of any sort. Her male partner was spinning her round and round, and she surrendered willingly to the forces of gravity and inertia. The effects were fascinating as her ample attributes were barely--and I mean BARELY contained by a very low-cut denim bustier. The band members were all grinning like Cheshire cats as they enjoyed the floor-show.

At this point her equally-intoxicated partner gave her a vigorous spin, and as she reached the apogee of the orbit, snapped her arm to reel her back in. All of Newton's Laws kicked in and the top three buttons of the bustier gave way, freeing with considerable energy that which had formerly been contained. The spectacle was magnificent. As a man of artistic sensibilities, I applauded God's divine handiwork. My friend's steel guitar, up to this point so melodious and measured, emitted several discordant squawking sounds. The other band members carried on with heroic stoicism, although several jaws seemed to have dropped.

After what seemed like a very long time, the object of every male's attention noticed what had happened, screamed, attempted to draw closed the curtains of discretion, and ran from the dance floor, leaving us all poorer in spirit but richer for the memories.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Tackle Bach

I've made some headway into this magnificent arrangement--by Camille Saint-Saens no less--of J.S. Bach's Sinfonia to Cantata # 23 Wie Danken Der Gott Wie Danken Der. This has always been one of my favorite pieces of music, usually played on the organ, using multiple stops and pedals, and is an amazing piece. I wondered if there was a good (operative word: "good") piano transcription of this and I began my search.

It took a while but I found the Saint-Saens transcriptions, as well as a video of a chap playing the living daylights out of it. I brought it to my teacher, who was quite excited at the prospect. We began to work on fingering. With Bach, fingering is essential.

I've pretty much memorized the first page and have made some headway into the second. It's such a dense work that this is barely a minute into it, but it's a start. I would never have believed I could play such a piece, not to mention even begin to tackle it after less than two years of lessons, but here I am. But on the other hand, a year ago I had only intended to learn the first part of The Entertainer and save the second part--which seemed incomprehensible to me--for my second year. Now I can play the entire doggone thing.

I'm going to New York City next week to attend the Metropolitan Opera for the first time in my life, as well as visit MOMA and the Guggenheim. I'll be so thoroughly steeped in culture I hope it fuels my way through the Sinfonia.

On December 4th I'm slated to play Christofori and the first two sections of The Entertainer at a recital, so I'm curious to see how this goes. I've never played for anyone before.

Friday, November 4, 2011

God No, A Review

Charles Cicardi Scott sent me this book, which is subtitled "Signs You May Already be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales." Charlie told me he found it on the clearance rack at B&N for a buck, so if you want to read it, there you go. One dollar and about three hours of your life you can't get back.

I read it at Starbucks and at the allergist, where I go once a week to get my immunization shots, after which I have to sit for twenty minutes to see if I'm going to die from anaphylaxis. If I die, I want the last thing found clutched in my claws to be a book howling with atheist blasphemy. And this book fills the bill with interest. Penn loves to write about two thing: his genitalia, and how much he hates religion. Each page drips with contempt for piousness and descriptions of his dangling doodle.

I am not a fan of P&T. I don't like anyone who attacks the belief system of others for entertainment or for promoting their own agenda--and despite what P&T have said in interviews, both their show and Bulls*it are both redolent with Libertarianism and Atheism idealism. Both of which, oddly enough, I share, although not to the fanatical point of shoving down anyone's throats--which they seem intent on doing. So as both an atheist and Libertarian you would think I would like them. But I don't. People who rant and preach tend to make me tune out and go to my happy place, where large costumed people sing opera very loudly and 200-piece orchestras drown out conversation for miles around.

But about this book. If you like rants, it's pretty funny in places. He name-drops more than Kreskin (who, in one chapter, he trashes mercilessly and calls a scumbag) and it's obvious he craves attention and if he doesn't get it, he just yells louder and drops his pants--LITERALLY--and like a lot of fat guys (Chris Farley and John Belushi come to mind) he seems to be obsessed with getting naked as often as he can in public. He does this, he says, because he's a freedom-fighter who's making a statement in defense of the Bill of Rights. Groovy, but I'm a Libertarian too, and I have never appeared naked in airports. Perhaps he has blurred the subtle difference between "Libertarian" and "Libertine," which I have also done on occasion; an understandable malapropism.

Penn says there's no such thing as an agnostic. He says this is just an academic weaseling from people who are afraid to commit one way or the other. I find I tend to agree with this. Either you believe there is a Higher Power or you don't. Like being a little bit pregnant, this isn't something on which you can hedge your bets. He says "I don't know" is a perfectly acceptable answer and I also agree with this. So did the early, original skeptics who concluded absolute knowledge of anything was impossible. On subjects like creator God, origin of the universe, the existence of a soul, the Buddha said, "Don't waste your time. Work out your own salvation with diligence." Not that I'm comparing Penn with the Buddha. Penn is an oleaginous slob with the social skills of a twelve year old, and I think this book is at least 60% self-serving flapdoodle; that he paints himself as far deeper and more reasonable than he actually is. Like a carny barker, he's presenting himself as a professor of erudition he doesn't possess. He's hung out with smart people and picked up some of the lingo but when he parrots it, it rings hollow. I keep in mind he's an illusionist, and that he's continually going for shock reaction, and that he hates religion. The chapter where he feeds bacon cheeseburgers to fallen Hasidim Jews and gloats with demonic glee is a good example. He's not content to simply dismiss the idea of God; he wants to take a crap on His head. Nothing seems to please him more than to piss off a pious person through some expression of outrageous blasphemy. This, to me, is childish. It was funny when you did it in high school, but like wearing a Karl Marx T-Shirt, once past the age of twenty-two it's no longer edgy and rebellious, it's just a lame cry for attention.

If you're going to read atheist literature, I guess this is a more entertaining read than Dawkins and if you can get it for a dollar or two why not?