If You Want Peace,

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provide free fabric softener.

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Snow Day

Well, March has entered like a lion.  Just as I was breathing a prayer of thanks for a mild February, this hits.  (I see a triple anagram:  this shit hits.  As an elderly relative used to say, “shit, shit, and triple shit!”)

We’re under a deep layer of fluffy snow.  The trees are again gorgeous in white.  A fire is going in the kitchen, and the cats are basking in the tropical warmth that they love so much.

School is canceled, but I’m hard at work finishing the Guild exams.  A few things have not turned out as I had hoped, so I am fixing (or doing) them now to put in the mail, probably tomorrow.  It’s nice to have a break in the commuting routine.

The quiet is pervasive and most welcome.  If I pause in my typing, or when the record ends and the turntable stops, I hear nothing but the quiet of the woods.  Wonderful.  I think snow is a good acoustic barrier!

Popping my second can of…Polar™ cranberry-lime seltzer.  (What did you think I would be drinking before noon?)  The can features a big white polar bear…appropriate for today.

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Sugar Loaf

There’s a beautiful little artists’ community here in upstate New York called Sugar Loaf. For over fifty years, artisans and artists have colonized this tiny speck of a hamlet under Sugar Loaf Mountain in Orange County.

Two of my favorite stores are the Candle Shop and Rosner Soaps.  The Candle Shop has been in business since the 1960s and makes absolutely beautiful candles.  It’s like my old gold standard, Wonder Wicks in Madison, Conn., but is more “authentic,” if you take my meaning.

The delightful proprietor makes a few things very well:  small tapers in single colors, large tapers in single colors or ombrée (shaded), and scented pillars.  The prices are great:  as of this writing, $4 for small tapers, $5 for large (single-color or ombrée), $10 for scented pillars.

There is only one scent, the Sugar Loaf scent.  It is warm, embracing, somewhat floral, somewhat perfumey, delicious and inviting.  Once smelled, it puts “bayberry candles” from the local drugstore in permanent disrepute.  This is the real thing.  There is no choice of scents, but the scent offered is perfect.

As for Rosner Soaps, there is a far wider selection for shape, scent, and materials.  My personal favorite is the small clear glycerine soap in “Lemon Eucalyptus” flavor.  This scents half the house when used in the shower.  There are many other delicious combinations, in many sizes, some set inside a loofah and some cut from a large block.  There are clever bath accessories too.  I love the place.

Right now, I have a light-green scented pillar burning; it’s haunting the living room! Lemon-eucalyptus soap awaits my shower. There is a short taper, in ivory, in the brass chamber stick I bought at Wonder Wicks in 1973 or 4.   (I remember paying two dollars.)

Meanwhile, my wonderful older organ student has my gift of yellow ombrée candles on her dinner table; her husband bought yellow roses to go with them.  They are delighted with these candles; they account them a treasure.

It’s nice to mix and blend the “harplike morning-glory strings” of one’s life (as Frost said) into a continuous thread.  I loved Madison, but I also love Sugar Loaf, and I feel a river running through them both.

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The Hoosier Hate Hoaxer

This only recently came to my attention.  In 2018, a member of my former department in Bloomington, Indiana pled guilty to faking a hate crime. His offense occurred a week after the presidential election of 2016.

A dyed-in-the-wool conservative will diagnose TDS, “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” I diagnose (if I may) something more deeply wrong.  The president is not the real issue.

To see the offender’s former undergraduate self online, one would think he was flying high and full of self-confidence.  Slender, reasonably handsome, bespectacled, articulate, he has a gorgeous video on YouTube showing off his Missa Brevis, a choral work he composed as a result of a grant.  (The school sent him to–get ready–New York City to hear a concert performance of the Missa Solemnis.  Which is, of course, not a missa brevis.  Personally, I’d rather cuddle up with Palestrina in the comfort of my living room, but what do I know.)

I suppose it might have been prejudice by then, but I smelled Excellent Adventure.  That’s my term (borrowed from the movie) for someone who thinks he is, in Fétis’ memorable phrase, a “superior being” who can “move with the times and hold his own.”*

Alas, such a person is seldom collegial, seldom chatty (except about himself), seldom an open book.  A mask is always being worn; something is always being marketed, crafted, sold, branded.  There’s always a mirror within reach.

Egotism.

I have seen many an Excellent Adventure burn itself out like a distant supernova.

This one certainly burned out with a bang.

George was the organist of a small Episcopal church in Bean Blossom, Indiana.

I love that name.  Driving home from my church in Indianapolis, I would pass the sign for Bean Blossom Creek.  It’s a poetic name in distinct Hoosier style, and I am pleased to have been a Hoosier for a short time.

Bean Blossom itself is a hamlet, and I am sure the church had nothing like the expansive program we had at Fairview Presbyterian in the Butler-Tarkington, Meridian-Kessler area, led for decades by John Schmid himself.  Still, a gig’s a gig, and I’m sure Bean Blossom is a sweet little place.

The election was November 8.  The outcome plumped for by the media didn’t happen, and people across the country lost their minds.  To me, the dynamic was that of a bitter family divorce, a topic on which I am sadly well informed.  In simple terms, nothing Dad does can ever, ever be anything but awwwful.  Not “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” but divorce.

George, who like so many organists is an out gay man, was one of those who flipped out over the election of Donald Trump.  He won’t admit this, but he wanted his mommy.

So on Sunday morning, November 13, George supposedly arrives at his little Bean Blossom episco-parlour to find it vandalized with graffiti, including “Heil Trump” and a swastika, not to mention a Fred-Phelps-inspired word for gay persons.  The clergy were all but thrilled–real proof, proof positive, of conservative hatred for Episcopalianism.

Then the police got George’s cell phone records and found that he had been there the night before.

He was eventually arrested for faking the hate crime and confessed.  He was sentenced early in 2018 to 180 days in jail (two served and the rest suspended) plus substantial community service.

What shocked me was the mugshot.  Gone was the handsome-ish, slender young man who spoke with animation.  In his place was a bloated, unkempt, unattractive person with dead eyes.  A New Yorker’s false image of a Hoosier.

He looked incredibly sad, sad to a degree that a mere criminal arrest cannot justify.

He said he did it to “start a movement.”  (And stop a career?)  He used the words “sad” and “regret” to express his feelings, but nobody has quoted him saying “I’m sorry” or “I apologize.”  Right there I understand half of his apparent depression.  It must be tough to be so superior, all the time, that apologizing is unthinkable.

The damage the Georges in our midst have done is profound and pervasive.  Even when debunked, a fake hate crime lingers in the popular mind as “evidence”:  as if somehow, deep down, the faker is telling the truth.  But he’s not.

————
*François-Joseph Fétis, “On the Future of Music,” Revue Musicale, Oct. 2 1830, anthologized in Harry Haskell, The Attentive Listener (Princeton:  Princeton U. Press, 1996), 94.  (The original uses plural forms.)
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Spectacular Stars

The stars were incredible–the clearest I’ve seen since getting a telescope.  Orion’s bow, Eridanus, Lepus, the Hyades, all in incredible detail and depth with countless stars seldom seen.

Then the clouds rolled in.

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Another Amazon Ripoff

I needed that fluid that goes with the brush that cleans a vinyl LP.  No need to mention the product; it’s well known.  My last bottle lasted for almost four years, but finally ran dry as things do.

I went to Mr. Bezos’ Amazon boutique and the cheapest price I could find, for a little more than one ounce of the liquid, was over twenty dollars.  US dollars.

A quick online search led me to an audiophile shop where the same product sold for four dollars, plus a buck and a half shipping, and no non-consensual psychological research thrown in for free.

So I bought two bottles.  At my rate of consumption, that should last till 2027.  By then, President Bezos and Vice-President Zuckerberg will be in full swing, giving speeches about “privilege.”  I can hardly wait.

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Fear Mongrels

The disgraceful Jussie Smollett–he of the faked racial attack in Chicago–went on TV to weep and wail about “only wanting (sniffle, dab) justice in America.” He referred to the current president and all his supporters as “fear mongrels.”

Does he have any idea of the verbal doors he has opened–and of the deep ignorance he has revealed?

Memo to America’s favorite young hate-hoaxer:  please stop trying to help.

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Medio Porteño

Yo fui concebido en Buenos Aires, alrededor del 26 de febrero en el año 1960, con la Cruz del Sur brillando en los cielos y, más cerca en la Plaza San Martín, las jacarandas en flor. Aunque nací en Nueva York, y aunque mis padres eran norteamericanos, me considero “medio porteño.”

Mi concepción tuvo lugar en el Edificio Kavanagh, Florida 1065, en el Retiro. Departamento 7C. Mi madre conocía a Corina Kavanagh, y el departamento era uno de dos que pertenicían a ella. (Cómo las dos se conocían, no sé.)  Estoy seguro que aquella noche fue una de gran amor…puedo sentirla todavía en los huesos.

Esto bastará para hoy.

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Turkey Dinner!

Big holiday turkeys are on sale!  Twenty-five pounds for about $12.00.  The big beast came home Saturday, has defrosted and in the oven now.

Sometimes the turkey marks the holidays, and sometimes it’s just good economic sense.

It’s easy to cook a turkey.  Don’t be scared by its size.

Take the paper out of the cavity–it contains the giblets, which you may cook with or toss–put bird in a foil-lined pan, sprinkle it liberally with seasonings of your choice, and cover with foil.

Heat oven to 375 Fahrenheit, then put turkey in.  Depending on the size, it should stay in for three to five hours, or even more.  For the last hour, take off the foil and let the skin get crispy.  For 25 lbs, at least 5 hrs. 30 min, I think.

I seasoned the skin with pepper, Sazón Completa, paprika, sage, rosemary, and cinnamon!  The neck was still stuck in the body cavity…no matter…I was in no mood to coax it out with hot water. I set the timer for three hours, after which I’ll remove the neck.  Another hour or so under wraps, and then an hour exposed.  It should come out well.

Normally, I throw a lemon or apple or both, or other goodies, into the cavity.  Today, I felt it just wasn’t worth the extra trouble.  Let the neck stay there…doesn’t make a huge difference.

I found some cranberry sauce in the cupboard and will come up with other dishes…there’s a cauliflower in the fridge, not to mention salad makings…there’s butternut squash too.

After the leftovers are done, I’ll make soup–probably turkey dumpling soup.  Love those dumplings.  I don’t know where they were all my life.

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Baby Boom Humbug

I just read a bracingly honest article about “generational identity.” It’s titled “Your Generational Identity Is a Lie.”

Disclaimer:  I don’t know, or care, if that newspaper is certifiably “right wing” or “left wing.” I find the article to be helpful.  Period, end of disclaimer.  To read, you first have to pull your head out of your rear end.  As Francis Bacon put it, “Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.”

So.

The article acknowledges only the famous, and easily discerned, demographic hump from 1946 to 1964, the so-called “Baby Boom.” These were the post-war years, when GIs got married, had kids, and bought starter houses in the former potato fields of Levittown, Long Island.  The other generations have shape-shifted for years, obviously attempts by know-it-alls to keep the Boom thing going by naming subsequent generations. So we had Generation Y, which is now called The Millennials.  We had 20-somethings and 20-nothings, and 30-somethings, and so on.

The problem is that the so-called subsequent “generations” (who are not far enough apart to be actual generations) are defined by cheap criteria like popular music and TV shows.  (Not to mention the political ideology that gave us the chimerical “generation gap.”)

The Baby Boom demographic hump is unmistakable.  Less unmistakable are the alleged characteristics of that generation.  Many people in that “generation” don’t feel like it.  I am one of them.  I was born without a 5 in my birth year; that was represented to me as an uncrossable abyss throughout my childhood and adolescence.  Kids one year ahead of me had a sense of entitlement I still can’t quite articulate.  I, meanwhile, had “missed out.”

Missed out?  Perhaps on The Lone Ranger on the Philco cathedral radio which adorned my bedroom till the late 60s.  (Or on the large floor-model Philco with short wave which occupied the corner of the living room–we put the Nativity set on top of it.)  Instead, I got the Hanna-Barbera cartoons, and a few odd precursors like Diver Dan and Sandy Becker.

But no, I don’t feel I “missed out” or am to be forever juvenile.  Don’t tell that, though, to someone born in the 1950s.  To such a person, in some deep and unacknowledged sense, the American door swung shut on January 1, 1960.

Once, for a while, there was even an interstitial generation, for those born from 1960 to 1964.  A thin demographic wedge, as a Chicago cartoonist (whom I cannot remember, mea culpa) once called us–proposing the generational identity The Wedgies.  Anyway, that one fell by the wayside as the Truth got updated again.

My parents, products of Victorian parents and the Depression, teenagers during the War, were married early in 1960, as it happens, just after the door “shut forever.”

Yet I always looked to my parents, and of course to their parents, for cultural guidance.  What was I supposed to do, listen to the Beatles?  They of “Ob-La-Di”?  That must be a joke.

The definitional hubris of modernity.  The burden of being your own God, and of writing your own Book of Psalms.

*

A prune-faced old Presbyterian woman from Pennsylvania, who once was nationally celebrated for being hired as, and I quote, “associate for leadership in educational nurture and teaching in the Curriculum Publishing Program Area of the Congregational Ministries
Division in Louisville,” did a ‘generational workshop’ at a dying church I once thought I might help revive.

So angry, so prune-faced, that she scowled in return to my cheerful “good morning,” she proceeded with the deft certitude of a cult leader to indoctrinate us about all the “generations” in America, and how one isn’t like another, and what they can’t say to each other, and what language doesn’t work, and how dangerous and fraught it all is, and how the “God-talk” is incompatible…

and–get ready!–how “children have computers in their pockets.”  “Hmm?  Hmm?  Whatcha think about that?!”  A tortured rictus of mockery, which she would have probably called a “smile,” momentarily overspread her glum countenance.

And they call organists insane.

I took out my Android phone and quietly began to play Plants Versus Zombies.  I’m sure that this Genius of the Generations had never heard of the funnest game of all time.  Then again, fun is probably evil.

The problem is due to a combination of Marxism, which seeks to divide people; and the me-too-ism which is so much part of our human nature.  Add to that the chronic arrogance of the “50s Generation,” forever seeking its next spinoff, and here we are.

People are people.  To a future generation, my students and I will be reckoned siblings.

How much identity does a person need?

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