About that “Big Box”

OK, I admit I’m behind the curve. I’m usually behind the curve.

There is a huge selection of Big Box collections on Amazon. Most priced at 99 cents.

There is a critique of the Bach cantatas box pointing out that these are repackaged LPs from the “olden days.” Yes, that’s true. The performances are not the latest and freshest. I disagree with the reviewer’s comment that the box is “almost worth 99 cents.” It is certainly worth that, and much more. Still, these are older performances.

For example, the Magnificat in D is now often performed as the Magnificat in E-flat, reflecting the issue of baroque Chorton. I don’t mind the half step, but I do mind the relentless speed and choppiness I’ve heard in my samplings. The Vienna State Opera recording on the Big Box is the first one I heard, many years ago, and I still appreciate it.

Speed is not everything and pitch is a moving target. I appreciate the investigative spirit and the quest to penetrate the heart of Bach. Still, I don’t think we’ve missed him altogether up to now.

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There’s an article on the Verge website about a former Facebook executive who expresses deep remorse over what he has helped create. (No word if he’s donating all of his ill-gotten money, or starting a foundation to fix the damage.)

Chamath Palihapitiya is honest, I think, when he says that social media’s problems aren’t limited to alleged “Russian collusion.” He points to the psychological damage that the social-media lifestyle can cause as well as to the quick dissemination of false or misleading information.

There’s also an incredible quote by Sean Parker about how Facebook “exploit(s) a vulnerability in human psychology.” What a way to put it!

I got my first computer just over twenty years ago. I’d worked with them from time to time over the twenty years previous, but hadn’t owned one, and had never been on the World Wide Web before. It was fascinating and fun at first. There were signs of change, though, with the Blue Ribbon Campaign against net censorship, and the first creeping signs of surveillance.

In recent years, the total dissolution of personal privacy has become too high a price.

I had been inching towards the “always on, often recharging” pattern for some time. I had stopped disconnecting the modem at night. That’s all changing now. I still have a website and blog, and I still use email and such online tools as I am required to; but otherwise, my personal Computer Age has come to an end.

Mr. Palihapitiya is right. “Shitty, useless, idiotic companies” led by “luck [rather than] skill.” Certainly, what little I know of the industry’s leaders leaves me ice cold.

Way back in 1995, I looked at both Yahoo! and Google. I got a prickle of distaste when I first saw the latter. It seemed a tad smug–an odd attitude considering it had meant to call itself “Googol” but misspelled the word for 10 to the 100th power.

They were thinking of Barney Google (and Snuffy Smith, and don’t forget ol’ Spark Plug).

Good grief.

Yes, I know. I’m online right now. That’s about to change. I’m going to post this and then shut off this computer and go practice.

Thank God I can remember what it’s like not to be online!

Posted in Americana, Inner Scientist, Literature and Philosophy, The Agonies of Art, The Journey, The Lapping Shore of Psycholand | Comments Off on Face(less)book

Turkey Soup

I can’t understand why we never made stock from the remains of the Thanksgiving turkey. It seems so wasteful in hindsight. I broke down the mighty beast the other day and boiled it with onion, celery, and a wilted head of romaine lettuce to make a fine stock. Today, the final result is ready to enjoy.

Boiling down a carcass for stock will yield about a pound of meat that would have been wasted otherwise.

Once the stock was finished, strained, and skimmed (the fat will become gravy), I added onion, fresh celery, and carrots, plus the pound-plus of meat.

Take a tip: romaine lettuce adds wonderful flavor to a stock. Just cut off the dirty part at the base and rinse well, and then chop it coarsely and throw it in.

Also: the pale leafy tops of the celery, found in the middle, are beautiful in the finished soup when added whole. (Don’t confuse stock and soup!)

Some years ago I was given a number of new-old-stock Revere Ware pots and pans– still in the box, all American made. I have ever since loved the look of them, still shiny and like new, cooking away at once on my stovetop.

Anyway. Thanksgiving no. 3 in this beautiful place.

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Happy Thanksgiving

scwThe turkey is defrosting. Bags of fresh cranberries await. So do white potatoes, sweet potatoes, leeks, brussels sprouts, small white onions, and makings of both fresh and pre-made stuffing–I haven’t decided that detail yet. A half-gallon of pasteurized but non-homogenized milk awaits to help if it’s needed. What delicious coffee it makes!

Except for the stuffing box, all is strictly From Scratch.

Yes, I confess: there are marshmallows in the kitchen. I think they will end up on mashed sweet potatoes. Forgive me. Then again, I promise to prepare the sweets with cider, orange juice, and other lovely things that will make them absolutely gorgeous.

Tomorrow, bright and early, I will begin to roast the 20-lb. bird and get the “trimmings” underway. I will make creamed small onions as my grandmother did. White cream sauce à la française from scratch. (Nana studied at Le Cordon Bleu, in Paris,  in her youth. True fact. To the end of her days I had to summon her to dinner with “Dinner est servi.”)

As to the brussels sprouts, I may sauté them with slivered almonds and cranberries. Even a touch of leek, perhaps. Another decision yet to be made.

Some former neighbors are coming to join us. She’ll bring wonderful things as always. He’ll be guaranteed a drumstick!

On the turntable, what else but Dudley Buck’s Grand Sonata in E-flat, played by Richard Morris. American music prevails for a while, till I break out the Christmas LPs.

I see no reason to hold off on some elements of Christmas till Christmas Eve.  I can no longer quite understand the religious view that is dogmatic on Christmas music in Advent but vague on the Resurrection.


The orange tree I bought in Florida in 2006 was, over the summer, transferred to a very large pot and fed with a combination of excellent topsoil, rotted cow manure, perlite, a seaweed-enriched potting soil, mulch, and various other goodies. It has responded by vigorous growth. Next year, at last, I hope for a few oranges. It will be the second Christmas tree this year…sporting all the ornaments I can’t fit on the official evergreen.

We cut firewood all summer. All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.

At the moment, I write in front of a cast-iron woodstove with a cozy fire going. I sit in a commodious rural kitchen, in a folding camp chair, with a laptop upon its eponymous lap. I am grateful for family, friends, and neighbors, many of whom I hope to see soon to enjoy a simple, traditional, well-cooked, Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. Conviviality and joy are of course de rigeur.

It’s a day that is dear to my heart, and always will be.





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Protected: How to Register a Hammond– Correctly

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Protected: A Typical Piano Lesson Day

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Michel Chapuis

Organist Michel Chapuis has died at the age of 87.

As a teenager, I heard my first Bach via Chapuis’ recordings, especially Clavierübung III. The Telefunken Bach series, “Das Alte Werk,” volume 9, copyright 1975, contained scores and stoplists, both of which I pored over at the Port Washington Public Library while listening intently.

I own my own copies now, and they are frequently on my turntable.

The name of Michel Chapuis is one that I still conjure by. In professional honesty, I do not seek to emulate him, but I do very much admire him.

Back in those halcyon days, the main reading room of the PW library offered a panoramic view of lower Main Street and Manhasset Bay–a view now hogged by the administrators who rebuilt the 1970 Mies van der Rohe building about a dozen years ago. Patrons are now relegated to the cementy darkness that is the natural habitat of the administrator. Administrators bask in the sunlight.

Van der Rohe’s brutalism, no longer a metaphor, is now truly brutal.

When I went to the University of Chicago, I took a photo of that old view with me and put it over my desk, to keep me, at least spiritually, in one of the best places to read and think I’ve ever seen. Anyhow, that view is gone forever.

There was a respectable LP collection, and at one time a large number of turntables. Headphones were available with your library card. Besides Chapuis, I encountered Fischer-Dieskau, the piano music of Schumann and Haydn, the sound of siglo de oro Spanish organs,  and of course Richard Morrison’s album of American organ music. The name of Dudley Buck entered my vocabulary around the time of the Bicentennial.

Most distinctive detail of all: the concrete walls along the massive windows were hung with at least a dozen original Fernando Botero paintings.

Michel Chapuis, Dudley Buck, Fernando Botero, and Manhasset Bay.

I was probably spoiled for life.

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November 11

vetpicHappy Veterans Day to all who served, and to all who have benefited from those who serve. To my veteran friends, and especially to former choir members who have also served at West Point, thanks and congratulations.

I remember my father, who served during the Korean conflict; and many other family members back more than a few generations who served this country in military capacity. The handsome chap shown here is among their number.

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Prime Dates

Starting tomorrow, we have six all-prime dates left in 2017. After that, the next year that will be a prime number will be 2027.

The dates are November 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, and 29.

All numbers in the date will be prime: 11/11/2017 (or even 11/11/17).

Enjoy a few prime geek moments.

Posted in Arthur, Fun, Inner Scientist | Comments Off on Prime Dates

How Not to Register a Hammond

About a decade ago, I published a how-to article in The American Organist (the wonderful journal that serves the American Guild of Organists) on the subject of working with a Hammond organ.

The Hammond approach to registration is significantly different from the classical approach. Luckily, it’s very easy to assimilate. It’s also easy to mess up if you are disinclined to, oh, I don’t know…think.

Recently, I have encountered a situation where somebody clearly hasn’t read my article. For the record, this is NOT how you do it.


Note that everything is more or less yanked out at random, and in equal proportion. The organist clearly has no clue as to the Hammond approach, much less what the colors brown, white, and black actually mean. This registration could be described charitably as a “total mess.” (You might as well draw every single drawbar out to the “1” position, and floor the volume pedal.)

sal2The harmonic series doesn’t work this way; good musicianship doesn’t work this way; and a knowledgeable organist definitely doesn’t work this way (even if he’s “been doin’ dis fer TIRTY-TREE YEARSSS”).

Again, I did not stage that picture. It is truly an objet trouvé.

Here is the first thing you do with such a situation.


Then, turn the organ on.


Then, start all over again. Remember that the WHITE drawbars are the unisons. Obviously, favor the 8′ for a start, and draw 4, 2, and perhaps 1 as appropriate.

I’ll post a how-to in a few days, with my own solution to the Mighty Hammond Mystery. In the meantime, praise the Lord and think about the white drawbars.


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