Apr 2, 2003

Went to Boston Lyric last night to see the latest offering in their “Season of BonBons” or whatever its called, “La Rondine”. Much has been made of how weird an opera this is, and I have to say the prevailing wisdom is correct, there’s not much to sink your teeth into here. After Magda’s first act aria, which is pretty good, the only real catchy tune is the big production number at the end of the second act that sounds like its from “Cats”. Puccini either was out of ideas or just plain not trying. Most of the principal voices were good, though, so it wasn’t a total loss, but not something you’d seek out.

Ordered some more music the other night. I’m on a Poulenc kick lately, this past weekend that was most of what I played through, and there is still plenty left to get, so I went with the Improvisations this time. I’d like to get the Melancolie, which is on the Andre Previn Great Pianists CD, but it’s like $22 from Salabert, and it’s only 16 pages long, so I think we’ll save that for later. What I like about Poulenc is the variety of styles, the bluesy stuff like the first Nocturne, the wacky stuff like the four-hand sonata and the third movement of the Trois Pieces, his ability to come up with both kinds of tunes effortlessly. When Boston Music company was having their big sale a while back I got the Promenades, which are relatively early pieces but are surprisingly atonal, not typical at all, some of them virtually impossible to sight-read. Because I hung around with so many wind players in college I ended up playing a lot of Poulenc, the Oboe Sonata, the Trio, the Sextet, the Flute Sonata, all great stuff, so I think that helped precipitate my interest in Poulenc and that era of French music in general. And now that spring is in the air, you get that feeling of recital season nostalgia around this kind of music, so there’s that connection, too. There aren’t too many gaps in my standard rep collection, and Poulenc works well since most of it (Promenades not withstanding) isn’t too hard to read through. I don’t have much Prokofiev either, but I’m not in as big a rush to tackle that yet.

by | Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off on

Mar 31, 2003

I should eulogize Uncle Pat, who died Saturday after a protracted fight with cancer. Pat was the funny uncle, always doing impressions (Johnny Carson, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Carter, Grandpa Bartlett, etc.), always carried around in his wallet something that he would introduce as “my pride and joy”, then reveal as a picture of a bottle of Pride detergent and a bottle of Joy dish soap. There’s home movies of him walking around the living room with us kids probably circa 1970, with the music from 2001 playing on the stereo (which of course the home movies don’t indicate), with his false teeth popping out of his mouth and his hair down over his forehead, his arms out in front of him like a zombie. The whole Pearce clan were a bunch of comedians, but no one held a candle to Pat.

For someone with such a sense of humor, you can’t really say he had a happy or worthwhile life, although I’m sure there must have been times when things were going well for extended periods. He and Lois seemed to do fine for most of the time they were married, he certainly never had any trouble talking to people, ingratiating himself with people, doesn’t seem to have had much difficulty getting a job. Keeping them was the big problem early on, I think because he wasn’t that interested in them, but for as long as I can remember he was working for the state, in some department where, according to Dad, his primary function was to cut articles out of newspapers. But from around the time he started drinking seriously in the early ’80’s, things went into a gradual decline from which they never really recovered. Even with the several years he spent with Dorlis, they seemed to do well together, but it was always hard to know what was going on since they didn’t have a phone and didn’t always show up at family gatherings. The last couple of years he was making a lot more consistent appearances, probably because he knew his time was limited. Last summer when we were there with the kids, you saw a glimmer of the old self, but it wasn’t the same. One would think there must’ve been a lot of soul-searching during his last year, but with Pat who knows. I’d almost prefer that he maintained his old attitude towards life right up to the end.

by | Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off on

Mar 30, 2003

I finished watching City Limits (which I mistakenly referred to as “City Lights” in the previous post, which Blogger has graciously let me fix for posterity), and it truly was incomprehensible, or at least plotless. There’s an MST3K short from one of the shorts tapes where apparently in the preceding host segment Servo has been turned into the robotic equivalent of The Incredible Hulk or something, and for the first few minutes of the short all he does is grunt and say “Movie BAD!” Some times that’s about all there is >to< say. So what else has been going on? I’m totally hooked on the Prisoner, the first DVD miraculously showed up in the mail from Netflix after having been listed as “long wait” for months, so I got to watch the first episode, twice, in fact. Now I’ve bumped the next one up to the top of the list. We all went out Saturday to find a new bike for Chloe. I figured we’d go to a real bike store, but so did everyone else in the world, so it took a while to get somebody to talk to us. I had figured on her moving up to the next size, which was a 20″, and she even wasn’t dead set on pink, surprisingly. But the bike shop guy thought it wasn’t big enough to last her for very long, so she tried out the Trek MT220, which is really a real mountain bike but on a smaller scale (24″ wheels), and with the seat all the way down (instead of all the way up on the Mystic 20) she could navigate the parking lot like a pro. They have to get the right color from the warehouse, so we couldn’t actually pick it up until tomorrow, which is ok since it rained all day today anyway. So we went out looking at minivans briefly today, Beth test drove a 2004 Sienna, which is as rare and expensive as copies of “Lungbarrow”, apparently. It was very nice by minivan standards, but I still think the Odyssey will win out on both price and availability, and the features are almost identical, or close enough as to not matter that much. I just want to hurry up and buy it so in five years when its paid for I can get my next car, something frivolous like a Jag.

by | Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off on

Mar 27, 2003

It has to be said: “City Limits” has got to be the most incomprehensible MST3K movie ever made! But I may be getting ahead of myself since I haven’t finished watching it yet. Maybe it all makes perfect sense in the last five minutes. Color me skeptical. Now that spring is in the air, you get that exhilirating feeling no matter what you’re reading, watching, or listening to. Last week I got some music I had ordered, the Brahms first piano concerto and some more Poulenc. Early Brahms seems to have a very open-air, springy feel to it, but it may just be the weather. And I’ve been reading through my backlog of “High Adventure” magazine, reprinting pulps from the 30’s and 40’s, specifically the Black Bat and Suicide Squad. The Ace G-Men stories seem to have a breezy, springy feel to them, too. And then watching a couple episodes of the Prisoner on DVD last week, well that takes place mostly outdoors in what is obviously an airy, springy Portmeirion doubling as “The Village”. I have the feeling The Tin Drum would seem springy right about now, but it probably has more to do with the obvious signs of this impossibly long, cold winter finally coming to an end. I can even put away the snow shovel this weekend, which is a ritual frought with meaning around these parts. I’ve got a hundred other things I want to do this weekend, too, so I’m hopeful that the weather holds out.

by | Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off on

Mar 25, 2003

Not too much going on today, trying to fight off a cold, haven’t been to the gym yet this week, don’t want to sneeze all over the equipment and all. Started last week on a four-week eating plan that’s supposed to “drop two notches from your belt in just four weeks!”, which seems hard to believe, but I figure it’s a short-term thing that doesn’t seem to difficult to stick with that might give me some insight as to how to improve the diet in general. For breakfast I’ve just been having milk and cereal for the last several years, now I’m mixing it up a little more with English muffins or these lean pocket breakfast things that are sort of a substitute for a egg-white omelet. That was last week, this week adds lunch, mostly variations on sandwiches and salad or soup. Lunch is a little more involved in that it needs to be something that can be assembled in the morning, but it doesn’t seem too onerous. If I can keep the exercise thing going at the same time, that would be the best combination, but with this cold it’s not helping the game plan very much. Let’s see how much willpower I can actually muster for this sort of thing.

by | Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off on

Mar 24, 2003

Last year I told Chloe as soon as she could ride a bike without training wheels I’d get her a new one, as the one she has is a Little Mermaid 16″ bike that Beth got for free from somebody. She didn’t seem to have much motivation or much success, and just at the very end of the fall she could pedal around Julie’s backyard a little bit without training wheels, but then it got too cold and we had ten feet of snow. So now that the snow has gone, in the last week or so she’s gotten the bike back out and had to learn all over again how to do it, this time without the benefit of Julie’s backyard. It was amazing to see the transformation from Saturday morning, when she couldn’t get the bike to go forward more than two feet without having to put her foot down and she was practicallly in tears and saying “I hate this bike!”, to yesterday morning, when she was pedalling up and down the flatter section of the street at will and catching herself when she did lose control. Beth was gone for the day with Phil again, so I took the kids to Ghiloni and had them ride from the parking lot all the way to the end of the access road and back. Chloe was happy as a clam, and said, “I love this bike!” So now its off to the bike shop. Even Justin was doing well pedaling on the tricycle, and got the workout of his life going up and down that road, which took about an hour and is probably about half a mile total. Beth also had a 12″ bike she acquired for free for him, but he looks too big for it already. He tried it out a few times, but seemed to prefer being rooted to the ground a little more securely with the tricycle. Last year he couldn’t pedal anything, so that’s a big improvement for him. My next acquisition is to get a bike rack for the car, since I don’t think I could fit a 20″ in the trunk of the Accord, and then Chloe and I could even ride together, since I’m not really that much better on the bike than she is. The older I get the more I try to be at least a little bit active, and would like to see the kids do the same, since I never did that much of it at their age. I used to ride my bike around Virginia in the summer time as a kid, but once I outgrew it I never got another one. Now real bike manufacturers like Trek and Specialized make kids bikes, even in pink, which of course is what Chloe wants. She’ll get a few years use out of it, so it should be worth it.

by | Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off on

Mar 23, 2003

So this is slipping into every other day mode, but hopefully it’s just temporary. Yesterday was kind of wash as Phil is still visiting and Beth is driving him all over the greater Boston area. Today was more of the same, but she was able to ditch him for a few hours. But enough about them. Friday night I went to see Tosca, a rare (maybe first-time) event in that I saw two operas in the same week. I think Tosca is the only one of the four major Puccini operas I haven’t seen live, having missed my chance back in college. One of the girls on my floor, Vera, and I decided to get tickets to as many operas as we could, and me being the advance planner that I am picked out which days looked promising for each opera before school had even started in the fall, and mailed the list to Vera to ask her what she thought. I never heard back from her, so I figured she’d decided to opt out, which was fine. Then on moving in day I ran into her and the first thing she asked was “Did you get your tickets yet?” to which I replied “What!” Apparently she had taken my recommendations and gone and bought herself a set of tickets for those dates. So I had to haul my opera-going ass down to the Lyric box office and try to scrounge whatever seats were still available for those same nights. I managed to get four of the five (including Tristan), but the only one that was sold out completely was Tosca, so I never saw it. As it turned out, her mother was able to score a ticket somehow and she went with her instead. For the next two seasons I just bought myself a subscription and that was that.

Anyway, this Tosca Friday night was very good, in spite of being in Northeastern’s Blackman Auditorium, which has all the ambiance and acoustics of a lecture hall, because, well, it is one. But it makes for a relatively intimate setting, and even my Arts/Boston ticket was in the 16th row of the main floor, albeit way over to one side. There were enough empty seats that those of us in the peanut gallery could spread out a bit, which was good. The Cavaradossi was a little too much of a teddy bear for my taste, but he made a great sound. Scarpia and Tosca herself were both good. Hearing the music live you get a sense of the complexity of the score and how tenuous the connection is sometimes between the orchestra and the singers, with lots of offbeat phrasing and such, but it held together pretty well. My expectations for BAM aren’t terribly high, so I tend to come away pleasantly surprised, but I was short on sleep that evening and still didn’t have any trouble staying awake, which is saying something. I also ran into Phyllis Froeschle out in the lobby, who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. I keep intending to subscribe to BAM but still haven’t done it yet, and this season was pretty promising and as a result of not subscribing I never did make it to their Percheurs des Perles in the fall. Next season BLO is doing Tosca, I think, so I get to hear it again.

by | Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off on

Mar 21, 2003

Oops, missed a day again. Good thing no one is reading this. Beth’s old high school friend Phil called up out of the blue last week, saying he needed to come to Boston because both his parents were in the hospital. She spoke to him for a little while, then didn’t hear anything for several days, then he called again Tuesday nght to say he was arriving Wednesday morning. His dad was in the VA hospital in West Roxbury, so once he arrived he went straight there and found out everything that was wrong with him, which was quite a bit. He got to Natick somehow and Beth picked him up there Wednesday evening, ostensibly to take him to his parents’ house, but when they got there the place was in such a state of disarray that she had him come back to our house for the night. Yesterday morning the hospital called to tell him his dad had died. Beth drove him out there again, then back to the hospital in Framingham where his mother is, and didn’t get back home till late last night, and he spent the night at our house again. Bear in mind this guy is Beth’s age, doesn’t drive, and before yesterday hadn’t seen his parents in 13 years (and that was only because he came here for our wedding). He has no job, has never married, still rents an apartment, and seems to have done a superhuman job of avoiding responsibility for his adult life. Now that he’s here, he’s got the opportunity to sort out the various entanglements left by his parents, which I suppose it’s in his best interest to do, so I’m mildly curious to see what comes of it. What is this disaffected generation from moderately well-off families, smart people with lots of promise who started college, couldn’t quite stick with it, end up in a variety of uninteresting and/or menial jobs, shun commitment, and now, firmly entrenched in middle age, have built up very little to show for their lives so far? There’s a screenplay in that somewhere.

While I was sitting at home alone again last night I watched an episode of the Prisoner on DVD. I’ve been trying to get the one with the first episode from Netflix for months, but it’s perpetually flagged as “long wait”, so I gave up and went on to the next disk, having a vague recollection of the premise. As it turns out there’s about a three-minute montage recapping the first episode at the beginning of the next, so that filled in some gaps too. I’ve only seen a few of them over the years, and not any that I can remember since I was staying at Tufts in the summer of ’86, but what I saw jibed with my hazy memory. This show has got to be the most audacious thing ever produced for television, it’s so New Wave, so contemptuous of its audience, it’s fascinating to watch. It’s the same feeling I get reading Grant Morrison’s “The Invisibles” comic, except I think there’s probably less continuity in The Prisoner from one episode to the next. Can’t wait to see the next one.

by | Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off on

Mar 19, 2003

Last night I went to Jordan Hall to see the Teatro Lyrico d’Europa for the first time, performing a semi-staged Boris Godunov in the Rimsky-Korsakov version. Since Richard Dyer has been effusive in his praise for this group over the last few years, I decided to give it a go, and being a Russian opera with a primarily Russian castI (with principals from the Bolshoi Opera) didn’t hurt. It was a very good performance, and the singer who did Boris, whose name I won’t even attempt to remember, was extremely compelling, with lots of that full, booming Russian bass sound, but without sounding too nasal or just shouting, as you hear sometimes from his countrymen at the Met. The rest of the cast was mostly excellent, also, and did remarkably well just to be heard over the full orchestra. The volume generated by chorus, which was only around 30 people, was also impressive, speaking as a former chorus member. The venue of Jordan Hall for an opera means a more intimate experience, and it would’ve been particularly thrilling to hear this from the first few rows of the main floor, but there are really no bad seats there, so the amount of sound being generated versus the size of the hall meant for a very involving musical experience. I wish the surtitles were better timed (and not run from a noisy slide projector). I wish there had been more people there (couldn’t have been more than 400 in the audience). But otherwise it was a great concert. Due to the vagaries of scheduling my nights out around Beth’s nights out, I’m actually going to two operas in one week, with the next being Tosca on Friday.

by | Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off on

Mar 18, 2003

Oops, missed a day, somehow didn’t get to it at work, and then came home, ate dinner, put the kids to bed and passed out. Justin waking up at 6 am all weekend put me at a sleep disadvantage, and I wanted to get somewhat caught up tonight since I’m going to the opera (never a good idea on low sleep). This meant I missed part 2 of Children of Dune, but I figure I can catch one of the next hundred times its on. The first part was pretty good, actually.

So we’re going to go to war with Saddam. Personally, I couldn’t be more thrilled. The fact that there’s a good chance it’ll be an ass-whupping doesn’t hurt, but even if it looked to be a long, difficult slog, I still think in the long run its worth it to get the nutcase out of there. I don’t normally feel particularly hawkish, but I have to think that the basic idea makes sense, and there would seem to be a number of historical examples (Hitler being the most obvious) where in hindsight somebody should have done the same thing. Saddam is no Hitler, and Iraq is no Germany, but in the new version of the real-life game of Risk, you don’t need huge armies and tons of fanatical followers to stir things up. And without Russia to pose as a deterrent, there’s not much stopping the US from doing whatever it wants, which I’m sure bothers a lot of other countries, but may not necessarily be a bad thing. It probably smacks of the manifest destiny stance the US always used to have before WWII. I don’t blame the european countries or Turkey for wanting to avoid all this, as its a lot closer to home for them than it is for us, and Saddam is nuts enough to fire off a few missiles in any random direction just because he can. But if we can truly go in there and get rid of the guy, and if somebody better can actually then take over, and if enough pressure is brought to bear either by the US or the UN to keep it that way, then I think in the long run we come out ahead. We’ll never know what it was like in the parallel universe where Saddam is left alone to cook up his schemes and provide assistance to other terrorists, but personally I don’t think we need another 9/11 to galvanize us into action. We know the guy is bad news, he could be responsible at any moment for some major terrorist attack, let’s just get rid of him now and be done with it before anything worse happens. MacArthur supposedly said, “It’s better to be boldly decisive and risk being wrong than to agonize at length and be right too late.” The agonizing has been going on for twelve years already, I think the risk of being wrong is fairly remote at this point.

by | Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off on