Saturday, May 7, 2016


Mr. Railfan's Neighborhood

"Let me sing you the song of my people!"
The train tracks just across the street on the north side of my apartment have been a bit busier than usual of late, with Burlington Northern Santa Fe locomotives hauling eastbound in the morning and traveling westbound later in the day. I hear their horns many times throughout the day and night, which I actually enjoy.

There is also trackage on the south side of my apartment, just to the south of
Interstate 80. I often hear locomotives traveling on that track also, but rarely see them.

More often than not, when I do catch a glimpse of trains running on those tracks while I'm out walking it is the distinctive black and red of Iowa Interstate Railroad, like the GE ES44ACs in this picture.

Baseball Blues

Alex Gordon's 9th inning RBI single broke the shutout
There hasn't been a lot of writing in the blog about baseball recently, because it is my custom to skip writing about my beloved Kansas City Royals the day after they lose a game. They have been losing an awful lot of games, lately, including last night's 7-1 blowout road loss to the Cleveland Indians. The Royals didn't score until one out in the 9th inning.

In fact, since my friend Skip and I watched them beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-1 on
April 24 at Kauffman Stadium, running their record to 12-6, the team has gone into a tailspin. They have lost 8 of their last 10 games, and have dropped to third place in the Central Division, 5 games behind the Chicago White Sox.

In most of those games, the Royals weren't even competitive, losing by scores like 6-1, 9-4, 6-0, 13-2, and last night's 7-1. If they hadn't pulled off an improbable 4-run rally in the bottom of the 9th against Washington on Tuesday night, they would only have a single win since that April 24 game Skip and I attended.

During this dismal stretch, the Royals have not been scoring, and were shut out three times in a four-game stretch. They barely avoided another shutout loss last night.

It isn't difficult to figure out what the problem is: The team's pitching is just average (they are 7th in the league in ERA, and their 3.84 team ERA is exactly league average), while the offense ranks dead last, having scored only 91 runs in 28 games (3.25 runs per game). They are currently 24 runs worse than the average American League offense. Mediocre pitching and the league's worst offense may not be the team's destiny this season, but the Royals are certainly giving their fans reasons for pessimism...

"Reasons? Since when do you need reasons to be pessimistic?"
Shut it, quadruped...

Derby Day

Kentucky Derby favorite Nyquist gets a bath
Sports are one of the avenues
I use to keep my mind off of the dumpster fire that is the 2016 presidential election campaign.

One of sport's most-watched events, the Kentucky Derby, takes place this afternoon. My favorite part of thoroughbred horse racing is that
I can skip all of the pre-race hoopla and just watch the race itself, which only takes a couple of minutes.

(It is not for nothing that the Kentucky Derby bills itself as "the most exciting two minutes in sports," after all.)

As always, I don't care who wins the "Run For the Roses" so long as it is a good, close race and none of the horses get hurt.

Everyone Should Have a Hobby

From the wry webcomic xkcd, by Randall Munroe, which you should read every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, as I do.


"Shu is almost as sexy as I am. Almost."

The crush of attractive women wanting to date me because of Rose Red has not begun yet, so
I have plenty of time to read and respond to your comments.

Agree or disagree, I'd love to hear from you! And you're also invited to follow my wingman on Twitter: @LuckyEatAnter.

Until Next Time...

No one who reads this blog with any regularity can have missed my fondness for the music of Ludwig van Beethoven. My students certainly can attest to it, as they heard quite a bit of it during their free-writing periods over the years. I also used a few Beethoven pieces for intermission or incidental music in plays I directed of which they were a part.

Since the music selected for this section of the blog more often than not has some connection to that entry's particular date on the calendar, I always have my eye out for opportunities to share some Beethoven. Today, happily, I can share one of his most beloved works, thought by many to be his greatest achievement.

On May 7, 1824 the maestro's Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 had its premiere
at the prestigious Theater am Kärntnertor in Vienna. It required the largest orchestra Beethoven ever assembled, including the theater's house orchestra, the local music society, and some talented amateur players. It was also the first instance of a major composer using voices in a symphony, which meant a chorus and vocal soloists were employed as well.

The premiere was a major success for Beethoven, and the 9th Symphony went on
to become one of the best-known and most-celebrated works in the entire classical repertoire.

I don't collect this symphony nearly as obsessively as some people I know, but
I have owned more than a few recordings of it in my life. The best of them all by far is the 1991 recording by Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Chicago Symphony Chorus.

This marvelous recording will celebrate
it's 25th Anniversary next Saturday
(it was released May 14, 1991), which is a long time for any classical recording to sit at the top of the mountain.

The orchestra performs magnificently for Solti, as they did so often, but the real stars may be the chorus and vocal soloists. To be honest, the choral finale in the 4th movement is usually the weakest part of most recordings. That certainly isn't the case with this performance (you can listen to its 4th movement here). If you're not moved to tears by that gorgeous singing, well...

Today's send-off is a simply amazing "flash mob" performance of a portion of the symphony's "Ode to Joy" choral finale by the Orquestra Simfònica del Vallès. It was filmed on May 19, 2012 on the Plaça de Sant Roc in the orchestra's hometown of Sabadell, Spain. Enjoy...and feel free to join me in shedding joyful tears at seeing the audience's reaction to this magnificent music...

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