In a few short days, we are going to be empty-nesters. James will be off to start college, and Tom will be back at Andover. At least Tom is vaguely local, but with everything intense at Andover, he will have little time for parents between holidays.
One thing I wanted to do today was clean out old links on my browsers. I found all the educational and fun sites for kids—Dinosaur comics, Disney, Hooligans, Geometry Magic, Beowulf, How Stuff Works, Kidsreads, J.K. Rowling, Baseball, Soccer, Chess, etc. Further down the list, sites like those became Scholastic.com, SSAT Online, School Rating Blogs, Big Future-My Organizer, College Board Sign In, Music at Andover, Phillips Academy Student Account Center, and First-Year Experience – Ithaca College.
Clearing disk space on my laptop would a lot less messy if it didn’t involve wasting so many tissues on this runny nose and coughing fits I seem to get doing it.
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ADDED: More I intended to post on Facebook but is here instead:
I recall the day James was born. It was a perfect May morning. When I got home from the hospital that evening, a small thunderstorm had moved in. I remember lying alone on the bed, listening to the rain, wondering about the new future we had made.
I write this in the same room, next to the same bed, looking at the same window, and James will be leaving for college in a few days. His brother is off to boarding school shortly after. And, for the first time in 19 years, there will be no kids here. But what was before that May evening can never return, nor should it, nor do I wish it. Somehow, very improbably for us, we made four new lives.
To say we have been blessed is a commonplace. But I look at the world and know we have been blessed, and I thank God every day for that blessing on all our lives.
Miss Spider’s Tea Party, a charming children’s book in a series by David Kirk, was written well before the founding of the political group of the same name. In this book, Miss Spider hosts a vegetarian tea party for her insect friends. They are understandably nervous, but Miss Spider has learned to replace Nature with Kindness and literally wouldn’t hurt a fly. In this, she is a thoughtful, politically-correct, modern, liberal sort of arachnid. She plainly would never have anything to do with the political Tea Party, had it existed in her day.
The following video shows Nancy Pelosi, children, and Members of Congress, including the late Ted Kennedy, enrolling the Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007. This is a normal Congressional procedure turned into an occasion for a very off-key rendition of “Itsy-Bitsy Spider.” You can tell who comes from a large family, or at least was raised properly (not Speaker Pelosi), because they get the words right.
Miss Spider would certainly approve.
The following video, on the other hand, is the stuff of Miss Spider’s nightmares. In it, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey demonstrates for a group of impressionable schoolchildren his forthright and robust solution to the Spider Problem.
You’re a mean man, Gov. Christie.
Miss Spider would never vote for you.
As something of the Official Bostonian on this site, I have had a few things to say about the Marathon bombing and its aftermath. Now, however, I’m done, and I won’t importune you any longer. But I do want to say one more thing—not that it’s original in any way. That is, this horrible event and the following week gave many of us a view of news reporting we might not have had otherwise. There have been some unexpected bright spots of sheer competence, but far more sinkholes of inadequacy.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to complain about them, not even the bloviating sophisticates in New York and other international locations who have no clue about life in Boston but write about it anyway.
No, I’m going to leave the subject with a quote from Garrison Keillor. Years ago, he was in the midst of controversy, mostly with the St. Paul, Minnesota Pioneer Press (“Gastric Distress” as Keillor called it), and mostly about his morals. I recall him saying something like the following on his radio show:
If you know the reality of a situation, the relationship between truth and a newspaper is like the relationship between the color green and the number seven. Occasionally you will see the number seven written in green, but you learn not to expect this.
I’ve seen a few green sevens, mostly painted in Boston, but far more blue, red, polka-dot and paisley ones than I like to think about. Time to pick another number.
For those set a-worrying about Miranda warnings and Constitutional rights, there is this little PDF. I know—it could all be made up and a sham, as an army of conspiracy theorists are saying everywhere on the internet. But just for the sake of argument, let’s pretend this actually happened:
ADDED: At the same moment yesterday this indictment was being presented in as prompt and vanilla-flavored a way as possible in a hospital room, I walked into the cafeteria at work. The TVs were on CNN, showing three pinch-faced talking heads on a three-way split, all decrying the lack of Miranda warning and what a terrible violation of rights this was, and that the Justice Department was not even going to allow defense counsel, and how could the Judiciary, of all branches, go along with this, and how terrible, terrible this all was, and we all should fear for our inalienable rights that
George Bush…er…well…um….you know…(Obama) was letting people trample on, etc., etc.
Sometimes, the Theme of the Day doesn’t quite work. But, hey, there’s always tomorrow.
Sorry to sprawl on valuable real estate, but this is where our transcript gets good, if vanilla-flavored:
MR. FICK: Good morning, your Honor. William Fick
for Mr. Tsarnaev.
THE COURT: And you have had an opportunity to
speak with him?
MR. FICK: Very briefly, your Honor.
THE COURT: So you have your lawyers here.
THE DEFENDANT: (Defendant nods affirmatively.)
THE COURT: Mr. Tsarnaev, I am Magistrate Judge
Bowler. This hearing is your initial appearance before the
Court. We are here because you have been charged in a
federal criminal complaint.
At this hearing, I will advise you of your
constitutional and legal rights. I will tell you about the
charges against you and the penalties that the Court could
impose if you are found guilty.
You have been charged with (1): Use of a weapon of
mass destruction, in violation of 18, United States Code,
Section 2332a(a); and malicious destruction of property
resulting in death, in violation of 18, United States Code,
Mr. Weinreb, what are the maximum penalties?
MR. WEINREB: Your Honor, the maximum penalty on
each count is death, or imprisonment for any term of years,
THE COURT: Is there a fine?
MR. WEINREB: A fine of up to $250,000.
THE COURT: I will tell you about your right to
counsel, and I will consider conditions of release pending
further court proceedings; that is, whether or not you
should be detained and what amount of bail should be set.
This is not a trial, and you will not be called upon to
answer the charges at this time.
If at any time I say something you do not understand,
interrupt me and say so; is that clear?
THE DEFENDANT: (Defendant nods affirmatively.)
THE COURT: All right. I note that the defendant
has nodded affirmatively.
As a first step in this hearing, I am going to tell you
about your constitutional rights.
You have the right under the Constitution of the United
States to remain silent. Any statement made by you may be
used against you in court, and you have the right not to
have your own words used against you.
You may consult with an attorney prior to any
questioning, and you may have the attorney present during
Counsel will be appointed without charge if you cannot
If you choose to make a statement or to answer
questions without the assistance of counsel, you may stop
answering at any time.
This right means you do not have to answer any
questions put to you by law enforcement agents or by the
Assistant United States Attorney, Mr. Weinreb.
I want to make it clear. You are not prohibited from
making statements, but that if you do, they can be used
against you. You are not required to make a statement at
this initial appearance, and any statement you do make may
be used against you.
Finally, if I ask you any questions here in this
hearing or at any future hearing which you think might
incriminate you, you have the right not to answer.
Do you understand everything I have said about your
right to remain silent?
THE DEFENDANT: (Defendant nods affirmatively.)
THE COURT: Again I note that the defendant has
As I said earlier, you have the right to retain
counsel, to be represented by counsel, and to have the
assistance of counsel at every critical stage of these
You have the right to an attorney at this initial
appearance, during any questioning, at any lineup, and at
all proceedings in court.
You also have the right to have this Court assign
counsel if you cannot afford counsel or if you cannot obtain
Can you afford a lawyer?
THE DEFENDANT: No.
THE COURT: Let the record reflect that I believe
the defendant has said, “No.”
I have provisionally appointed the federal defender,
Mr. Fick, to represent you in this matter….
What is a poor pundit to do when a Federal Judge reads this defendant his rights and has the temerity to release a transcript that gets posted on the internet?
Maybe wait 24 hours and make up something new?
Along with Kevin Cullen’s Boston Globe article I linked in the last post, this, to me, is an important piece. There is anger, but a refusal to hate, a Christian understanding of evil, the possibility of repentance, and what needs to be done, in fact, to keep everyone safe.
This, especially for non-New Englanders, is a must-read. I’ve commented on how tough it can be for newcomers in the Boston area. As a newcomer myself 30-odd years ago, I can tell you stories. But one point of Kevin Cullen’s piece is that the Tsarnaev brothers settled in Cambridge, one of the most open and welcoming places in the US. They did not find themselves in some tight little neighborhood, like I did, where nobody had moved in or out for 100 years, very common in Boston and environs when I showed up.
Of course, many things have changed in 30 years, one of which is Cambridge has gotten even more open and welcoming, for all the good it did here.
I hope this story stays up for a while. Linked to what is usually a paid newspaper site, it might not.
Yet another element of modern (I almost wrote that lamentable word, “civilized”) life that is Bad For You:
They cause cancer, because sleep patterns are disturbed, and, well, Science has discovered that anything that is not just like Cro-Magnon life 40,000 years ago causes cancer.
This article enthuses over the new Paris that is proposed to be not so well-lit. There IS something to be said for Paris in, say, 1591 (one of my favorite years), when it was appropriately dark at night. Henri IV was on the throne, and all was right with the world. And it was a lot simpler to knife your opponents in a back alley and throw the bodies into the Seine at 2 AM. I don’t know if the French did anything similar, but at Venice in the same period, the Doge had special soldiers who collected the murdered bodies from the canals every morning. The average was about eight—a dozen or more on good nights.
As a traditionalist, I say, turn off those damn lights and bring back stilettos. They’re much quicker than cancer.
I’ve been resurrecting old blog posts, finding old media, checking old links, and generally getting ready to start a new music appreciation blog for the Choir School. But what turns up on Facebook, linked by an old acquaintance who’s the Music Program Director of our local public schools?
ESTE (This): La introducción perfecta (en español—pero, si usted no entiende español, ¿qué entiende usted?)
I realize this isn’t the “universal history of music,” but only one view of European-derived music. But that’s fine. It’s from my culture, and very likely the culture of most people who read this. I’m not at all ashamed it doesn’t include Chinese, Persian, or Indian music, not to mention all the other great kinds of music people have dreamt up in every corner of the globe since humans first showed up.
No, I’m not ashamed one little bit.
Intended as bon-bons, I’m afraid my relentlessly didactic musical nougats have not been as popular as I hoped. But unwilling to abandon a niche taste for classical music, I thought I might tempt you with a belated Valentine’s Day sweet: Chiara Massini, my favorite harpsichordist, in a little video montage, accompanied by her playing “As Time Goes By” on a slightly out-of-tune harpsichord.
In my world, a kiss is still just a kiss. But afterwards, I’ll tell you how the harpsichord is tuned. It sounds like Valotti temperament, one of several common unequal tunings used in the late 17th and 18th centuries, gone off a little bit like Sam’s piano. It’s similar to Bach’s well-tempered system, but maybe a tad smoother. If you listen carefully, you can hear how some chords and maybe a note or two sound a little more out-of-tune than others. Ah, romance!
Even the best harpsichord goes out-of-tune after an hour or two of playing. They need constant tuning. It’s the nature of the beast. If you want something lightly-built and resonant to respond to the plucking of strings, instead of them being smacked around, as on a piano, the light and resonant will not stay in tune as well as the heavy and iron-framed.
So, the first thing you need to do if you want to learn to play the harpsichord is to learn to tune it. You will be doing that every day. Antique temperaments, in addition to the piquancy they lend to old music, are actually a lot easier to tune than piano-style equal temperament. This allows Ms. Massini to smile at us from the keyboard after less than 20 minutes of twanging strings, instead of the hour it would take the usual suspects to tune equal temperament. But there are no kisses to be found anywhere on an equally-tuned keyboard. There aren’t any smacks in the face, either, but, as everyone knows, those tend to go with kisses—except, of course, on the piano, which manages to combine smacking around with a firm rule against smooching in the Tuning Department. It’s also time to abandon this metaphor for growing inconsistent, stale, and excessively kinky.
And, frankly, I’d rather spend the 40 minutes flirting with Ms. Massini while she played, sad as I might otherwise be we never had Paris.