Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Ides of March 2017

Did I Not Ask Nicely Enough?

Yesterday's section on my health status bore the subtle heading
"Just Shoot Me Now," and the past 24 hours have not shaken my view that that might be my best hope.

Yesterday I tried adding some
new (and supposedly more potent) medicines to the mix, with barely noticeable effect on my symptoms.

I know that these kinds of illnesses typically take awhile to run their course, but that doesn't make me any less miserable.

As for the emotional turmoil resulting from my own stupidity and thoughtlessness last Thursday, it remains ongoing and is showing every sign of being irremediable. If I'm right about that, I honestly don't know what I'll do...

"You're really starting to worry me, you know?"

Care to trade places? Yeah, didn't think so...

Videte Idibus Martiis

The famed Tusculum Bust
On March 15, 44 BC Gaius Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in the Theatre of Pompey by a group of conspirators famously led by Caesar's good friend Marcus Junius Brutus.

Caesar's death is one of the best-known and most frequently portrayed stories from antiquity. It was the basis for Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, which I taught many times in my career. That play served as the basis for the classic film Julius Caesar, which was released a few months after my birth in 1953 and was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Caesar's story was also the inspiration for the Emmy Award-winning HBO TV series Rome, one of my all-time favorites and a staple of my annual summer binge-watching rotation.

"After which I get to listen to weeks of Titus Pullo quotes."

Pullo was my favorite character on the show, so I make no apologies for that...

Eleven and Counting

The number of Catholic institutions playing in the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament increased by one as Mount St. Mary's just did squeak past New Orleans 67-66 yesterday in one of the so-called First Four games.

They join No. 1 seed Villanova (whom they will play next in the Round of 64), No. 1 seed Gonzaga, No. 5 seed Notre Dame, No. 6 seed Creighton, No. 7 seed St. Mary's College, No. 7 seed Dayton, No. 9 seed Seton Hall, No. 10 seed Marquette, No. 11 seed Xavier, and No. 14 seed Iona. If Providence beats USC in another of the First Four games tonight, they will make the field of 64 as a No. 11 seed, which would make it
an even dozen Catholic schools for me to root for in addition to No. 5 seed Iowa State. There are no Catholic institutions in the 32-team field for the NIT.

Play in the NCAA Tournament begins tomorrow, while the NIT began last night...

"And my team plays...?"

Yes, yes...they play their 1st round NIT game on the road this evening, and that's all I'm saying...I've probably already jinxed them just by answering your question...

Gotta Love Baseball Players

To celebrate Pi Day yesterday, members of the Colorado Rockies baseball team lined up before their Cactus League game so that their jersey numbers, read left to right, represented the first 30 digits of pi.

That's just goddamned cool, even if the Rockies are a !@#$% National League team...

It's Dark Horse and Cinderella Time, Bay-bee!

From the pen of Henry Payne, whose editorial cartoons you should read often, as I do.

Until Next Time...

On March 15, 1947 Ryland Peter Cooder was born in Los Angeles. He would grow up in nearby Santa Monica, where he graduated high school. He learned to play guitar at age three, and by the time he was 20 he was playing professionally, although his hoped-for success with an established touring band eluded him.

Instead, Ry Cooder forged an impressive career as a studio guitarist, composer, and producer. He has worked with some of the biggest names in popular music, including The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, and the legendary Irish band The Chieftains, a favorite of mine for much of my life.

Cooder also began composing film scores in the 1980s, to considerable acclaim. His soundtracks for Paris, Texas and Crossroads are among my favorites. Cooder's work has won him half a dozen Grammy Awards and a spot on Rolling Stone magazine's  
100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list.

In December 1970 he released his eponymous debut album, which didn't crack the Billboard 200 Albums chart or produce a hit single (it would be nearly a decade before Cooder's label would even try releasing any of his songs as singles). Cooder's brilliant guitar playing shines, though.

As one might expect from an album released so early in a blues artist's career, there was only one original song included. The rest of the album consisted of covers of songs by other artists, some well-known, some relatively obscure.

The best of those covers, in my opinion, was Ry's instrumental version of the classic Blind Willie Johnson song "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground," a mournful slide guitar tour de force. Johnson's original 1927 recording of the song was one of only 27 selections included on the Voyager Golden Record launched with the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes in 1977.

Ry himself described Johnson's song as "The most soulful, transcendent piece in all American music." Johnson's own raw original was selected for inclusion in the National Recording Registry curated by the Library of Congress in 2010, and whenever I am at particularly low ebb emotionally, as I am today, the song speaks to my pain.

Today's send-off is the original album track, from Ry's YouTube channel. Enjoy...

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