Friday, March 31, 2017

- 30 -

My Boulder

Sisyphus, by Franz von Stuck

Although I had hoped to maintain the daily blogging in this space until at least May 19, the two-year anniversary of its launch, when it became clear that I could not reach that goal I decided I would settle for ending this Sisyphean project on the final day of March.

In the 682 entries I have published, counting this one, I have done my best
to stay true to the blog's stated purpose from the very first entry.

Whether I succeeded is not for me to judge, of course, but unlike my previous exercise in blogging I am not turning this one off. The site will remain "live" online, and its archives will be there for interested folks to read if they choose. At the very least, some might find the evolution of the blog's content and appearance amusing...

I might also try to implement a couple of enhancements I could never quite find the time to work on before. It has always bugged me a little that the Thought for the Day and various recommendation links do not "anchor" to the entries on particular dates. When you use the Archives to go back and read an entry from a year ago, for instance, the Thought you'll read is not the one that appeared that day, but rather the most recent one I've posted. Same with the Book, Video, and Music recommendations (although the "Until Next Time..." songs are embedded and don't have that problem). What I'd like to add here is an archive of Thoughts for the Day, and another for the various recommendations I've made in the nearly two years I've been doing this.
An index of all the musical artists and songs I've featured would also appeal to me.

I did find this project helpful in giving me an outlet for my desire to write, and that urge is deeply enough ingrained in me that I might actually return to blogging again, someday. If I do, though, it will not be a resumption of this particular project, which has run its course. That's why I chose "- 30 -" as the title today. Back during my days
as an ink-stained wretch writing for newspapers that was how you ended every submission, to let the copy editors know that there was no more to the story...

I know, I know...but at least we'll still be together, no matter what comes next...

One More Time...

When this blog began back on May 19, 2015 the very first song featured in this space was my hero Joe Bonamassa's "Asking Around for You," recorded live on May 4, 2009 at his Royal Albert Hall concert. The idea of revisiting the song again to serve as a sort of "bookend" appeals to me, especially since its lyrics are as poignant as ever given the circumstances of my life. (I also did the "bookend" thing with the Thought for the Day, featuring my writing hero Raymond Chandler today as I did on Day One.)

2013 was a watershed year in my life emotionally, and so it seems especially apt
to choose a rendition of the song recorded that year. In late March of 2013 Joe did
a series of shows in London that he called his "Tour de Force," four concerts on four different nights in one week at four different venues featuring four different backing bands and set lists. It was an amazing feat, and fortunately for his fans it was filmed and released on CD and DVD.

The show on March 27 was at Shepherd's Bush Empire, and the set list that night included "Asking Around for You," with Joe playing his signature Gibson ES 335.
This is the official concert video of that performance, from Joe's YouTube channel...

Thursday, March 30, 2017


The Other Side of the Cliché

One of the more durable clichés when it comes to dealing with life's slings and arrows is the familiar "light at the end of the tunnel" metaphor. Almost equally common is the tongue-in-cheek reminder that the light we are seeing may simply be an oncoming train.

In my own life at present, my concern isn't that the light is
a locomotive bearing down on me, but rather the fact that the light
is growing dimmer, no matter how fast I try to move toward it.

As it stands now, tomorrow's entry will be the last one for awhile, and possibly the last one period. I will try to explain the reasons for that in tomorrow's entry...

"So, what's the plan, then?"

Working on that...

Until Tomorrow...

Every song in my iTunes "Tearjerkers" playlist is guaranteed to have that effect on me, but even in such a collection of heart-tugging music there are a handful of songs that evoke that tearful response to a fare-thee-well. Today's featured song is one of that handful, and has spent some time at the very top of the list.

Country music artist Alan Jackson released his debut album Here In the Real World on February 27, 1990, barely a month before the birth of my son. Since my (now ex) wife liked this album a lot, it got played rather often in our home. For a period of time Jackson was probably her favorite artist, and that fondness colors my own feelings about his music even all these years later.

"Here In the Real World" was the second single release from the album, and began Jackson's string of 23 consecutive Top 5 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, including 14 that reached No. 1. At the time of its release, I thought that its theme of the contrast between fictional romance and real life's vicissitudes was a good one. It wasn't until my wife left me, though, that the full emotional impact of that metaphor took hold of me. In the weeks after she left, I probably listened to this song dozens of times, and cried buckets of tears.

The emotional situation I find myself in right now is different, but the feelings are much the same: If life were like the movies, I'd never be blue...

This is the official music video for the song, from Alan's VEVO channel...

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Looking Deeper

More From the Gallery

Back in the days when I decorated my classroom walls with fine art prints, I always had them arranged in a progression beginning with strongly representational works (beginning with something photo-realistic like this) and ending with extremely abstract paintings like today's featured work. The main purpose of that exercise was
to help illustrate a basic principle of how we first acquire and then master language. One of the most rewarding things a teacher ever sees is the look on a student's face when she/he takes in a new idea, and the conversations those paintings sparked were
a lot of fun as well...

Reactions to this particular painting were always strong either way. Sometimes, when a student would say that it "doesn't look like anything" I would flip the painting upside down. Abstract or not, doing that helped students see that the artist was trying to show them some particular thing, and that it actually did matter how the painting was oriented. It also helped when I explained that Kandinsky's title translated into English as "With and Against."

Mit und Gegen, Wassily Kandinsky

"You just like it because it's mostly red."

I will neither confirm nor deny the accuracy of that observation...

Until Next Time...

On March 29, 1943 Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou was born in Agria, in what was then Italian-occupied Greece during World War II. A child prodigy, he began composing his own music as early as age three, and went on to achieve considerable renown as a composer and performer under his professional name, Vangelis.

Electronic music of the sort Vangelis specializes in is not a big favorite of mine, but he did compose the score for 1981 Best Picture winner Chariots of Fire, one of my all-time favorite films. Vangelis took home the Oscar for Best Original Score, and the popular soundtrack album spent four weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 as well.

Three selections from the album are in my "Tearjerkers" iTunes playlist, but as it happens "Abraham's Theme" is not one of them. I chose it today because it reminds me of one of the film's lead characters, who overcomes adversity and self-doubt to find both ultimate victory and true love as well. Well done, Mr. Abrahams...

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


Morning Light

When you've been as miserable both physically and emotionally as I've been over the past two weeks, even the tiniest bit of improvement is most welcome. My nasty flu-like symptoms stubbornly linger on, but this morning they seem to have diminished a bit. And for the first time in nearly a week I see a glimmer of hope on the emotional front as well, like the first faint ray of sunshine on the horizon after a very long, dark night. It might turn out to be illusory, but for now I'll take whatever I can get...

As I try to keep the daily blog entries coming until at least the two-year anniversary, one thing I plan to do is to share some bits and pieces of my life that are much on my mind these days. Of late, for instance, I have had reason to reflect on the various physical spaces that were my classrooms during my teaching career. In particular,
I've been reflecting on the change I made a few years back from the usual motivational posters to fine art prints to adorn my classroom walls. It was one of my better ideas,
as those works of art provided a rich supply of teachable moments with the kids.

During however much time the blog turns out to have left, I will occasionally share some of those paintings here when they happen to tie in to what is going on with me right now. Apropos of the "morning light" metaphor, for example, is one of the coolest sunrise paintings I own. It was always a favorite of my students (who were quite fond of the Impressionist school of painting), and is such a well-known exemplar of that style that it is currently featured on that school's Wikipedia page...

Impression: Sunrise, by Claude Monet

"Is that a whiff of optimism I'm smelling?"

With a nose like yours, who can tell?

Until Next Time...

On March 28, 1903 Rudolf Serkin was born in Cheb (aka Eger), in what was then known as Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). A true child prodigy on piano, Serkin made his first public concert appearance when he was only 12.

Serkin first came to my attention thanks to my fondness for Beethoven, as he is regarded as one of the premier interpreters of the maestro's music of the 20th century. As I have noted in this space on several occasions, Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 (aka the Emperor Concerto) is my favorite single work of the classical canon, and Serkin recorded it several times with various major orchestras and conductors. Today I'm featuring one of those recordings, a cherished favorite of my own collection.

This is Serkin masterfully navigating the concerto's gorgeous second movement (Adagio un poco moto), a nocturne that has always had a remarkable calming effect
on me, from the sublime recording he made with Eugene Ormandy and the splendid Philadelphia Orchestra in 1953, the year of my birth...

Monday, March 27, 2017


Must This Show Go On?

My life has been
a difficult struggle lately, and today gives me one more reason
to be gloomy...

It is World Theatre Day, a celebration of the theatrical arts, but also a reminder of how much I miss teaching and directing...

"You got to do it 28 times, though, and changed those kids' lives in the process."

I know...I just wasn't quite ready to let it go, though...


Sometimes the only real way to adequately explain my screwed-up life is by referencing beloved cartoon characters from my childhood, so bear with me...
"Sorry, Shu, but the WABAC Machine was fictional."

In my own mind I am Mr. Peabody, the smartest person around, someone whose problem-solving ideas never fail to work out splendidly, even if they sometimes occur to him barely
in the nick of time...

"Have you tried Acme's online catalog for ideas?"

...while the reality is I'm usually more Wile E. Coyote, who considers himself
a Super Genius but whose harebrained schemes invariably end in disaster...

Visual depiction of how my "brilliant" plan for March 9 worked out...

"Looks painful."

Old friend, in this instance you truly have no idea how painful...

Until Next Time...

A lot of the songs in my "Tearjerkers" iTunes playlist are there simply because the artist's voice tugs on my heartstrings, or because there is a bit of mournful guitar
or violin or piano that seems especially poignant, or because the lyrics speak to some particular flavor of emotional pain I happen to be experiencing. And then there are
a handful of songs that irresistibly combine all three factors.

I first heard country artist Vince Gill's heart-rending "Tryin' To Get Over You"
in early 1994, during a period of my life when both my spouse and the car dealership where I was working played country music pretty much nonstop. It was the fourth single from Vince's multi-platinum smash album I Still Believe In You to reach No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, and his first-ever single to crack the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart, establishing his crossover appeal beyond the country audience.

Vince has one of the best singing voices in American popular music, regardless of genre, and he is also one of my favorite guitar slingers (in no small part because he excels at of the sort of understated, soulful playing he exhibits here), but the clincher
is the song's lyrics, which made it one of my wallowing favorites when my marriage unraveled in 1995. These words are not so literally appropriate now as they were then, but metaphorically they perfectly fit my present emotional state. I don't want to reach the fatalistic conclusion Vince reaches, but "stiff upper lip" stoicism has gotten harder to manage as I have grown older.

This is the official music video for the song, from Vince's VEVO channel...

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Tristis Corde

Status: Unchanged

Still sick, and sick at heart...

Requiescat In Pace

On March 26, 1827 composer Ludwig van Beethoven died at his home in Vienna at age 56.

The maestro's health had been failing for some long time late in his life, though this did not prevent him from composing some of his greatest works, including the peerless Symphony No. 9 and the sublime Diabelli Variations.

There is considerable controversy about the actual cause of his death, but his funeral in Vienna was attended by tens of thousands of people. Among those leading the funeral procession were Franz Schubert and Beethoven's former pupil Carl Czerny.

"Proof positive that even a curmudgeon can be beloved."

They loved his music, not so much the man himself...and he was more grouch than curmudgeon anyway...

Until Next Time...

Somewhat uniquely among the greatest composers of classical music, Beethoven
wrote relatively little sacred music in his career. What he did write in the genre was outstanding, though, as one might expect from such a genius. Although Beethoven's Mass in C major, Op. 86 is not so well known, popular, or frequently performed as the magnificent Missa solemnis in D major, Op. 123, I have always found its unabashedly emotional style to be joyful and inspiring, something which certainly offers me some much-needed comfort at this juncture of my life.

This live performance of the Mass's "Kyrie" by the UCLA Chorale and Philharmonia, joined by the Angeles Chorale, was filmed on June 7, 2014 at the splendid Royce Hall on the UCLA campus...

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Soggy Saturday

So, How Am I Doing These Days?

Not great, to be honest with is cold and rainy here in the Bluffs again this morning, which isn't doing anything good for my flu-like symptoms...and as for my ongoing emotional end in sight...

Heartbreak Hotel, by Jack Vettriano

"You quit smoking almost four years ago..."

It's a painting, doofus...metaphor much?

Feast Day

Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, by Augustine Pichot
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation, marking the occasion of the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, at which time he informed her that she was to be the mother of Jesus Christ.

Although March 25 is the customary date (at one point Catholics during the Middle Ages assigned it as the start of the calendar year), this feast is not permitted to fall on a Sunday, or during Holy Week
or on Easter.

When that happens (as it did just last year), the Annunciation feast is moved to the Monday following the Octave of Easter.

"Any chance Mary might be able to help with your current crisis?"

I've told you before...that isn't how supplication works...and even if my pals Aristotle and Aquinas would call what I want to pray for "right desire" (an open question),
my failure was so comprehensive that even a novena most likely wouldn't be enough
to undo it...

Until Next Time...

Ave Maris Stella originated as a plainsong chant in the 8th century, and since that time it has grown into one of the most popular Marian hymns. It is commonly sung
in both devotional and liturgical services, and has received musical settings from
a who's who of noted composers including Victoria, Palestrina, Monteverdi, Dvořák, and Liszt, among others.

This performance of Edvard Grieg's setting by the Latvian Voices ensemble was filmed live at the Tolosa Choral Contest in 2012...

Friday, March 24, 2017

Cruel Fate, or Nah?

Thank Atropos It's Friday!

"This is how it's supposed to be. Says so right here in my book, fool."

The Wrong Fork

Officially, the Catholic Church believes both in predestination (what some people
call Fate), and in free will. Regarding the alleged incompatibility of those beliefs, I have always been a Thomist, which means I don't believe the loss I have recently suffered was brought about by anything other than my own errors. As has been the case with previous mistakes of this kind, the path I should have chosen is now clear to me. But as has also been the case with those previous heartbreaks, I shall not be allowed a second opportunity to choose.

My current misery is not "fate," but a product of my own catastrophically defective judgment at a critical moment...

"You can only control so much of what happens in life..."

'Control' isn't the point...this disastrous turn of events is entirely my fault...

Make Up Your Mind

From the inimitable comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson, sadly missed in my daily morning reading.

Until Next Time...

There was a fair amount of silliness in the '60s concerning the role of Fate (or Destiny) in human affairs. I knew a large number of people who were deeply into astrology in those days, for instance, and since a couple of them were cute girls I desired to date,
I sometimes pretended I bought into that nonsense as well. It was also the age of Carlos Castaneda, Timothy Leary, and others arguing for the use of drugs to achieve
a higher level of consciousness, discover hidden dimensions, etc. I never indulged in drugs (aside from alcohol), and I much preferred Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas
to the best-sellers of the day like Alan Watts and Erich von Däniken.

As silly as the '60s were, they did produce some of my all-time favorite music, and as the blog winds down you may expect to see some more of my favorites from that era squeezed in under the wire. The true gems of that time period are as much a part of who I am as anything else about me.

One of those '60s gems is "Time Has Come Today," by the "psychedelic" soul-rock fusion group The Chambers Brothers. Released in December 1967, it was their biggest chart success, reaching No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and driving sales of the band's album The Time Has Come to No. 4 on the Billboard 200. The full-length version featured here was only played on FM stations, of course, but edited versions were all over Top 40 radio at the time. Since then, the song has been featured in dozens of movies and TV programs, including an episode of Supernatural, one of my all-time favorite shows. Here the music is paired with a video montage of the band and some weird visual effects typical of the era.

Musical nostalgia aside, the song's lyrics are also on point for me right now, especially the lines about being "put aside" and "crushed by the tumbling tide"...

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Abyss Beckons

Communication Breakdown

The past couple of weeks have been horrible for me both physically and emotionally, and the major cause of the deepening crisis has been my abject failure to communicate my thoughts and feelings clearly when it counted the most...

How I imagine my communication skills functioning to help me solve problems...

...versus where they actually get me in critical, life-changing crises.

"Funny, but he 'actually' lives through that experience."

He doesn't, as a matter of fact...he dies, then is resurrected...that point is made quite explicitly in the book, but gets glossed over in the any event, what has died in this instance will not be resurrected...hence my present state of anguish...

Until Next Time...

Even for people like me who have read the books a number of times, Gandalf's plunge into the abyss from Durin's Bridge at Khazad-dûm is an undeniably powerful moment in Peter Jackson's 2001 film of The Fellowship of the Ring.

Canadian composer Howard Shore won the Academy Award for Best Original Score for the film, and his use of the London Voices in the aftermath of Gandalf's fall beautifully captures the sense of bereavement and helplessness felt by the remaining members of the Fellowship. As it happens, those are emotions with which I have been grappling for a couple of weeks now...

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

My (Very, VERY) Bad

Selva Oscura

At the outset of Inferno, poet Dante Alighieri famously relates how he found himself "astray in a dark wood," called "The Dark Wood of Error" in most English translations. Unlike Dante, however, I now have a pretty good idea of just how I wound up in that same dark, forbidding place...and those grievous errors are entirely my own doing...

"He found his way out again though, right?"

Yes...but he had help, and there shall be none forthcoming for me...

Until Next Time...

There are only a handful of musical artists who have more than one song in my iTunes "Tearjerkers" playlist. Legendary blues-rock icon Bonnie Raitt is one of them, chiefly because her live album Road Tested was released in the fall of 1995, a time when my marriage was ending and my career as a play director was beginning. I listened to it pretty obsessively at the time, and selections from it still get regular listens on various of my iTunes playlist, not just in "Tearjerkers." It remains one of my all-time favorite live recordings.

The album featured performances of several recent Raitt hits from her multi-platinum-selling albums Nick of Time (Raitt's first Billboard 200 No. 1 album), Luck of the Draw (peaked at No. 2), and Longing in Their Hearts (also a No. 1). Those albums account for the bulk of Raitt's eleven Grammy Awards, and her biggest Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart successes.

At the time Road Tested was released, the song which hit me the hardest emotionally
was "I Can't Make You Love Me," written for Raitt by former Penn State football star and Cincinnati Bengal Pro Bowler Mike Reid along with songwriter Allen Shamblin. The studio album version of the song reached No. 18 on the Hot 100, Raitt's second-highest ever placement on that chart.

The helplessness I felt as my marriage was ending is perfectly captured by the the song's yearning lyrics, which also speak to the sense of helplessness and loss that
I am currently feeling as well...

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


If Only...

George Pal's famous creation for The Time Machine (1960)

"You wouldn't actually risk taking a ride in something like that, would you?"
Like most people who have deep regrets, I would certainly think long and hard about doing so, yes...even though it is, at root, a selfish impulse...

Until Next Time...

Songs in my iTunes "Tearjerkers" playlist wind up there for a variety of reasons, mostly having to do with the resonance of the lyrics with difficult emotional periods of my life. It helps if the artist is a favorite, too. The versatile singer-actress Kathleen "Bird" York had long been a favorite of mine, in no small part because of her work on the TV series The West Wing, when I moved from St. Joseph to Atlantic in 2004. It was during that stressful period of my life that I first heard the York song that is today's send-off.

"In the Deep," written for the 2005 Best Picture winner Crash, was itself nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and York (the song's co-writer) performed it live at that year's Oscars. It was also used in an episode of House, M.D., one of my all-time favorite TV shows. Because I so strongly associated the song with my move to Atlantic, I used it as intermission music for The Late Great Me, my final play production there. The song's lyrics were appropriate to that play's story line, and they also aptly describe my current life circumstances...

Monday, March 20, 2017

Sick and All Done In...

...Standin' in the Rain

Man in the Rain at Night, by Ignace Kennis

"It has been a rough 10 days, but it's going to get better, isn't it?"

Every indication is that it won't, actually...sorry, old friend...

Until Next Time...

One of the lessons I keep having to re-learn is just how cruelly ironic the universe can be sometimes. My current calamitous physical and emotional state is a direct result of my attendance at a show last Thursday in Des Moines by my hero Joe Bonamassa. Had I simply skipped the show and stayed home that night, I would not have gotten sick and I would not have made the mistake which has cost me the most precious thing in my life, a loss which now has me at rock-bottom...

In 1978 the multi-talented Tim Curry released Read My Lips, an album of covers ranging from 
The Beatles to Irving Berlin. One of the songs on the album was his rendition of "Sloe Gin," written 
by Bob Ezrin (the album's producer) and Michael Kamen. The album was not especially successful and before long Curry would decide to focus on his acting career, but good songs have a way of living on.

In 2007 Bonamassa released a cover of the song on his Sloe Gin album, and it quickly became a fan favorite and a staple of Joe's live performances. The rendition from his 2009 Royal Albert Hall concert includes one of his most searing guitar solos, but I also enjoy Joe's softer, more melancholy rendition from his acoustic show recorded at the Vienna Opera House in 2013. The song's lyrics perfectly capture how I'm feeling today...

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Fade to Black...

Going Dark

Turns out my life situation was even more dire than I had thought, and I'm going to have to give up writing in this space every day. There will be new daily images and music posted for a little while longer, while I figure out what to write for the curtain call (sort of hoping I make it to May 19, the blog's two-year anniversary), but in the meantime, thank you for your attention...

Requiescat In Pace...

Berry with his Gibson ES 350T in 1957

Yesterday was basically a relentless barrage of bad news, one gut-wrenching event after another. Haven't had a day like that in quite some time...

Just when I thought my Saturday couldn't get any worse, late last evening I heard of the death of the legendary Chuck Berry.

If you don't know who Chuck Berry was, nothing I say here will matter to you, and if you do know who he was you don't need me to tell you what a tremendous loss this is to those of us who love rock and roll music.

All of the awards and accolades aside, Berry was that rarest of artists in any medium: Someone whose work actually changed the world for the better.

Yesterday was the ugliest day in a week full of them...

Until Next Time...

Chuck Berry was such a gifted and prolific songwriter that he is one of the few artists for whom the term "signature song" has little usefulness. For all intents and purposes, virtually his entire catalog of songs is Berry's signature. Six of his songs can be found on Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list, for instance.

That said, of course his passing calls to mind his 1958 Top 10 hit "Johnny B. Goode," the song guitarist George Thorogood calls "the Rock and Roll National Anthem."
The song was chosen for inclusion in both the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and places high on every list of greatest rock and roll songs, greatest guitar songs, etc. It was the only rock and roll song included as part of the famous Voyager Golden Record carried by both of the Voyager spacecraft that were launched back in 1977.

It is also one of the few songs which has appeared in this space on more than one occasion. Since today's blog is announcing Chuck's departure (as well as my own,
in a manner of speaking), I'm inclined to feature the sequel, "Bye Bye Johnny," which tells the story of how Johnny's mother scrimped and saved until she could afford to send him to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune...

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Pardon the Interruption


Between the ravages of the physical ailments and the heartbreak I'm experiencing right now, I really don't feel much like writing today, and probably won't feel much like it tomorrow, either.

If you go back and read this blog's first entry, it is quite possible that I have already more or less accomplished my stated purpose anyway.

I've written and published not quite two years worth
of daily glimpses into me, my life, and how my mind works, all of it still readable via the handy Blog Archive in the right-hand sidebar.

If all of that hasn't been enough to satisfy any potential future spelunkers of my life,
it is not clear to me what else there is to tell. And until I figure out an answer to that question, there are some more pressing matters requiring my attention...

"Giving up" isn't the best description, but I'm afraid there isn't much fight left in me...

The Way of the World

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

Until Next Time...

One of the nice things about my "Tearjerkers" iTunes playlist is that it has grown
so large over the years there's a song in it which is perfect for just about every sad occasion one can imagine.

Today's send-off is perfect for the way I feel right now, that's for sure. Can't really recall any other song on which Linda's voice sounds so wounded, so anguished...

Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Patrick's Day 2017

Thank Airmed It's Friday!

"No, there are no healing herbs that can remove your pain. Sorry."

Melancholy, Baby...

Countryside near Galway

I'm another year older, meaning it has become yet more unlikely that I'll ever have the opportunity to actually visit Ireland. What makes me sad about that is that it is due almost entirely to my own foolish reluctance to fly, which has only recently gone into remission.

I'm also melancholy today because March 17 is my mother's birthday (there is surely no cooler birth date to have for someone as Irish as my mom). She's been gone nearly 21 years now, and there isn't a single day that goes by when I don't miss her. It is a source of great sadness to me that she died before digital cameras and smartphones were a part of my life. I do not own a single picture of her, digital or conventional...

"Do you think she could cheer you up if she were here?" the very least, she would have some good advice about how I might try to fix the problem...and merely talking with her about it might just give me the courage
I need to face the situation...

Feast Day

Statue at Hill of Tara, in County Meath, Ireland
Even non-Catholics know that St. Patrick, whose feast we celebrate today, is the patron of Ireland. Not many know that
he was not, in fact, Irish. He was born in Roman Britain in 387 A.D.

Patrick spent six years in captivity in Ireland after being taken as a slave by Irish raiders when he was 14 years old. Upon being reunited with his family back in Britain, Patrick had a vision which led him to study for the priesthood.

In 433 he was ordained a bishop and sent to Ireland to carry the gospel there, a task at which he excelled. He is commonly portrayed holding a shamrock because he famously used one to illustrate the concept of the Holy Trinity.

On March 17, 461 after nearly thirty years of service to the faith, Patrick died at Saul (where he had built the first Irish church). He is buried on the grounds of the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, also known as Down Cathedral, in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland.

Baking Therapy

I am still miserably sick this morning, so it seems unlikely that
I will be enjoying my traditional Guinness or Redbreast today.

If I feel up to it later on, though,
I am hopeful of trying an Irish soda bread recipe published recently by Elizabeth Scalia, a noted Catholic author and blogger.

This recipe has gotten some rave reviews from people I respect, and it seems simple enough that even I can manage. None of the grocery store bakeries in my area seem
to have a clue about how to make proper Irish soda bread, so perhaps it is time I took matters into my own culinary hands. There will be photos in tomorrow's entry if I'm able to accomplish the task...

"Save some for me!"

You don't even have teeth, dummy...

You Got a Problem With That?

From the pen of John Wagner, whose Maxine is a best-selling character for Hallmark.

Until Next Time...

Growing up in a large Irish family there was always plenty of Irish music being played on special occasions, especially St. Patrick's Day. Over the years I have amassed quite
a collection of such musical artists and groups myself, but I'm always on the lookout for new material. I often make pleasant discoveries of this kind when doing searches for a particular Irish song on Amazon.

One relatively recent discovery
is Irish folk group The High Kings,
an ensemble formed in 2008 which has released a handful of highly acclaimed recordings, including three which placed No.3 or higher on Billboard's World Music charts.

Their eponymous debut album in 2008 was a deft blend of original material and traditional Gaelic songs. All four members of the group are accomplished musicians, but their vocal harmonies are the real treat for me.

One of my favorites on the album is the Irish folk song "Ar Éireann Ní Neosainn Cé hÍ," traditionally sung first in Gaelic and then in English. Since it is a song about a romantic relationship that "never could be," and someone who "vanished forever" from the singer's life, it is hitting me like 
a wrecking ball right now.

Today's send-off is the quartet's achingly beautiful rendition of the song, from their YouTube channel. Enjoy...

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Tip-Off Thursday


Painting by József Rippl-Rónai (1891)
Today's entry is going to be a bit on the thin side, content-wise.

My ongoing illness continues to sap my energy, kill my desire
to eat, and make even the simplest tasks laborious and painful.

As usual, medication is fighting a losing battle against these symptoms, which won't end until the disease has actually run its course. We're in Day Seven since the onset
of serious symptoms, so I am hopeful the end will come soon.

As for the concomitant depression I've been battling over the same time frame, now that a week has passed it has become clear to me that the blunder which plunged me into this particular pit cannot be undone. That realization would be cause for despair even if I were in perfect health. Since I am not...

"Come on, now, it can't be as bad as all that."

It is every bit as bad as all have no idea...

Zero for Two

"Sometimes you zot, sometimes you get zotted."

The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament begins in earnest today, but there was some college basketball played last night. My rooting interests didn't fare well.

Providence, the only Catholic institution playing Wednesday night (both the CBI and the CIT fly beneath my radar), did not become the twelfth Catholic school in the NCAA Tournament field of 64, losing 75-71 to USC in their First Four match-up even though they held a 17-point lead in the second half.

And as for my wingman's beloved UC Irvine Anteaters, they lost to Illinois State 85-71 in opening round of the NIT.

"One and done. Bummer."

Disappointing, I know...but they had a winning record, won their league's regular-season championship outright, and made it to the post-season...that's a pretty good season by any reckoning...


A pair of world travelers

On March 16, 1521 the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan reached the island of Homonhon. In doing so, Magellan and his crew became the first Europeans known to have reached the Philippines.

The only reason that historical tidbit rates a mention here is because it reminds me that my hero Joe Bonamassa is playing his 1959 Gibson Les Paul guitar named "Magellan" on his current tour, the first time it has gone on the road with him since 2014. The famous "burst" got its name from the fact that it has traveled all over the world with Joe.

The guitar sounds great, and while I have heard it on numerous recordings I'm glad
I finally got to see it live on stage in Des Moines last Thursday night.

Pro Tip: The Proper Stance is Key

From the classic comic strip Peanuts, by the late Charles M. Schulz, sorely missed...

Until Next Time...

In this space yesterday I mentioned that the HBO TV series Rome was one of my summer binge-watching favorites. Another favorite is the FX network series Justified, which is a strong contender for my favorite TV show of all time.

Fanboy poster hanging in my bedroom
One of the show's sublime pleasures was
its use of music, which deftly blended scoring by Steve Porcaro with an eclectic mix of country, blues, rock, and bluegrass tunes suited to particular episodes.

The Emmy-nominated opening theme, "Long Hard Times To Come," set the musical tone for the show. It was performed by Gangstagrass, an offbeat but compelling combination of the hip-hop and bluegrass genres. I also loved the song's lyrics.

Other than its theme, the song most closely associated with the show was the elegiac "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive." This song was played at the end of every season finale episode except for Season 3.

The producers used recordings by Brad Paisley (Seasons 1 and 2), Dave Alvin
(Season 4), the Ruby Friedman Orchestra (Season 5), and the song's own composer Darrell Scott (Season 6, the series finale).

Although I enjoy all of those versions, for me the rendition that comes closest to capturing the song's spirit is one recorded by country music artist Patty Loveless for her 2001 Mountain Soul album. The song's lyrics are a reflection on how we live our lives trapped by our circumstances and life choices, a theme which is much on my mind at the moment. Patty's bluegrass-inflected version does a fine job of conveying that sense of mournful resignation...

Today's send-off was never actually used on the show, but it easily could have been. Enjoy...