Friday, April 20, 2018

Little DIppers and Other Songs

Another 1950s-ish pop instrumental that I have lately stumbled upon. This footage appears to have been shot somewhere in our mountainous Northeast. The people in it, if they are still alive, would be around 80 years old now. Some of the girls are admittedly goofy-looking, but a few of them are quite lovely, though one wonders whether they ever really knew it (or maybe they were progressive enough that they didn't care). I am still kind of depressed but I think I am slowly coming out of it. My wife indulged my low feelings for a couple of months as a common side effect of going under anesthesia and some other reasons, but at a certain point in March she said it was time to snap out of it, at least around other people. So I am doing much better compared to what I was feeling in January and February, and I don't feel right now like I am going to die or become incapacitated within the next couple of years at least, so I am going to try to be in a good mood during this time now and enjoy living, especially since I really don't have any terrible problems. I have the usual problems people in my position have, many of which are only "problems" as far as you choose to regard them as such. You must excuse me, this is my pep talk to myself to project more joie de vivre. I'm becoming more attached to church and related events as a sort of comfort. Yet what do I need comforting for? While I am increasingly appealing to supernatural powers to help me, none of my wishes are for particularly spiritual or noble or disinterested things. When I recall the past my major regrets are still not that I was a better person, but rather that I had been more successful at being somewhat immoral. But I am finding the rituals and trappings of religious practice to be more and more essential to my psychic well-being.

I still think of this as a "new" song, but it is from 2001. This is a very cheerful video. I don't know much about the people in this group, but I like their faces, which is something that I am not often struck by. The video is full of good faces, actually, which the world seems to be sorely in need of. Even though this band was quite popular in the late 90s/early 00s, I haven't found any other songs of theirs that I like.

There are times, often provoked by some pop culture artifact, when the 80s feel as remote, or even more so, in time to me than the 60s or even the later 50s do. Perhaps this is because I do not have actual real life memories of the 60s so that there is no sense for me of that time being lost, as it has always been lost. Or perhaps it is because so many of the familiar songs and images from that period are still ubiquitous enough that they seem to exist on some kind of continuum in the lives of many of us into the present, having never exactly gone away. One is unsure. However, this song does not have the same kind of life independent of their time I don't think, and even in its hour was only a hit among a much smaller segment of the population than most famous songs are. I don't know where this was filmed--it appears to be a Mediterranean locale, but in which country even I cannot pin down--but it is a quintessentially 80s vision of travel, that due to all of the changes we are all aware of, including the eclipse of exclusive Euro-American economic domination, can never be recaptured. It still very much informs my ideas when I dream about traveling however.
One of my missions in the upcoming months is to become familiar with more jazz, at least the more famous artists and pieces. I usually like it when I hear it in a restaurant or on a film soundtrack, but I haven't followed up. For one thing, as here, the individual cuts tend to be pretty long, and I am somewhat harried for time. But there is a spirit in it that I often like, so I have to try to carve out a space to immerse myself in some of this. This piece of course working off of the familiar Rogers and Hammerstein tune is a good starting point for me and my particular needs. These are not the greater society's needs and they certainly aren't any artist's needs, but I am fully outside of all of those kinds of discussions now for my own purposes. But I am out of time and this needs to go up now...

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Movies--Many Movies

I've fallen way behind on my movie notes. I have a list of thirty-seven that I haven't recorded here yet! I hardly remember a lot of them, naturally. I will go seven at a time, and put down any impressions that have stayed with me. I should also note that around the time these new lists start I tweaked my system to allow more recent movies to be included, since the main book I was relying on seized publication in 2007. I don't generally like the more recent movies but I'm not quite ready yet to give up everything current and escape into the past at every possible chance. I am now extra excited when an oldie comes up though.

Ironweed (1987)

I wouldn't have chosen to see this if it hadn't come up via the System, mostly because it stars 80s era Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep as alcoholic vagrants in depression era Albany, the idea of which, probably because of my age relative to them, has not traditionally appealed to me. It wasn't bad I guess, though it wasn't great either. Its depiction of how dreary being homeless in the long, dark, cold nights of the American Northeast would be was pretty accurate. Jack Nicholson, whom I found annoying most of my life, inhabits the role here well, I think. We all know about Meryl Streep and how remarkable she is. Her character dies in this (spoiler alert, sorry) and she has to play dead on screen for around five minutes, and I don't know that I have ever seen a more convincing portrayal of a dead person. It also illustrates an observation I have made elsewhere, the uncanny ability Meryl Streep has to always command your attention upon whatever awesome thing she is doing. Here she is just lying down, on a carpet I think playing dead, and all I can think about is her technique in portraying this dead person, whose character however I had forgotten about.

Tom Waits was in this too, perhaps not surprisingly as a fellow vagrant. I had not thought about him in years, though in this era he was something of a cultural touchstone, making several forays into acting. I found him mildly annoying at the time too because he was supposed to be cool, though you would only get that if you were a certain kind of person, which I was not. But now that he's been kind of forgotten and no one talks about him anymore I like him. He takes me back to that era.

Serpico (1973)

I had never seen this before--again, in my youth the themes would not have appealed--and while it has always had a decent reputation, I think seeing it now that it holds up really well. It has the whole gritty-New-York-in-the-70s vibe that was scary to live through but looks great on television 45 years later, but the story, about a policeman with a conscience taking on corruption in the NYPD that was apparently based on a true story that did not resolve in the exaltation of the honest cop and the disgrace of the crooked, seems daring to me. I don't feel like I have seen anything recent where some evil force in society that has not as yet been taken down has been confronted so directly and the exact nature of their crimes identified and demonstrated so clearly. This was directed by Sidney Lumet, who did not necessarily make the most lovable movies, but whose work I usually find to contain admirable aspects, even if I do so grudgingly.

There is a great scene shot on a hill overlooking the old Yankee Stadium from beyond center field, where the train tracks are. If you follow baseball at all of course you've seen the view looking out that direction from the stadium, but I had never seen it from that outside vantage, where in 1972-3 at least there was still a decent amount going on as far as traffic and street life. This would have been filmed before the 1974-75 renovation of the classic stadium too, which we still see intact.

Al Pacino's look in this was very early Springsteen-esque, which I have to assume was characteristic of the time. I at least don't see many people who look like that anymore. When I was a child I thought the era I lived in (this one) was nasty and terrible, and longed even then for some unknown past, but now of course I find I miss some of what has been lost since then--animated conversation, normal people and what seem to me normal business enterprises in cities come immediately to mind as examples from this movie.

Around the World in Eighty Days (2004)

This version starring Jackie Chan in the Passepartout role came up in my revised system because I had read the book (which I enjoyed), though the 1956 version, itself often maligned though it did win the Oscar for best picture, did not. This illustrates the risks of the open system, since I don't remember anything about that that was worth seeing. I had the impression that Jackie Chan was a mixture of comedian and action hero, but not here. Dreadful. Waste of money.

Read the book.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

Written by Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling and set in a 1930s New York version of the same magic universe--there is a hoity-toity American counterpart to Hogwarts, naturally--I actually liked this better than the Harry Potter movies I have seen. I'm sure this is because of the highly stylized retro setting, which apparently is supposed to be 1926, but it looked and felt more like the 30s to me. I remember thinking the women actresses in it were pleasantly attractive enough without being gratuitously 'hot', though you probably aren't supposed to remark on that. The plots of all these fantasy movies with their incredibly violent final battles don't make much of an impression on me, but this was engaging enough as a nostalgia piece.

L'Auberge Espanole (2002)

A French-Spanish joint production made during the heady days just after the introduction of the Euro and the true realization of the dream of the free movement of Europeans, especially young and relatively good-looking and educated ones, throughout the zone. The title refers to an apartment in Barcelona that is shared by about eight different post-graduate 20-somethings, all from different (Western) European countries. Seriously, there is a Frenchman, an English girl, a Dane, an Italian, a Spanish woman, probably a German. I didn't particularly like any of the characters in the house, all of whom spoke English with the arrogance peculiar to their particular nationality, but I enjoyed the movie because it was made not long after my own time being there and it was familiar to me. If I were dropped into this movie I would be able to function and get along very well right away. My children like to watch the TV show The Amazing Race and when the contestants are in these foreign cities everything seems so different now. People are doing everything with their phones of course, even buying metro tickets, and everything everywhere looks so crowded and expensive. In this movie eight people in an apartment are still sharing one telephone hung on a wall, and this is only sixteen years ago! (though I feel like some of the characters had cell phones). Third world immigrants are barely a presence at all in this film, apart from Africans getting Phds in economics. There are no Muslims at all, nor does there seem to be much consciousness of them. Relatively average looking young people are still a real threat to have sex, or try to have sex, if they have too much to drink or otherwise find themselves in a bawdy mood, which is an element that seems to be missing from more recent movies, where everyone is too interested in maintaining control, or at least the appearance of it. The movie spawned two sequels featuring several of the same characters, Russian Dolls (2005) and Chinese Puzzle (2013), which I have not seen, though I would be interested to see how they have incorporated the changes in the European scene into the newer films, since the early 2000s time capsule quality of the original is the most interesting thing about it to me.

I liked this chick the best. She didn't live in the house.

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

We do make it back in this set to a couple of old classics. Here of course we have the impressive lineup of Frank Capra directing and Cary Grant and Peter Lorre among others, including Raymond Massey. The story is implausible to say the least--the implausibility level is about the same as something like I Married a Witch, actually, but as you know I almost never watch movies for the story anymore. According to Wikipedia this was filmed way back in 1941, but was held back from release until the popular stage show from which it was adapted finished its run. Either way it has a good 40s ambience, good sets, etc. I like both the indoor and outdoor scenes, which are supposed to being taking place in Brooklyn, but which look like they belong in Connecticut, though the outdoor scenes have what is supposed to be the Manhattan skyline in the background. Somehow it works though. It's a nice little movie if you are into that kind of thing (basically a 1940s mainstream American idea of wackiness).

Hey Priscilla Lane. I liked her in this (romantically). Haven't seen her in much else.

I Love You Again (1940)

The first half hour of this screwball-esque comedy starring the classic Thin Man duo of William Powell and the ubiquitous Myrna Loy I thought was great, the best movie I had seen since maybe Rebecca. It couldn't keep up that torrid early pace, which was disappointing, but I still think it merits a high rating. The subject is one that I have seen in other old movies and that never fails to hold my attention, doubtless because I often fantasize about something of the sort happening to myself. A sententious, risk-averse, teetotaling prig, played by Powell, receives a blow to the head while on a cruise ship and wakes up with a completely different personality, roguish, witty, vigorous, and so on. His wife Myrna Loy, here still in her sexy 30-something persona, to be distinguished from the handsome, dignified, almost arch 40-something persona which she later inhabited, was bored out of her mind and in the process of drawing up the divorce papers before the accident, but needless to say gradually backed off from these legal activities as her husband's transformation into a completely irresponsible and even amoral person began to become apparent. In the end a minor favorite, especially in its genre.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

March Thoughts

This is supposed to be my monthly check-in, but once again I am going to use the occasion to try to finish something of a post I have been working on in one form or another for several months. I am always trying to figure out and write little commentaries on various of the issues that command the headlines and the passions of the rest of the populace, but being as it seems ever more self-absorbed I find that I don't care about most of these things very much one way or the other, apart from that almost everyone's position on these matters is about equally unsatisfactory to me. So I want to get at why I both don't have any strong opinion on most of these things, yet think everyone's else's opinions are unconvincing.

Guns! I've never had a gun nor had any experiences where I've regretted not having one, and I am nearly fifty years old and grew up in a time and in an area where violent crime rates were much higher than they are where I live now. Given current lifestyles and the number of children, and especially sons, that I have, the dangers of having any firearm in the home far outweigh those incurred by not having them. Likewise I am skeptical that there is a social good in allowing ordinary citizens to possess assault weapons that outweighs the unnecessary carnage that they inflict in these criminal types of mass shooting events. I am in general afraid of guns and other highly potent weapons and am attracted by the dream of a society that is effectively free of them. I am not however unswayed by the arguments that given their existence there is at least symbolically some imperative for men who would be free to have the capability and willingness to own and use them, and I don't like the idea of police and militaries being the only entities with access to these weapons, especially as they seem to be less and less responsive and subject to the will of the population than may have been the case formerly. I grant a personal handgun or rifle will not avail an individual man much against any kind of professional modern day force with a legal right to violence that has any determination to dominate him, however the symbolism of this right to self-defense and resistance has a sacred aspect to its adherents, a fervor that is no doubt exacerbated by the ongoing assaults on what is considered by many to be traditional masculinity. Many on the 'left' seem to consider the truth of this last assertion to be some combination of dubious, irrelevant, or pathetic, and perhaps it is, but since progressivism does not offer a particularly compelling vision of what it thinks manhood should consist of going forward and as it does not seem to recognize much in the way of limits where the transformation of the culture is concerned, it stands to reason that some portion of the population would gravitate towards guns as the point of resistance. Perhaps in the end the NRA and the pro-gun faction will be as deftly outmaneuvered as the forces of reaction have been in so many other arenas and will meekly submit in the face of progressive pressure without recourse to violent or dogged resistance. Something of the sort seems to have taken place in other countries, where surely some people must have relinquished their prerogative to bear arms with some reluctance...

Sexual Assault. I guess we have to say that whenever it happens it's really that bad, but is it really happening enough that colleges and other institutions have to adopt policies and take on attitudes that express a kind of blanket hostility towards heterosexual male behavior even when it is not explicitly sexual (my alma mater issued a statement on the subject recently which included issues like male domination of class discussion). It might be nice to hear some more input from women with a more positive experience of intersexual relations, which I believe there are some who exist; especially with regard to the college report, the place comes across as having been a total nightmare for women I guess since time immemorial, which is now to be corrected by enacting policies that at the very least operate under the assumption that men possessing even a hint of what used to be considered normal (non-criminal) masculine attitudes and behaviors are at their very best and most inadvertent potential problems that require strict governance. I don't think this can go on, at least in the sense that men are going to be willing forever onward to submit to the social position vis-a-vis their female peers that these kinds of policies impose on them. It's infantilizing and ridiculous, not the stands against actual assaults and rapes, obviously, but the seeming imperative to effectively neuter them and manage/dictate all interpersonal relations in what should be one of the most vital and expansive periods in life for those sorts of things  

Immigration. I go back and forth on this one because I generally like the pro-immigrant people better than the anti-immigrant people, and they are so deliriously in favor of ever more immigration and virtual open borders. I don't really understand why they feel this way so strongly, however. In my heart of hearts in the past at least my wishes generally trended in favor of less rather than more. The population of foreign-born in the U.S. now is well over 10%, which is about the same level it was when policy began more restrictive in the 1920s. By the 1960s the percentage was under 5%, and indications were that livelier people at least thought day to day existence was getting a little stale at that level, though from my vantage point it doesn't seem like it was that terrible. I have no doubt that there are specific environments and times of life, especially at higher levels of intellectual and artistic ferment, where the interplay of global-class talent is truly exhilarating, but for more regular people cut off from these worlds so much change tends stressful and destabilizing and alienating, especially when direct emotional or material benefits from all the changes are hard to perceive. Clearly a lot of people are definitely at this last stage now.

Universities. I see repeated often the idea that the main purpose of a university is to challenge people to wake up from their complacency and make them uncomfortable. Perhaps this has become the case, though my impression was that their primary function was to impart knowledge and instruct students in the processes and approaches to thinking which are characteristic of the most intelligent minds. Perhaps this includes actual moral and political indoctrination, though the idea is that the acquisition of the habits and basic learning of a liberal arts education will provoke the student to examine all of his attitudes and proclivities in the comfort at least of knowing he has some of the tools to do a decent job of it. Even if it is incorrect, having one's worldview exposed and ripped to shreds as a kind of sport with the expectation that, stripped intellectually naked before the world, the student must either submit to the new worldview ready-provided for him by his teacher or slink away in a kind of exile and disgrace, which sounds to me to be what a lot of people mean by insisting they need to make people uncomfortable, does not seem like an especially effective way to educate an undergraduate.

Trump Chaos.  It certainly seems like it must be very bad, but bear in mind people voted for this. The supposed competence of the Hilary Clintons and Mitt Romneys of the world, to be frank, has become a little terrifying to many people, who can see their lives in these kinds of expert hands being discovered to be not efficient or productive enough for the modern world and summarily disposed of. That said, the constant Trump chaos does seem like it must be really bad.

Friday, March 09, 2018

One More Time to Florida

As reported numerous times here, I went to Florida (finally) last week, which I badly needed, as dramatic as that sounds. I had spent much of the winter persuaded that I wouldn't be able to make this trip, or even that I was actually dying. I was convinced at one point that I might never throw the baseball around with my little boy again. It was absurd, but I really did feel these things. My wife, who has great sense, observed that I had evidently never known any discomfort in my life up to this point (which is largely true), but that everyone else had been dealing with it for years already and I really needed to get over myself, which helped me regain a little perspective. I know I need other goals at which to direct my energies going forward, though finding anything that interests me that much and is reasonably achievable has always been oddly challenging. But the trip was beautiful and even though it too belongs to the past now, it is yet the recent past, and the memory of those happy hours is not yet so remote as to be oppressive, for it gives hope that the upcoming summer may bring more times similar to those just passed.

This picture made me quite sad the day it was taken, which was our first day there and I had not shaken off my general depression or otherwise felt that great yet. This is at a place called Spanish Point where you walk around the grounds and there are some historic buildings and displays among the native flora (no palm trees). We had gone there what feels like many years ago when we just had the two older boys--I revisited a couple of sites I had been to in earlier days in the hopes that seeing them again with the current incarnation of the family might cheer me up, which it largely did--but when I first saw this picture my response was, oh, we have been coming here so long, and I look so old, and everybody is so big and everything will be coming to an end soon and there will never be any more happy times, etc, etc, all of which is probably not true, but it is how I felt. It is rare for us now to go anywhere with all four of the boys together. Maybe it will be one of the latter, if not last, times for that. My older daughter wasn't on this outing, but she went out for ice cream with her grandmother, so she still enjoyed herself.

My daughters in their matching bathing suits on the old back walkway returning from the beach. These pictures are really very nice, and I understand even when I am melancholy that I do not actually have at the moment any very serious, real problems compared to most people. I don't exactly know what has gotten into me of late, to the extent that it seems to have gotten into me.

#4 and #6 cavort among the flamingos at Sarasota Jungle Gardens. We go here almost every year because it is an especial favorite both of my 3rd son and my mother in law. It is a large zoolike park full of Florida animals. It strikes me as being an old-time Florida (i.e. pre-Disney) kind of attraction, so I am inclined to like it.

View of one of the gardens at Spanish Point, just for a sense of atmosphere.

Beach play on Siesta Key's famous white sand.

This is more Spanish Point. You can see there is something of a drowsy, old south or old Florida vibe about the layout, at least in this section.

The child is almost too precious for good taste, but I believe she will be able to overcome it.

More shenanigans at Jungle Gardens posing with the plastic alligator. It is not the most serious life perhaps but they are beautiful children really with reasonable intelligence and I have to think some society somewhere if not our own will have a place and use for their abilities and other better qualities. Why wouldn't there be such a place?

The youth eating an early dinner in the "condo".

And the contrast with the later meal, and a glimpse into the habits and perhaps mindset of the author of these blogs.

I'm really pouring on the pictures for this post. But I suspect most real people stopped visiting my site years ago, if any ever did, so what does it matter? This is at the Desoto National Memorial in Bradenton, near the site where the famous, if not especially competent, explorer and adventurer is supposed to have first landed in Florida on his doomed expedition hunting for gold across much of the southern U.S. We went here on our second to last day, by which time I was feeling much better in every way. We had also been here many years ago, which I will come back to later on. This place is really lovely, easy to take in but with some interesting things to see and it is also free, which is always attractive when you have a lot of people.

Sense of the nature at Desoto Park.

We stopped in at St John's on the way back, as we always do. Much of the world, including many of our own alumni, seems to be down on St John's now too. Either they lament the college has been a failure at turning out successful and influential graduates, or they want it to change and get more with the spirit of modern times where dead European males hog much less of the spotlight in the curriculum and living ones of European descent do the same in the life of the campus, or they fume that the current administration is too welcoming of "conservatives", Christians and homeschoolers (I know some families who fit various of these descriptions and the children seem to me to be fine young people, though libertarians are perhaps a different story. To me, if you can't stand the idea of being in the same room with a polite eighteen year old homeschooled Christian, maybe you have some problems of your own). At least this is the overwhelming impression I get from the (mostly childless) people who weigh in on the subject on social media. The place has its flaws and if I would not say that it failed me so much as that I failed myself in some respects, it is true that there were some qualities it claims its graduates to possess that I did not come out of it in possession of. However at the time it did a number of important things for me that admittedly the better sorts of students already had a grasp of when they arrived, but that I might never have gotten if I had not bothered to come and just continued drifting through life as I have largely done, the years at the college being something of an exception to this otherwise sad pattern. I understand that the school hopes its students and the other students hope their classmates will be something more than this, but I am grateful to have been able to get such good as I was able to get out of the experience, which was something to me at least. So I always find that my spirits are lifted by just dropping in on the campus even when no one is there. Of course maybe I wouldn't like it if I went when the students were actually there (it was Spring Break when I was there this time).

These next three are some random pictures from my phone on the last day, when it became cloudy.

My oldest boy.

View of the public beach on Siesta Key.

This was another "sad" picture. It came out a little dark. Here we are walking out of the Desoto Memorial park back to the car at the end of that visit. Just off to the left, not visible in the picture, is a small picnic area which we sat in and ate lunch on our previous visit when the boys had been three and two. My wife remembered that some kind of strange animal (not an alligator) had come out of the wood and invaded the picnic area when her babies had been sitting in it on that occasion. "And look at them now", she said, with this view before her.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Life With Six Children

This is supposed to be my monthly update, but I am going to continue on with a post I was already working on about having so many children. I've really been a basket case lately. Very sad all the time, overwhelmed with nostalgia, fear, anxiety. I suppose some of it can be laid on seasonal mood disorder, which has really begun to effect me in recent years, and some of it on the circumstance that I haven't felt that great since December when I had my kidney stone, but in truth a great deal of it is because I am really very happy, and I am suddenly overcome with terror that it is slipping away and that all these disasters are going to befall me, mostly financial in origin, but also now health-wise. that are going to rob me of my happy life with my children. Of course to some extent I have always felt this way. Looking back at 2005, or 2006 when I started this blog, I thought myself fairly plagued by misery, yet now I think of it as an impossibly happy and simple time, the golden years of my life. But I was very fearful of the future then as well, I never imagined I would have made it to at least 2018 without some catastrophe befalling me from which I would not be able to recover.

Part of this melancholy is tied up with my second son's finishing 8th grade this year. 8th grade seems to be a big milestone for me, I was also quite overwrought two years ago when my oldest son finished that year. Of course I am deeply moved at seeing them grow up, and also these schools, and paying for them, consume so much of your energy, they become your whole life almost. But I still have four more children to go, including a just-turned-three-year-old who hasn't started preschool yet. My life is hardly over. But the older ones do take me back to when I was younger and more energetic, and it's sad to see them get big. They are very unsentimental about these things themselves though. For people who only have one or two children, every grade they complete, every sport they finish playing or toy they outgrow, that's it, the end, forever. It must be unbearable. Or maybe they have ordinary adult lives and hobbies to return to or continue with. I really don't after 15 years of having babies in the house.

I am even sad that technological changes have made the tapes and DVDs that my older children watched obsolete. The younger ones watch everything through streaming.

One downside of having six children without being extremely wealthy is that I am probably not going to be able to leave them very much, and since I had them mostly later in life, I will likely die when the younger ones are still in their 30s and 40s at best. So they'll be on their own, which in today's world is a scary prospect. However, I still do believe, largely because I have to, that our culture and economic arrangements are going to improve from the near-dystopia that they are today. I would feel guilty about having brought them into the world only to doom them to a wretched, hopeless existence. But I don't think they fell that way yet, or have occasion to, though neither do I and I often do anyway.

When I hear people saying they don't want to have any children because of concern for the environment I think that they must really be hammering this into people's brains in college, and that it's too bad. The world, or at least my part of it, desperately needs young people, especially smart ones. The rapid aging of the population while the number of people under 30 or even 40 continues to shrink is really becoming visible in New England. My children and their sports and activities are probably keeping me from descending into total existential despair.

I could write so many more things here, and maybe I will sometime, but I determined that when I reached my time limit, I would publish what I have, so here it is.   

Monday, January 22, 2018

Trying a New Feature

On my other blog I started doing a monthly update a few years ago, mainly a record of what books I happen to be reading, in order to increase somewhat the number and frequency of posts there. I thought I would try something similar here, fifteen days or so apart. The idea here was that I would just write about something about the days themselves, in the hope of opening up my stifled mind and get it thinking (or at least seeming more alive) again. What one wants, of course, is for other minds to emerge that are receptive to the produce of one's own, and that one can be receptive to mentally in turn, which is an experience I have not had in a very long time. What material is there to work with though(?) I will start by going over my day yesterday, which was the 21st, the scheduled day for this report.

Woke up at 6am to take my 14 year old to a swim meet in White River Junction, Vermont, about an hour away. I don't mind this drive during the daytime, it is quiet and reassuring, and I always am happy to go to Vermont, even just over the border it is quainter and less up to date than New Hampshire. I have a hard time maintaining conversation with my older children now, the teenagers, they are not exactly sullen but they are content to be mostly quiet. I feel I should be imparting all kinds of advice and information to them about such things as I have any knowledge about, yet I don't seem to be able to do much of this. I think, for example, that I know more than or at least as much about colleges, in terms of how good they are/how smart the students at them are (and this still seems the most important thing to me), than most people do, yet I have not begun to expostulate on my theory of all of this yet, whereas at Christmas other relatives quite freely and naturally began to tell my oldest (a sophomore in high school) that it was time to start preparing for the process, and to ask him whether he wanted to stay in the area, what he wanted to study, whether he had any places he was interested in, which I hadn't begun to think of introducing yet, because I feel I don't have a clear enough idea of how advanced or talented a student he is. On the other hand these other people probably have a clearer understanding that the questions they asked better mirror the way life actually plays out if one is to be a part of it. I am nearly fifty and am still trying to figure out where exactly I slot in in the intelligence hierarchy (not highly, based on re-reading this post), what useful talents I might have had and which would have been fruitful for me to pursue, etc. So it likely that my helpfulness in this whole process for my children might not be of any great extent.

Swimming is not a sport that is in my background, plus I have many (other) children involved in endless sports and activities, so I am not as intense at the swim meets as many of the other parents are. Track, basketball, baseball are all sports I have played or followed so I have more of a sense of what a good time is, whether the coaching is any good, and so on. The atmosphere at the pools is probably good for my sanity, getting to rub elbows with adults (i.e. the other parents) who mostly have something on the ball, though it is very warm in most of the venues where the pools are and this makes me drowsy.

My son finished 4th and 5th in the events he was entered in, though he did not lower his time in his best event, which he needs to do by 2 seconds in order to qualify for some regional mega-meet in Massachusetts. He didn't want to linger around Vermont at all as he might have done in the old days, so we came home and were back by noon. My wife wanted to take the four younger children to the park to sled and ice skate. Originally I was going to rest at home but she decided she needed help so I went along too. The main park in our town actually has a historic marker which I stopped to read for the first time. The land was donated by one of the founders of the American Express Company. Another historical figure with associations to the park, though he was not named on the state sign, was hockey legend and alpha male Princeton classmate and alleged idol of F Scott Fitzgerald Hobey Baker, who founded a hockey tournament on the park's pond during his time at St Paul's Prep School that is still revived annually.

Then I went home and watched the end of the Patriots winning the AFC Championship game and then watched the Philadelphia Eagles, my childhood team which I supposed I must say, given the amount of time and thought I gave to them over the course of many years, I at one time at least loved as much as one loves any entity outside one's self, also advance to the Super Bowl, which they have still never won. This certainly looks like the best Eagles team of my lifetime....

I will stop now. This wasn't the worst thing I've ever written, I don't think (actually,...).

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Some Songs

I haven't done a song post in a while. "Lacking wit or originality" anymore as the expression goes, I offer with complete earnestness some of the tunes I have been firing up of late in idle moments.

Vance Joy--"Riptide"

I'll even start with a relatively contemporary one (2013). My eight year old son started taking guitar lessons last year, and this was the first song he learned to play that was recognizable. He has moved on from this and is actually pretty good for his age, but I have developed a fondness for this song whenever I hear it in the grocery store or wherever. Indeed I have come to think it's a great pop song, and I hear very little recent music that appeals at all. I like the retro style of the video as well.

Hugo Winterhalter--"Canadian Sunset"

Having paid some tribute to the current decade though, I have to retreat right away all the way back to 1954. The much-loved radio station I used to listen to on my drives around the old and lonely roads of New Hampshire before the entirety of its listenership with the exception of me finally died off was very strong in the neglected area of popular 50s era instrumentals, none of which I ever managed to learn the names of apart from a few movie themes. Even on satellite radio I cannot find a station that reliably plays these numbers. This one overall being my favorite I was able to track it down on the internet despite not knowing the title by trial and error. It evokes numerous images and memories for me, including my grandparents, lunch at old-fashioned roadside inns, the day after a snowstorm when the sun shines so brilliantly, the days when my oldest boys were little before they went to school and we went on day trips all over our area. A highly sentimental song.

Pat Boone--"Moody River"

Pat is a smarmy dork, but along with "Love Letters in the Sand", this belongs to my personal List of Shame, consisting of songs by crummy singers that I have always liked, though in the instance of the two Boone songs and the next one, I genuinely did not realize that the songs were performed by these inferior artists until I was past 40 years old! This also reminds me a lot of my grandparents, mainly of their dining room, into which the flicker and sounds of their television, which was always on, would eternally faintly penetrate from the adjacent living room with the sounds of programming such as this.

The Monkees--"A Little Bit You, A Little Bit Me"

Written by Neil Diamond as well for bonus schmaltz points, but a very catchy song. The Monkees in my childhood were one of those seemingly random phenomena that my father despised so vehemently that there was no question of ever admitting any aspect of their existence to have any possible redeeming quality whatsoever. This particular song somehow escaped my attention as being theirs until it turned up as part of the soundtrack on the video yearbook one of my children's classes put out.

Billy Joel--"Rosalinda's Eyes"

This one I knew all along was a Billy Joel song, so I have no excuse. I heard it at Rite Aid one afternoon when it was pitch dark at 4:30 and thought, this isn't that bad of a song, really. And this video is pretty cheerful.

Buddy Holly--"True Love Ways"

My current favorite Buddy Holly song. Wistful late 50s vintage Americana. Makes me think of leaning against a kitchen sink in front of a closed blind drinking a class of milk late at night after getting home from my last date with Phyllis before she called it off. Deep stuff.

Bob Welch--"Ebony Eyes"

Another forgotten song that seemed pretty great to me when I listened to it again, at least the first few times. Our society doesn't seem to be producing a lot of guys like Bob Welch, whether for good or ill. I would wager that he committed what would now be considered sexual harassment at some point in his life, though blissfully unaware of the fact, and thought of his actions as a "move" or something of that sort. The quality of the video is not great, but I recognize some of those late 70s type women whose mantra was something like "live fully in the moment now, become angry later". I don't know, the party looks fun comparative to what we can hope for in the present.

Jo Stafford--"Try to Remember the Kind of September"

Tribute video featuring the truly delectable Jeanne Crain and many of her wonderful underrated movies (Margie is an especial favorite). I don't necessarily want to be taken back, but I don't want to be taken completely away either.

Andy Williams--"Can't Get Used to Losing You"

Just because...To be honest there will be probably never be a hit song like this again.