Sunday, February 26, 2012

Humor for a wretched week.

I've always lived in a city or town, from the metropolis of Seattle to the backwater of Woodburn. They were distinct places near other distinct places. But not long after moving to Port Orchard, I noticed that I thought of where we live in terms of the County. Yes, we were in a town with its own identity, but I was unusually aware that our town is a Part Of The Whole. Perhaps it's because Kitsap is a peninsula, island-like. Maybe it's because there are still many born-and-bred Kitsap natives in the area who've moved around the county but who remain connected by their shared history; conversations, local newspapers, annual events all serve to highlight how connected we are, including the non-natives like us.

That kinship was confirmed this week as we reeled from the unprecedented violence scattered around our Kitsap County. It surprised us, how personal it all felt. Some of it was personal - we know Trooper Tony and his family. The suspected shooter holed up in a friend's neighborhood and shot himself there. Two people in Ken's nursing program had children in the 3rd grade class where a young girl was accidentally shot. And that suspect interviewed regarding multiple stabbings? Yup, connected there too - the first victim was a young woman who regularly came into the library with her mom. (They had a delightful mother-daughter thing going and it was great fun to watch them.) There were other tragic events as well. There was even a three-hour lock-down on Thursday at one of Port Orchard's junior high schools because someone saw a man with a gun in the lower field.

Helicopters hovering over neighborhoods is an unusual event, remarkable in its rarity, but it happened three times in three days. People are edgy and anxious and sad. Some of them have come to the library just to talk, trying to make sense of it all.

I suppose that this post is one way of processing my week. Having written it, I can let it go. Well, except for Trooper Tony. That's going to be hanging on for awhile.

In situations like the above, well. . . first, I pray. Then I turn to things that bring a little light back to the day. Youtube is outstandingly helpful with that.

Mike Nichols and Elaine May were one of the best comedic duos of their time. Here's footage of them presenting an "honor" at the 1959 Emmy Awards. The film and sound is a little fuzzy - it's from 1959 - but stick with it. Replay it, if you must, to catch anything you might have missed the first time through. Then check your library for Nichols/May sound recordings. You won't regret it.

One more from youtube: Peter Schickele, a music educator/composer/NPR commentator, "discovered" the youngest and little-known member of the Bach family, P.D.Q., and spent several decades making P.D.Q.'s music accessible. If you enjoy classical music (or were forced to endure it), you'll probably like what Schickele has to offer. I have five of his LPs and I've attended every concert that has come along. He was an ace at composing a quodlibet, a piece that does nothing but quote other composers; Peter Schickele did this superbly with The Unbegun Symphony, a piece that is in my list of Top Ten Schickele. It's a shame that I was unsuccessful in a hunt for a list of all the music used (where did it go? she muttered) because it's a hoot to listen to The Unbegun Symphony with the list in hand.

Another of my Schickele favorites, New Horizons in Music Appreciation, is highlighted in the blog Short Ride In Fine Music. Read the post, then listen to the 8.5 minute "broadcast" in which the first movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony is subjected to play-by-play and color commentatary, much like Monday Night Football. The more familiar you are with classical music, the funnier it will be.

And finally, if you've now become intrigued by Peter Schickele's music, take yourself one step further and read "Music Engendered Laughter: An Analysis of Humor Devices in P.D.Q. Bach." written and presented by David Huron of Ohio State University.

Overhead on Twitter: However crappy your day has been, just know this: today I found out that next Tuesday I must dress up as a baked potato.

Until next time.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Miscellany (and books, of course)

Our children (adult children, I should say) send me funny things once in awhile. Those things will often refer to past conversations or blog posts I've written. Amy found something online in December that she thought I'd enjoy and she was right. I did.



And for a little humor on the musical side of things:


Hahahahaha!

On to books.

In the bookish world, there have always been adventurous, creative authors who do curious visual things with their work. Those medieval monks come to mind, men who illuminated book pages using clear deep colors and gold leaf to bring their images alive. They hid playful things in there sometimes, to surprise the reader who cared to look closely. And how about e. e. cummings, who rocked the poetry world with artistically-scattered lower-case arrangements on his books' pages?

There are books that challenge the reader beyond the simple act of reading. I tried to read "House of Leaves" a few months back, a book mentioned by a young woman in an interview. She enthusiastically described the book and I thought hm, that's sounds intriguing. The library happened to have it on the shelf and I took it home. Ugh. I bailed on it within the week. It wasn't a book that one could read. It felt like an Author Performance Piece, created in the spirit of "look what I can do!" I wonder if the interviewee truly enjoyed it or just mentioned it to impress us. Maybe it was assigned reading. Who knows? One good thing came from my reading attempt, though. I learned a new phrase, ergodic literature. "House of Leaves" is ergodic literature on steroids.

For pure coolness, take a look at "Between Page and Screen", a digital popup book. The title has a double meaning - it took me a minute to realize that the conversation was between P (Page) and S (Screen). I'm putting in a Suggestion For Purchase for this one.

To finish up today, The Joy of Books is a short, delightful film. I watched it repeatedly and I bet you'll do the same. For more youtube fun, click on the 'crazedadman' button and watch some of his other videos. I especially enjoyed "My Anniversary Gift to Lisa" but they're all good.

Overheard on Twitter: A Google image search for "man wearing pants" brings up 100s of images of men NOT wearing pants.

Until next time. . .