And Gutenberg Lived Here: Sunday In The Park With George

“White. A blank page or canvas. The challenge: bring order to the whole, through design,  composition, tension, balance, light, and harmony.”

Sunday in the Park With George.

The musical.

by Stephen Sondheim.

Based on the George Seurat painting “Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte.”

Both have always fascinated me.


But what fascinates me even more is:

what is in the two,

or their creators,

that brings them together like this?

What do they have in common with each other?

and with us?

And, most importantly,

what does pointilism have to do with it?

Or, to put it in a nutshell:

The point is: what is the point?

Is it to compose?

(Assuming you can do it as Sondheim does.)

To create the painting?

Or sing,

or paint the backdrops for,

the musical, for that matter?

Or to listen?

Or watch

Something being created?

On all different levels.

Or is the fun simply being in the experience?

Going to the theater?

Suddenly finding yourself in the world of someone writing a musical

about creating a painting

about this time in time and space?

Or should that be these times and spaces-

Sondheim’s, Seurat’s, yours, mine?

Or is it just the experience of having on formal clothes and promenading in an area on a day set aside to just be different from the other six.

And seeing the others in their fancy clothes,

and formal lifestyles?

Or is it playing hefty rugby in St. James park in London,

a walk in the downtown of Gutenberg Land,

eating fancy cream coffees, and looking in all the show windows without anyone asking if you really wouldn’t like to buy something?

And, of course, not having to worry about setting out anything but a leftovers supper, and not having to get everything ready for the week until much later.

Several blessed hours of peace.

And time to talk.

Civil talk.

About where your lives have been the last few days.

And are going now.

Time to think about what is important.

And enjoy beauty.

With George.

Or whichever person has your heart.

And your soul.

Or even just your mind.

A husband,


Dog perhaps.

Or a colleague.

Or a group thereof.

Someone who wanders through your life.

And speaks your dialect.

Or language.

Or technical talk.

Or even sings it.

Like Sondheim.

Unless, of course,

instead of a park,

you prefer to go

“Into The Woods.”


copyright 2016

This is my take on a topic proposed by me for the Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium. For other takes, check out: Padmum at This and That, There and Here, Pravin at Business to the Buddha, Ramana at Ramana’s Musings, and Shackman at Shackman Speaks.

And Gutenberg Lived Here: Geek Humor And Me

As most of the people who read my blog know, I’m married to a mathematician.


That implies two things.


at every party if you want to talk to someone you have to circulate.


And two:

If you are a at a party,

unless you happen to be hosting it yourself,

everyone there will be a mathematician,

male or female,

and their partner will be…

ta da….

also a math teacher at the u,

a high school math teacher.

or even,

be still my heart,

a physics teacher.


Forget circulating.

In fact,

the only ones who stick together more than this happy crowd,

are psychiatrists.

For obvious reasons.


as a skin doctor once told me,

(at a party. His wife is a mathematician- he was circulating)-


Which I fully understand,

after he explained to me that perfect strangers at a party,

non-mathematician style,

having had a few, or more, drinks,

often have a bizarre tendency,

which he can personally attest to,

having been more than once in the situation,

to pull a haplessly circulating dermatologist into another room

and take off their (the strangers’)  clothes –

so he can tell them that black patch on their upper leg,

or more embarrasing areas,

isn’t skin cancer.

When all they,

the dermatologists,

really want is a few hours off with a few healthy people.

And since Mathematicians I have talked to claim this is no worse than what they experience

when dealing with non-mathematicians in a (relatively seldom happening non-math) social environment…

Not the clothes off-

just soul baring.

About bad math trips.

Or how they absolutely ADORE building twenty-sided figures out of old coat hangers and modeling clay,

but they never could understand why Cauchy built those cute little dog houses so wierd.


Say what?

By which I mean,

what exactly is this huge divide between mathematicians

and the rest of the world?


Aside from the kind, decent souls who just want to tie everyone into the conversation-

Bless you all-

a large percentage of the population of the world,

if you ask them why they have such trouble with mathematicians,

will tell you it is:

because they had such trouble with math in high school.



as I just wrote to Stu Melton, a comedian in NY city

who writes a great blog called A Comedian’s Notebook,

this week on math humor,

it has to do with the fact that:

if you see a male mathematician at the beach,

large slate or blackboard in one hand,

chalk in the other,

the only way they can work,

and why else would you be at a beach?

more women will come over to see what they are doing

than will surround the average muscle man.

A phenomenon known in the business as math transit.

And if you doubt it, check out the story of Marilyn Monroe and Einstein.

Math enablers: it isn’t their fault they are so desirable.

Just keep them surrounded by other mathematicians.

They’ll never take notice a strange female is a female as long as she is,

more importantly,

a mathematician.

And for those who still don’t understand:

Mathematicians are born with a particular, often genetically inheirited,

albeit it often skips a generation,

mathematical talent.

You have it or you don’t.

It colors how you see the world.

And if that talent is recognized early,

and trained from childhood on,

you get Sheldon Cooper.

Or a more harmless variation thereof.

But since I trained in comparative lit,

and with very talented lit people,

who also have a specific view of the world and how it functions-

a view that recognizes patterns, and structures, and linkages,

and who also fully believe that,

although there are many hard workers in the field,

the real gift of being able  to see where something is going,

literarily speaking,

at first read,

is also often genetically inherited,

(as is the staying power to read over 1000 pages per week)

which talents need to be trained early-

people like me often end up,

when married to someone like Harald,

in a relationship where-

if you work hard at making it work-

you first recognize that both of you see the world your own way,

and what that way is,

and then spend time,

if you are clever,

looking to build tolerance for each other’s standpoint.

And a recognition of the fact that you can learn a lot by seeing as your other half sees.

Just not, perhaps, permanently.

Or perhaps just not at the moment you want to see a new film by a master in your field,

and he wants to do math.

Ie one plus one is two and a half.

If the signs are right.

To give you an idea of what I mean,

A typical math joke:

If a mathematician stands in front of a room he sees is obviously empty,

and two people come out,

what does he think?

If two more go in,

the room will be empty.

I love that joke.

Because that is exactly the situation of living with a mathematician.

And his answer to that is:

Is this going to be another one of those things where you read the first five pages and tell me how the book ends?

Oh my yes.

The trick is to laugh.

copyright 2016







Dog Humor

I admit it.

I’m an airedale freak.

Mostly because of their sense of humor.

Yes, dogs DO have a sense of humor.

And, in fact, they are better comedians than we are.

You don’t see it?

Have you really never watched your dog take every single sock out of a dryer and  hide them?


Throughout the garage.

And then stand there grinning at you?

Turn around three times.

Take a bow.

And then show you proudly that they put them under the car.

Some of them.

And then just walk away.

Or how about how they pull back their lips and grin,

and, in the case of our Mugg,

put their paws on top of their noses because something is just too too funny.

(while rolling onto her side if something really tickles her fancy-

like a little man in a boat rowing across a toilet bowl and singing,

to sell bath cleaner-

that gets her every time.)

And since certain breeds,

like border collies,

have an IQ about the same as that of a six year old child,

(airedales’, of course, being the Einsteins of the dogworld, are higher)

(that is my story, and I’m sticking to it-

otherwise I couldn’t explain all the weird things ours have gotten up to over the years-

like taking all the icecubes out of the icemaker to hold icecube races.

I assume at ten to one odds)


no matter where you look,

if you take the time,

you can find all variations of humor types in dogs.

Mugg, for example, is a great lover of the good old fashioned slip on a banana peel school.

And probably would love the stooges if all that yuck yuck yuck didn’t get on her nerves.

She IS a female dog, after all.

What she does love, however, is anything that happens to her hated,

and here, to defend Mugg, I have to add, taunting,


the maine coon cat next door.

Like the day Mazie,

all thirty-five pounds of her,

slid a couple of feet,

all four paws flailing,

along the fence,

in a pouring rain,

and landed with a hefty plop on her hethermost extremities.

I swear that day I heard yuck yuck yuck coming from Mugg’s throat.

And as for the day the birds ate the pyracantha

and got exceedingly drunk,

and waddled across the lawn,

or hung head down from the bushes-

Mugg observed quietly for a while,

mouth open,


preparing to defend her home territory,

and then,

as if realizing how totally ridiculous it all was,

rolled on her back and kicked all four paws in the air.


A sound I swear sounded like ho ho ho coming from her.

And as for the time she chased,

and caught,

a mechanical wind-up Easter chicken,

and carried it around the house for a solid hour,

as a victory prize,

stopping to shake it every once in a while to make it cluck,

no no one can tell me that dog doesn’t have a sense of humor.

And timing.

Now if only I could teach her enough sign language to do stand-up…


copyright 2016


Synesthesia: Not wasting Human Resources

Some time ago I suggested,

and wrote a piece for the FLBC on,

a topic that has always fascinated me:


With the idea in mind that,

since everyone has something that sets him apart,

some kind of special talent,

or gift,

or just an innate goodness that the world needs more of today,

we should definitely stop trying to make everyone alike,

and accept the fact that each of us was made the way we are,

and no one should have to measure up to some kind of (human) leveling process.

The result of which article being,

that I received several comments about how only someone who has it would write about it.

My answer to which is:

I don’t do ballet,

but some people were given the musical talent,

just the right length of legs and arms,

and the right structure of muscles,

to give us marvelous performances.

For which I am truly grateful.

And as to the others in the group’s question-

Yes, I do have synesthesia.

But although I often write about my experiences in life,

and those that I meet,

I actually don’t write much about me personally.

And this is another of those cases.

I am not writing this for myself.

I am writing this for the estimated one in twenty-three

in the world’s population,

who have synesthesia,

and don’t know what it is.

Or feel that they have to hide the fact.

Synesthesia is a linking of the senses,

Usually bordering senses.

It is not an illness, it is a blessing.

And often a well-kept secret,

out of fear that the people who don’t have it won’t understand what it is.

A much higher than average percent of the population working as musicians,

instrument builders,

piano tuners,


hear in color.

(“hearing” meaning “this tone is pale blue, silver, middle blue, cobalt, pinkish with a gold tinge, or brown tinge.”)

It is a pre-given knowledge,

which produces a mental picture,

and although there are some common similarities,

in general, the coordinate system is individual for each person.

And the same is true for mathematicians, and others working with numbers,

who often see the numbers in color.

But some musicians also see music in colored numbers,

as do mathematicians,

who are often excellent musicians.

It is like the brain is helping you sort out all the confusion of the world with small pre-labled boxes.

A way, if you will, of helping you find the similarities in things in life.

The yellow brick road, if you will,

To help you add up faster, correct to the harmonious, and,

of course,


or create,

the unique.

And one of the most fascinating tricks about singing,

is that exercises that feature the word “rose,”

cause an automatic feeling of happiness,

that allow the tone to go through passages

into the sinuses and the skull cap,

with no resistance.

We like the sound,

and think of the flower, and the smell,

and the color,

and open automatically.

(And the tone becomes beautiful)

The opposite, of course, also being true.

I have a girlfriend who smells acidic, stifling masses of nail polish when certain sounds occur.

(No, it has nothing to do with lyric tenors.)

And if you see someone at a concert with a pained look and earplugs, do us all a favor and assume they aren’t being impolite.

Just synesthetic.

Especially since we “color geeks,”

as I have often heard it uncharmingly labelled,

aren’t the only ones with this odd “give with one hand, take with the other” gift.

It is my personal belief that everyone has a gift-

all viable, individualistic human resources,

(that grow the more you use them)

And I love to talk to people and hear their stories about their gifts and how they are using them.

(A man who once spent an entire, thank heavens, relatively short, train trip telling me about skinning rabbits being a notable exception)

But even that scary experience gave me a story.

A sickly green one,

but still…

Maybe that’s why I write.


Copyright  2016

And Gutenberg Lived Here: Of Pumpkins, Witches, And The Whole Nine Yards

When I suggested this  topic for the Friday Loose Bloggers yearly “themes so crazy it makes you want to pull your hair out” list,

I was thinking along the lines of:



It wasn’t until I saw it posted for today that I saw the whole picture:

Of course.

The male female thing-

most of the other LBC writers are male,

and this is the month of:

ta da


And to anyone who doesn’t follow football-

not that Germany doesn’t follow American football-

hey, we have our very own team,

the Frankfurt Galaxies.

Complete with girls in super-skimpy silver costumes and…


So whole nine yards,

as in “fourth down and nine yards to go”

(non-footballers: you have to throw or carry an egg-shaped pigskin ball-

with laces, no less,

ten yards in four tries-

being jumped on by men the size of restaurant-size refrigerators in the process-

or hand it over to the other team)

(And why anyone would want to to do that I haven’t a clue-

unless it has to do with pre-Christian fertility rites,

male bonding,

or perhaps even Mayan blood-letting hoop games,

where nowadays you take down the hoop-

because it interferes with the motor oil,

or hamburger-and-fries-based people oil,


So anyway,

the whole nine yards taken care of,

(which phrase actually means,

“all of that, and the kitchen sink too”

and only really works with a New York accent)

what’s the thing about the witches?

And the pumpkins, for heavens’ sake.


there’s a great joke that my best best friend forever,

sorry, everyone over here quotes Paris Hilton-

and does the valley girl voice-

so anyway,

my Aussie best bud once told me a joke,

during one of the “colony treffs”-

our once a year meet and catch up

where we trapse the mean British streets,

scoff pinkish colored sweet stuff-

at the express wish of her husband,

a Welshman

who went to Kings College,

and is the one who made Laura Crofts wiggle,

much to the chagrin of his very feminist wife,

and …

who ADORES high tea…



to keep the men quiet,

we plunk ourselves down,


and catch up.

Leaving the males to do bigger things-

like strings and quarks and donuts (and sombreros)

And, for anyone married to a mathematician, as BFF and I are,

you learn early to park them,

in twos.

So anyway,

during one of the scoff-colony-“What’s new in the language business” meets,

she told me a joke:

In the broadest Aussie accent she occasionally puts on because I love it so much,

“Why isn’t Cinderella any good at football-

Because her coach is a pumpkin.”

(Aussie for not particularly good at the job, among other things.)

So now that I have, with much derring do,

and prestedigitation,

done the great metonomical,

what, you caught that?

and linked girls in skimpy costumes, to football, high tea, Cinderella,




so how about the witches?

Witches are female practitioners of wicca,

the “old (ie pagan) religion”

and I think I’ll just leave it at that.

Unless, of course,

it could be those dollies in the two small pieces of silver aluminum foil

who turn  the heads of every male in the Frankfurt stadium,

so they buy more beer and hotdogs,

and ignore their families,

or force the wives to go along to keep an eye on hubby,

now thoroughly enchanted by uttered incantations like

“go team”

Or maybe it’s someone who has been conned into writing on witches and pumpkins

in January.

Can’t wait to see what the guys come up with for me to write on next week.


copyright 2016


(And for THEIR take on the topic, check out the FLBC:

Pravin, at Business to the Buddha, Padmum, at This and that, there and here, Ramana at Ramana’s Musings, and Shackman, at Shackman Speaks)



And Gutenberg Lived Here: The Season of Drunk Jelly Donuts

Actually, I had been meaning to write this post since the start of the Carnival season,

the middle of November,

but when I read a marvelous comment-

on Bun Karyudo’s terrific  blog-

about stream of consciousness and jelly donuts,

I knew the time had come.

The commenter, it seems,

a Brit named David Prosser,

mentioned that in Britain they don’t eat jelly donuts,

they eat jam donuts,

because if they ate jelly donuts,

they would be eating jello.

So much for the same language.

And here in Gutenberg land, it’s not that much different.

The famous jelly donut,

usually called a Berliner

(yes, gasp, when John F. Kennedy said he was a Berliner, he was actually saying he was a jelly donut.)


through magic incantations

and the firing off of a lot of confetti cannons,

the krepppel, crapfen, carnival cake, etc.

The only difference to the mighty Berliner of the sixties being:

about a 2 cc shot of:

kirschwasser -cherries distilled to the flamability level- in the black forest area,

very high potency egg nogg, champagne custard, or mocca rum goop, here on the Rhine,


in the cold and protestant north,

very very occasionally only,

obstle (high octane fruit schnapps)-

since, in general, the north doesn’t celebrate carnival,

unless it is done extra to draw tourists into an area financially depressed in winter.

So what exactly do these “enhanced” kreppel have to do with carnival?

Like the pancake races in England,

it is an attempt to clear the house of flour, eggs and oil before Lent.

And also absorbs,

along with the local declicacy of garlic laced baloney-

half a ring stuck into a hard roll,

the rest of the “flight fuel”  or “angels’ wings” being imbibed in the three high days of carnival.

And if you are a fan of the original Star Trek,

there is a fascinating episode  where captain Kirk visits a planet where the locals celebrate by doing anything they want to do-

no holds barred-

for 24 hours.

Which episode was supposedly written while Gene Roddenbury was stationed in Germany.

I think that says it all.


While looking up  donut-fill recipes for the north of Germany,

I came across a wonderful Hanukkah story

about how anything baked in oil is good, as a form of remembrance,

but also that,

according to legend,

after God expelled Adam and Eve from the garden,

He gave them jelly donuts to console them.

With or without booze is not mentioned.

copyright Dunnasead.Co 2016



Breakfast: Mugg and the Yoghurt

The topic “Breakfast” came from Ramana, of Friday Loose Bloggers Fame.

And I assume,

as he often tutors others, and is, in his writing, a real lover of life,

that he,

and the others of the LBC,

will talk about correct nutrition,

or in one case beer and cigs after a concert,

or the social value of a big,

American, British, Indian, or Canadian,


Which more or less puts me up a creek without a croissant.


Drum roll….

I don’t eat breakfast.

In fact,

one sign of whether I am well, happy, and doing what I should be doing with my life is….

ta da….

no breakfast.

Ok, on a bad day a pot of so black the spoon stands up Irish breakfast,

or Canadian Red Rose tea,


on a day when I just wish the world would get up and go away,

even blacker tea,

served by Harold,

the love of my life,

in a tea mug that looks exactly like a spindly, wobbly-legged goofy looking giraffe-

you drink from the pursed lips-

I think he probably bought just to make me totally crazy,

which it does,

but it also makes me laugh every time I see it.

Which is not a bad thing.


to summarize,

if you come to visit us,

warn us ahead you want breakfast,

and which kind, please,

as Germans eat hard rolls with cheese and luncheon meat,

our Japanese visitors asked for daikon- white radish,

and our Spanish friends eat white baguette bread with olive oil.

Unless they decide to go the Full Breakfast route,

at which point they are usually smart enough to eat in a coffee shop before asking us to join them, or coming to visit afterwards.

Not that I can’t do the breakfast thing if I have to.

Traditional in my family was always some kind of hot grain…

grits, oats, cream of wheat,  rice porridge,

you get the picture.

And maybe looking at the puddle,

with lumps and milk,

or burnt Saturday pancakes with too much syrup,

is the basis for my aversion.

(Puleeze, don’t ever believe that raisins hide lumps)

Either way,

if you just drop in some day,

you will have to take pot luck-

pigs ears in aspic for Harold,

tea for me.


and here is the one BIG exception,

you are a Canadian giant airedale,

like the second love of my life,

after Harold.

(and before we had the rest of the family.)


(Abigail Abbingdon Upstart Muggins)

and I were the first up every morning-

since I had seven am classes.

So after she went out to rouse the birds,

chase the neighbor’s cat,

and do her morning ablutions,

I would get dressed,

turn on the heat in the freezing house,

and then we would breakfast.

Sitting on the convection heater  vent.

Her head on my leg,

watching every bite of my yoghurt,


in the end,

she licked the spoon,

and got the remains-

in the yoghurt cup she very carefully held between two crossed paws,

before planting her entire head in it,

up to the eyebrows,

finally pulling it down a bit,

so she could see,

and racing around the house,

once through the backyard-

the triumph round-

“Boy look at me- I really got that yoghurt”

after which she would stop in front of me so I could pull it off and wash her face.

I had three great years of morning yoghurt killing with Mugg

before I left for grad school.

Where I met Harald.

And went back to tea-

Hey, maybe when they invent a human head size yoghurt cup…

Of course, with Harald there IS the advantage of the Saturday morning breakfast ritual.

‘Nuff said.


copyright 2016


Other members of the FLBC writing on breakfast (hopefully): Ashok, Gaelikka, Maxi at Maxi’s Comments, Padmum at This and that here and there, Pravin at Business to the Buddha, Ramana at Ramana’s Musings, and Shackman at Shackman Speaks.blogspot


And Gutenberg Lived Here: Of Camels, Wise Men, and Star Singers

Although Epiphany, the day of the three kings, is actually on the sixth of January,

and is an incredibly popular holiday here,

(especially at a certain famous hamburger fast food restaurant,

where everyone wants the paper crown so they can be Melchior)

the annual “Star Singers Day”  was actually yesterday.

So in honor of the courageous kids,

who ring doorbell after doorbell in the freezing cold here

dressed only in striped pants and massive sultan hats,

relics from someone’s Ali Baba birthday party,

I’d like to tell you about the day of the star singers.
Yes, I know we just had a rather impressive series of holidays recently:

all hallows eve, all saints’ day,

day of atonement, day of eternal life,

the start of the carnival season,

Christmas eve, Christmas day parts one and two,

and New Years eve.
And now…… the camels arrive.
Yup, Wednesday was three kings day-

Epiphany in the church calendar-

the day when, after marching the three wisemen and their camels across the tabletop in front of the manger for two weeks,

they finally arrive.
Which means they have seen the baby Jesus, and the creche can now be taken down.
And then, on Sunday, the  “star singers” arrive.

A band of children,

three of them dressed as the wisemen,

and a youngish priest who can’t really play the guitar he is carrying.

To bless the houses,

by singing one of the songs about the three kings,

and to write CMB

and the date,

over the door lentel:

20 C+M+B 16

Which officially stands for “Christ, bless this house”

apparently in early middle latin,

although there appears to be a problem with the translation of house.

Which no one recognizes,

since no one here knows anything but the unofficial version.


that CMB  stands for  Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar.

The three wise men,


somewhere along the way,

surprisingly developed names.

since it isn’t Biblical.

(Nor is the fact that there are three of them)


Biblical or not,

to not have CMB over the door,

in felt marker, no less,

is considered a sure sign you are a shirker of social responsibilites.

Or are a heathen,

since even the protestants don’t dare not to take part.

Which brings us to the shaking of the can.

The large collecting can they carry.

The shaking of which shows it is time to pay up.

Since the basis of the house blessing,

sponsored by the Catholic church,

is to collect for charity.

Which isn’t a bad thing.

Since it brings in a lot of the revenue for social projects over here.

Some say the majority.

I just wish they’d tune the guitar.
Epiphany is also the day when the city takes down the last of the Christmas decorations,

and the trash removal people pick up the last naked remains of the Christmas trees-

which a lot of Germans dump,

Swedish style,

out the window, so they don’t have to hunt down each fallen needle on the four staircases on the way down.
The trees are then dragged to a communal pile on the street corner to await recyling as a Swedish furniture house coffee table,

one lowly string of tinsel and a stem from a broken ornament hanging off of each the only sign left of glories past.
And this, of course, brings us to New Year’s resolutions.
Which the majority of happy holidayers,

in the cold light of Epiphany,

have, at the latest by this date, broken.
And tossed out the window.
Tinsel hanging limp.
It must have to do with the season, but somehow, things thought about between Dec 24 and Jan 6:

losing weight,

finding a better job,

helping more in the community,

making friends who really are friends,

saving more money,

being a kinder person,

talking more to God-

seem to largely go the way of the dodo,

when faced with the cold hard reality of minus six degrees with wind-chill factor,

the latest paleo-atkinson-only rainbow colored food diet,

a pile of bills,

and the old “back to work.”

And kids in gold lame and gigantic turbans pulling a stuffed camel.

There went “be kinder.”

copyright 2016

Education: It’s About Life

This week’s Friday Loose Blogger’s Consortium topic comes from Shackman.

He wants to talk about Education: High School and College

For me, one word says it all.


But I fully understand that a lot of very successful and happy and well-adjusted giving back to the community people out there have little or no formal education,

so I’d rather let the others in our group talk about the pro and con and bring the statistics,

and just talk about the part of education that is dearest to my heart:


A lot of people I know are calm, quiet, decent, and low key.

Thank heavens.

Two of my kind would be kryptonite.

(Hey, at least I try for decent)

But the point is:

Life is living.

However you do it.

If you are happy,

go for it.

But many many people just live,

and aren’t happy.

They aren’t learning the lesson:


Read, listen,  take courses, talk to those who really know something,

but keep up.

Put yourself where you learn something.

And move on beyond your limitations.

And your past.

Not too long ago I was asked to stay around after a concert for questions.

And ended up sitting with two retired school teachers.

One told me how he used to be at the top of his field and all the field study projects he did with the students then, and how he was always in the newspapers, but now he  had this problem with his leg since he retired, jadajadajada.

The other is taking classes at an adult education facility to better help out in a program for the illiterate.

And since the center is also a community center for various groups,

he asked me about a tv program he had seen about  integration of handicapped into regular choirs.

There are basically two kinds of choirs-

social and performance.

Social party a lot, help each other with projects-

usually linked through a church or fraternal organization (ie Shriners etc)

Make sure it has no competitive element, and it works best with either all men, all women, or, the very best, in my opinion,  mixed, as long as you make sure it has ALL ages.

And NEVER let anyone sing solo.

The second is high performance,

and basically consists of singers slowly working together to try to take over the choir,

starting over-ambitious projects with no money to pay for it,

then giving an exposition concert where the conductor has to wear a Pringles can that covers his head and most of his body, and dance to stay solvent.

(happened to a conductor friend of mine-who did the performance, and then quit)

and finally, slowly, inch by inch,

killing off the conductor.

who either quits,

or is fired and moves on in the conductor’s carousel (x number of conductors, x number of choirs- who gets which choir this year? –

that takes place after every major  concert,  or, at the latest, at the end of every choir year.

I once took, and finally left, a choir

which had had seven conductors in ten years.

And I conducted seven of those years.

(Most of which years were actually amazingly positive)

This, in my opinion, belongs to the professional education no conductor should face a group without.

Maybe it is being done today at colleges.

It isn’t where I teach.

(Here you are tossed in cold-

spend a lot of time floundering,

then learn the bitter truth through much wailing and gnashing of teeth with colleagues at continuing education seminars.)

(And then still going back to your choirs, because you love the job)


If The Truth About Conducting 101 isn’t being taught where you are,

choir directors,

you have now been educated.


copyright 2016


This is a blog for the FLBC. Others blogging with us: Ashok, Gaelikka, Maxi of Maxi’s Comments, Padmum of This and that, here and there, Pravin of Business to the Buddha, Ramana of Ramana’s Musings, and Shackman, of Shackman Speaks.



And Gutenberg Lived Here: A-440 And Me

This is a reissue of one of my first attempts at blogging-

which many people liked,

thank you again,

and since some people who followed that blog are looking for the new one,

and others following the new have asked what happened to the old one,

I have decided to occasionally bring some of the best pieces,

in my opinion,

onto  my quahog on a tightrope page.

The first was published last year about this time on my old blog

It is entitled

New Year’s Eve: Change and Remembrance.

I hope you like it.
What nondescript item has changed my life?

How amazing that the Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium set this topic, of all times, on a New Year’s Eve.

A time when we remember those who are near to us.

Things past.

Hopes we had.

And still have.
And quite often, thoughts are triggered by an object.
A nondescript object.
For my mother, writing in a diary of rememberances for her grandson, the most amazing change in her life was the electric car lock key.

No more locking yourself out,

No more telling children to lock the doors when they get out.

And no more watching the handbrake of a car being released by a dog you forgot to take off the back seat before carefully locking up.

(Luckily the car only rolled a few feet.)
For my father, a prize-winning photo-journalist, it was the dawn of the digital camera.
For my brother, it the freedom of having a motor bike.
For my mathematics honey, it was the discovery, as a small child, of chalk.

And later, that the flow of chalk on a board organizes your thought patterns and regulates the speech flow as you lecture.
For a conductor/composer friend of ours, it was the discovery that using a quill pen lets the music flow much better than a computer composition program.
And for me?

Ignoring, for a moment, the question of the computer,

which, hallelujah, replaced the old academic rule of three copies with carbon paper and only three mistakes per page,

the most awe-inspiring nondescript object I can think of is:

No, not the highway,

although living where certain stretches of highway have no speed limit definitely did have the influence of injecting unmeasurable amounts of adrenaline into my life.
No, what I really meant with A-440 was the, to me, amazing discovery that unheard of amounts of inanimate objects are actually pitched at A-440.
A fact first introduced to me by a friend, with perfect pitch, the dirty rat, who helped me get through courses in aural theory with the trick “lump all the things you don’t hear together, then wait for the chapel bell, which rings ten minutes before the bell to end the course. Both are in A.
This started me thinking-

about what was really in inanimate objects.
But things didn’t really come to a head until I started vocal conducting,

and found myself without a tuning fork one day, while working on a project with one of those strange elite beings with perfect pitch.
And being the way the perfect pitched are,

he turned away from the stove he was cooking spaghetti for us on,

non-chalantly rang the pot lid,

and said to me “here. Now can we get on with supper?”
This started my need-to-know wheels turning.
First I check that he wasn’t joking.

He wasn’t.

The pot lid was in A.

(I brought a tuning fork extra the next time to check.)
And from there, I was on a quest.
Within a short time, I had discovered that not only a certain, widely bought brand of pots and pot lids,

but also certain silverware,

metal hub caps,

although I wouldn’t really recommend kicking one to get a tone,

the old-style telephones,

a once very popular line of metal vases from a certain swedish furniture house,

etc, etc.

are all in A.
As are the artificial hums and whines of certain machines.

(My old Mazda)
Which made me more than curious about how that affects us as humans.

And since,

since the start of music,

we have used agreed on tempos, which are the equivalent of the sitting, walking, fast walking, and running heart beats,

what about tone?
And this then led to a discovery,

with thanks to Sharon, my first voice teacher,

that the human body often has the break between head and chest voice within a tone or two of A,

and that by activating it,

singing tones around A,

you can actually cleanse the body.
And even later still, I learned that this is currently being used medically,

if somewhat experimentally,

here in our area in the treatment of tumors and to stimulate the immune system.
Which then led me to my final discovery:

that there are two kinds of non-musician types,

those that don’t care if something is in A,

and those that download something to check, then go back to discussing sports or cars or sportscars, or whatever.
Me, I still have the curiosity.
And since, over years, I have learned that it is easier to carry a tuning fork, than to carry a hub cap or a pot lid, I now have a small collection of them:

from a large concert fork, to one only a few centimeters long, given to me by my small ensemble, and worn nearly always on a chain around my neck.
It keeps me humble.

And curious.

And reminds me there’s always a place for everyone in this world.

Even those with perfect pitch.
With remembrance and love for those in my heart.

With thanks to the Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium.

Wishing all of them,

and everyone else reading this,

a happy,


and curiouser and curiouser New Year.

Copyright 2015 all rights reserved
Copyright 2016