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Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Triangle Jewish Chorale Songbook - now available for purchase!

I finally finished my book of Jewish music arrangements. Because my attic is full of boxes of unsold songbooks, cds and (sigh) cassettes from decades past, I decided to go with "printing on demand" this time.

(If you're new to POD, it means when (if) somebody orders a copy of my book, the company prints it and mails it. There are no boxes of unwanted books anywhere.)

I chose because they offer a spiral binding option, which is so much better with sheet music - especially when you anticipate using the scores at the piano.

You can order the book, if you like, here!

Here's the list of songs:

A Nign
Adio, Querido
Al Kol Eileh
Borei Ad Ana
Buena Semana
Cuando el Rey Nimrod
Dem Zeydn’s Nigndl
Du Shaynst vi di Zun
Durme, Durme
Ein Keloheinu
El Ginat Eigoz
Eliahu Hanavi
An Equal Song
Gris, Bagris
Hob Ikh Mir a Mantl
Hard Times
Hu Tsa Tsa
Imi Nahtna Leviva-Li
Itsik Shpitsik
Ki Eleicha
Krokhmalne Gas
Ma-Oz Tsur
Od Lo Ahavti Dai
Oy Ir Kleyne Likhtelekh
Shir Aviv
Shnirele Perele
Sim Shalom
Siete modos de guisar las berenjenas
Sisu et Yerushalayim
Di Svet-shap
Ta-am Haman
Ufros Aleinu
This Old World
Yerushalayim Shel Zahav
Yom Zeh l’Yisrael
Zol Shoyn Kumen di Geule

If you decide to buy one, let me know how the purchase goes! Thanks!


"Why should I care if my mechanic knows where Iraq is?"

Extracts from
Best Is the New Worst
By Susan Jacoby for the New York Times, May 30, 2008

Senator Hillary Clinton's use of the phrase "elite opinion" to dismiss the near unanimous opposition of economists to her proposal for a gas tax holiday was a landmark in the use of elite to attack expertise supposedly beyond the comprehension of average Americans.

One might as well say that there is no point in consulting musicians about music or ichthyologists about fish.

The assault on "elite" did not begin with politicians, although it does have political antecedents in sneers directed at "eggheads" during the anti-Communist crusades of the 1950s.

Conservative intellectuals who rose to prominence during the Reagan administration managed the neat trick of reversing the '60s usage of "elite" by applying it as a slur to the left alone. "Elite," often rendered in the plural, became synonymous with "limousine liberals" who opposed supposedly normative American values.

All the older forms of elite-bashing have now devolved into a kind of aggressive denial of the threat to American democracy posed by public ignorance.

During the past few months, I have received hundreds of e-mail messages calling me an elitist for drawing attention to America's knowledge deficit. One of the most memorable came from a man who objected to my citation of a statistic ... that nearly two-thirds of Americans age 18 to 24 cannot find Iraq on a map. "Why should I care whether my mechanic knows where Iraq is, as long as he knows how to fix my car?" the man asked.

But what could be more elitist than the idea that a mechanic cannot be expected to know the location of a country where thousands of Americans of his own generation are fighting and dying?

... a college student told me it was elitist to express alarm that one in four Americans, according to the National Constitution Center, cannot name any First Amendment rights or that 62 percent cannot name the three branches of government. "You don't need to have that in your head," the student said, "because you can just look it up on the Web."

America was never imagined as a democracy of dumbness.


Friday, May 30, 2008

[Hannah]: Tonight - Manhattanhenge!!!

Via New York Academy of Sciences:
The end of May brings a phenomenon peculiar to Manhattan, the fabled Stonehenge sunset... On the 29th through the 31st of May, the Sun lines up perfectly with the east-west streets on the Manhattan gridiron.

In other words, it's the only three days of the year when those of us not on the waterfront will get to see the sun set... certainly an auspicious time. Does this mean a period of easy transportation lies in my future?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Does anybody think Dell is the only company to do this?

Extracts from
Dell deceived customers, judge says
Karina Frayter

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Dell Inc. deceived customers in a massive "bait and switch" scheme to increase sales of its computer and electronic products, a New York state judge ruled Tuesday.

State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo sued Dell in 2007 on behalf of hundreds of customers who claimed that the electronics company lured them into buying products with promises of attractive deals and promotions.

In reality, the lawsuit alleged, most customers were denied or misled into believing that they had been approved for low interest or financing rates.

The lawsuit also accused Dell of depriving customers of technical support that they were entitled to, in some instances, by pressuring them into performing repairs on their own or subjecting them to long wait times on the phone.

"Dell has engaged in repeated misleading, deceptive and unlawful business conduct, including false and deceptive advertising of financing promotions and the terms of warranties, fraudulent, misleading and deceptive practices in credit financing and failure to provide warranty service and rebates," Teresi said in his decision.

Dell said it disagreed with Teresi's decision. "Our goal has been, and continues to be, to provide the best customer experience possible," spokesman Jess Blackburn said in a written statement to CNN.

"We are confident that when the proceedings are finally completed, the court will determine that only a relatively small number of customers have been affected," Blackburn said.

Cuomo hailed the decision in a statement Tuesday.

"For too long at Dell, the promise of customer service was a bait and switch that left thousands of people paying for essentially no service at all," Cuomo said. "We have won an important victory that will force Dell to live up to its responsibilities and pay back its customers for profits that were pocketed but not deserved."

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"The Paperless Office"

I personally will be more willing to go paperless when, for instance, Duke Power's secretaries (the people you talk to when you call the office) understand the concept of online payment. "That's another department," they explain to me, "we don't have access to that information."

Extracts from
The New Push to Get Rid of Paper
by Arik Hesseldahl

Thirty-three years ago this month the phrase "paperless office" entered the business lexicon ...

Some of the very machinery that makes paper theoretically obsolete has helped make it all the more ubiquitous. Devices that scan and convert documents to a digital format double as printers and copiers—and they've become so small, cheap, and easy to use that they're on—or near—every desktop.

In 1975 the average U.S. office worker used 62 pounds of paper a year. By 1999, that figure peaked at 143 pounds, but in 2006 it was still at 127 pounds.

Last year, U.S. companies printed 1.5 trillion pages, according to research firm IDC. That's a 95,000-mile-high stack of paper, or the equivalent of 15 million to 20 million trees. RISI analyst John Maine esimates that companies will spend about $8 billion this year on paper alone; that doesn't include costs for ink, toner, or running copiers, printers, and fax machines.

In the typical office, for every dollar spent on printing documents, companies incur another six dollars in handling and distribution, according to Xerox.

Printers, copiers, and fax machines have a funny way of multiplying haphazardly. One company advised by Le Clair thought it had 150 fax machines, but a detailed search turned up 1,000, many of which were rarely used.

Researchers at Xerox found that about half of the documents printed in a typical office are thrown away within 24 hours.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Transcript of Barack Obama's commencement speech at Wesleyan Universersity

My son Zed had signed up long ago to be an usher at commencement yesterday so he was there for this speech! He was really inspired, especially since he'd already told me he'd like to work for the Peace Corps or something similar for a while after he graduates next year. He also took away the lovely message that the ennui and cynicism of the past decade(s) is not good for us.

If you'd like to see it on video, it's posted at this Wesleyan blog.

I have the distinct honor today of pinch-hitting for one of my personal heroes and a hero to this country, Senator Edward Kennedy. Teddy wanted to be here very much, but as you know, he's had a very long week and is taking some much-needed rest. He called me up a few days ago and I said that I'd be happy to be his stand-in, even if there was no way I could fill his shoes.

I did, however, get the chance to glance at the speech he planned on delivering today, and I'd like to start by passing along a message from him: "To all those praying for my return to good health, I offer my heartfelt thanks. And to any who'd rather have a different result, I say, don't get your hopes up just yet!"

So we know that Ted Kennedy's legendary sense of humor is as strong as ever, and I have no doubt that his equally legendary fighting spirit will carry him through this latest challenge. He is our friend, he is our champion, and we hope and pray for his return to good health.

The topic of his speech today was common for a commencement, but one that nobody could discuss with more authority or inspiration than Ted Kennedy. And that is the topic of service to one's country – a cause that is synonymous with his family's name and their legacy.

I was born the year that his brother John called a generation of Americans to ask their country what they could do. And I came of age at a time when they did it. They were the Peace Corps volunteers who won a generation of goodwill toward America at a time when America's ideals were challenged. They were the teenagers and college students, not much older than you, who watched the Civil Rights Movement unfold on their television sets; who saw the dogs and the fire hoses and the footage of marchers beaten within an inch or their lives; who knew it was probably smarter and safer to stay at home, but still decided to take those Freedom Rides down south – who still decided to march. And because they did, they changed the world.

I bring this up because today, you are about to enter a world that makes it easy to get caught up in the notion that there are actually two different stories at work in our lives.

The first is the story of our everyday cares and concerns – the responsibilities we have to our jobs and our families – the bustle and busyness of what happens in our own life. And the second is the story of what happens in the life of our country – of what happens in the wider world. It's the story you see when you catch a glimpse of the day's headlines or turn on the news at night – a story of big challenges like war and recession; hunger and climate change; injustice and inequality. It's a story that can sometimes seem distant and separate from our own – a destiny to be shaped by forces beyond our control.

And yet, the history of this nation tells us this isn't so. It tells us that we are a people whose destiny has never been written for us, but by us – by generations of men and women, young and old, who have always believed that their story and the American story are not separate, but shared. And for more than two centuries, they have served this country in ways that have forever enriched both.

I say this to you as someone who couldn't be standing here today if not for the service of others, and wouldn't be standing here today if not for the purpose that service gave my own life.

You see, I spent much of my childhood adrift. My father left my mother and I when I was two. When my mother remarried, I lived in Indonesia for a time, but was mostly raised in Hawaii by her and my grandparents from Kansas. My teenage years were filled with more than the usual dose of adolescent rebellion, and I'll admit that I didn't always take myself or my studies very seriously. I realize that none of you can probably relate to this, but there were many times when I wasn't sure where I was going, or what I would do.

But during my first two years of college, perhaps because the values my mother had taught me – hard work, honesty, empathy – had resurfaced after a long hibernation; or perhaps because of the example of wonderful teachers and lasting friends, I began to notice a world beyond myself. I became active in the movement to oppose the apartheid regime of South Africa. I began following the debates in this country about poverty and health care. So that by the time I graduated from college, I was possessed with a crazy idea – that I would work at a grassroots level to bring about change.

I wrote letters to every organization in the country I could think of. And one day, a small group of churches on the South Side of Chicago offered me a job to come work as a community organizer in neighborhoods that had been devastated by steel plant closings. My mother and grandparents wanted me to go to law school. My friends were applying to jobs on Wall Street. Meanwhile, this organization offered me $12,000 a year plus $2,000 for an old, beat-up car.

And I said yes.

Now, I didn't know a soul in Chicago, and I wasn't sure what this community organizing business was all about. I had always been inspired by stories of the Civil Rights Movement and JFK's call to service, but when I got to the South Side, there were no marches, and no soaring speeches. In the shadow of an empty steel plant, there were just a lot of folks who were struggling. And we didn't get very far at first.

I still remember one of the very first meetings we put together to discuss gang violence with a group of community leaders. We waited and waited for people to show up, and finally, a group of older people walked into the hall. And they sat down. And a little old lady raised her hand and asked, "Is this where the bingo game is?"

It wasn't easy, but eventually, we made progress. Day by day, block by block, we brought the community together, and registered new voters, and set up after school programs, and fought for new jobs, and helped people live lives with some measure of dignity.

But I also began to realize that I wasn't just helping other people. Through service, I found a community that embraced me; citizenship that was meaningful; the direction I'd been seeking. Through service, I discovered how my own improbable story fit into the larger story of America.

Each of you will have the chance to make your own discovery in the years to come. And I say "chance" because you won't have to take it. There's no community service requirement in the real world; no one forcing you to care. You can take your diploma, walk off this stage, and chase only after the big house and the nice suits and all the other things that our money culture says you should by. You can choose to narrow your concerns and live your life in a way that tries to keep your story separate from America's.

But I hope you don't. Not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, though you do have that obligation. Not because you have a debt to all those who helped you get here, though you do have that debt.

It's because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. Because thinking only about yourself, fulfilling your immediate wants and needs, betrays a poverty of ambition. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential and discover the role you'll play in writing the next great chapter in America's story.

There are so many ways to serve and so much need at this defining moment in our history. You don't have to be a community organizer or do something crazy like run for President. Right here at Wesleyan, many of you have already volunteered at local schools, contributed to United Way, and even started a program that brings fresh produce to needy families in the area. One hundred and sixty-four graduates of this school have joined the Peace Corps since 2001, and I'm especially proud that two of you are about to leave for my father's homeland of Kenya to bring alternative sources of energy to impoverished areas.

I ask you to seek these opportunities when you leave here, because the future of this country – your future – depends on it. At a time when our security and moral standing depend on winning hearts and minds in the forgotten corners of this world, we need more of you to serve abroad. As President, I intend to grow the Foreign Service, double the Peace Corps over the next few years, and engage the young people of other nations in similar programs, so that we work side by side to take on the common challenges that confront all humanity.

At a time when our ice caps are melting and our oceans are rising, we need you to help lead a green revolution. We still have time to avoid the catastrophic consequences of climate change if we get serious about investing in renewable sources of energy, and if we get a generation of volunteers to work on renewable energy projects, and teach folks about conservation, and help clean up polluted areas; if we send talented engineers and scientists abroad to help developing countries promote clean energy.

At a time when a child in Boston must compete with children in Beijing and Bangalore, we need an army of you to become teachers and principals in schools that this nation cannot afford to give up on. I will pay our educators what they deserve, and give them more support, but I will also ask more of them to be mentors to other teachers, and serve in high-need schools and high-need subject areas like math and science.

At a time when there are children in the city of New Orleans who still spend each night in a lonely trailer, we need more of you to take a weekend or a week off from work, and head down South, and help rebuild. If you can't get the time, volunteer at the local homeless shelter or soup kitchen in your own community. Find an organization that's fighting poverty, or a candidate who promotes policies you believe in, and find a way to help them.

At a time of war, we need you to work for peace. At a time of inequality, we need you to work for opportunity. At a time of so much cynicism and so much doubt, we need you to make us believe again.

Now understand this - believing that change is possible is not the same as being naïve. Go into service with your eyes wide open, for change will not come easily. On the big issues that our nation faces, difficult choices await. We'll have to face some hard truths, and some sacrifice will be required – not only from you individually, but from the nation as a whole.

There is no magic bullet to our energy problems, for example; no perfect energy source - so all of us will have to use the energy sources we have more wisely. Deep-rooted poverty will not be reversed overnight, and will require both money and reform at a time when our federal and state budgets are strapped and Washington is skeptical that reform is possible. Transforming our education system will require not only bold government action, but a change in attitudes among parents and students. Bringing an end to the slaughter in Darfur will involve navigating extremely difficult realities on the ground, even for those with the best of intentions.

And so, should you take the path of service, should you choose to take up one of these causes as your own, know that you'll experience frustrations and failures. Even your successes will be marked by imperfections and unintended consequences. I guarantee you, there will certainly be times when friends or family urge you to pursue more sensible endeavors with more tangible rewards. And there will be times when you are tempted to take their advice.

But I hope you'll remember, during those times of doubt and frustration, that there is nothing naïve about your impulse to change this world. Because all it takes is one act of service – one blow against injustice – to send forth that tiny ripple of hope that Robert Kennedy spoke of.

You know, Ted Kennedy often tells a story about the fifth anniversary celebration of the Peace Corps. He was there, and he asked one of the young Americans why he had chosen to volunteer. And the man replied, "Because it was the first time someone asked me to do something for my country."

I don't know how many of you have been asked that question, but after today, you have no excuses. I am asking you, and if I should have the honor of serving this nation as President, I will be asking again in the coming years. We may disagree on certain issues and positions, but I believe we can be unified in service to a greater good. I intend to make it a cause of my presidency, and I believe with all my heart that this generation is ready, and eager, and up to the challenge.

We will face our share of cynics and doubters. But we always have. I can still remember a conversation I had with an older man all those years ago just before I left for Chicago. He said, "Barack, I'll give you a bit of advice. Forget this community organizing business and do something that's gonna make you some money. You can't change the world, and people won't appreciate you trying. But you've got a nice voice, so you should think about going into television broadcasting. I'm telling you, you've got a future."

Now, he may have been right about the TV thing, but he was wrong about everything else. For that old man has not seen what I have seen. He has not seen the faces of ordinary people the first time they clear a vacant lot or build a new playground or force an unresponsive leader to provide services to their community. He has not seen the face of a child brighten because of an inspiring teacher or mentor. He has not seen scores of young people educate their parents on issues like Darfur, or mobilize the conscience of a nation around the challenge of climate change. He has not seen lines of men and women that wrap around schools and churches, that stretch block after block just so they could make their voices heard, many for the very first time.

And that old man who didn't believe the world could change – who didn't think one person could make a difference – well he certainly didn't know much about the life of Joseph Kennedy's youngest son.

It is rare in this country of ours that a person exists who has touched the lives of nearly every single American without many of us even realizing it. And yet, because of Ted Kennedy, millions of children can see a doctor when they get sick. Mothers and fathers can leave work to spend time with their newborns. Working Americans are paid higher wages, and compensated for overtime, and can keep their health insurance when they change jobs. They are protected from discrimination in the workplace, and those who are born with disabilities can still get an education, and health care, and fair treatment on the job. Our schools are stronger and our colleges are filled with more Americans who can afford it. And I have a feeling that Ted Kennedy is not done just yet.

But surely, if one man can achieve so much and make such a difference in the lives of so many, then each of us can do our part. Surely, if his service and his story can forever shape America's story, then our collective service can shape the destiny of this generation. At the very least, his living example calls each of us to try. That is all I ask of you on this joyous day of new beginnings; that is what Senator Kennedy asks of you as well, and that is how we will keep so much needed work going, and the cause of justice everlasting, and the dream alive for generations to come. Thank you so much to the class of 2008, and congratulations on your graduation.

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Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Worry."

I've been enjoying advertising art of the early 20th century lately, and wanted to practice the lettering I saw in the poster below. I drew this freehand yesterday and the only part I really cared about - the "Midnight Flake" part - came out pretty well.

When I see images like this I shudder and think - it's better to live with chickens and a donkey.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mark does Illustration Friday: "Worry."

He says there's a meaning in there somewhere but he doesn't know what it is.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

How to make a coatrack out of a doll.

I've kept this window open on my computer for days so I guess it's time to post it. From Design Sponge via BoingBoing:

  1. Dismember your doll

  2. Arrange hands and feet on board in an order you like. Space them evenly apart, marking their positions with a pen or pencil. Set limbs aside.

  3. Drill 3 holes per limb. I counter sank the holes so the board would lie flat against the wall. Make sure your holes will not come too close to the edge of the limb, because the screw make poke out of the side of a hand or foot.

  4. Position keyhole hanger and mark the spot. Chisel out the wood until the hanger fits snugly and until the drywall screws’ heads fit.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Jethro visits Lockhardt's Trading Post

Since I got a donkey because I wanted to lead a slower life, thinking, "I don't have to live life any faster than this," today it was time to prove it; I spent a couple hours walking Jethro down the big road to the local convenience store. He has to get used to whizzing traffic.

I've noticed if I pay very careful attention to his ears, his neck, and the cadence of his hooves, it's easier to ward off disasters. If he puts his head and ears up and his step quickens, it's time to intervene. We have a new command, "Easy." That means, slow down and be here now. It got us all the way to Lockhardt's trading post.

Comment along the way: "That's a beautiful sight to see."

Another comment along the way: "Did your donkey run away?" (This guy couldn't seem to understand that we were walking along the road by choice.)

Another comment along the way: "You are taking your donkey for a walk." I guess this person just had to say it to believe it.

Down at the corner of 86 and Mt. Sinai Road I hitched him to the stop sign and let him munch the overgrown weeds while the cement trucks etc. whizzed by. At first he was astonished by all the hubbub, but the soothing presence of grass and weeds worked some magic on him. Then we walked down 86 a bit and crossed to Lockhardt's Trading Post, where they actually have something very like a hitching post, but there is no water trough.

I went in for a Diet Coke and the proprietor and the cook were beside themselves with amusement. "He looks perfect there, we oughta take a picture." Jethro howled while I was out of sight but when I came outside again I gave him the banana peels I'd been saving. We returned home without incident.



Mark: "Pork Rider and the Drain of Life""

My friend Mark just emailed me this picture, even though it's not Illustration Friday time. Pork Rider and the Drain of Life. Hmm.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

[New York]: This is the chicken I want

It's raining today in New York. My hair resembles this chicken. We would match.

(h/t My Pet Chicken)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

[New York]: Foccacia

Haven't tried this yet, but it looks promising.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Wide."

I'm practicing up for painting a pushcart. This is "wide" lettering.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

The most unread books according to some.

The Incurable Insomniac wrote: "What we have here: the top 106 books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing’s users. As in, they sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded. Bold the ones you've read, underline the ones you read for school, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish."

I found a lot of my favorite books on this list! Others that I wouldn't read if they were the only books in the house.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights

The Silmarillion
Life of Pi: a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote

Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife

The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked: the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian: a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World

The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo

A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno (and Purgatory and Paradise)
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels

Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela's Ashes: a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People's History of the United States: 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon

Oryx and Crake: a novel
Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye

On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics: a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity's Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood: a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The best antique pushcart pictures I've seen.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mark does Illustration Friday: "Electricity."

'Electric Lightbulb'

Acrylic paint, colored pencil, and modeling paste on canvas.


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Friday, May 09, 2008

Mario Lanza (et al) sing "The Donkey Serenade"

UPDATE: Somebody on the Yahoo donkey shared this wonderful clip of "Donkey Serenade" from a 1937 movie...

Here's the Mario Lanza version I posted originally...

Here's Enrico Caruso doing it.

(Listen to the two Italians carefully using American R!)

Also note that, though the song is entitled Donkey Serenade, a mule features in the lyrics. I'm sure this is because "donkey" does not rhyme with "fool." I guess he could have sung: I'll sing to the donkey/ If you're sure she won't think that I am just a honkey.






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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Jewish calligraphy from music advertisements and sheet music

What I really want to do: design stuff like this.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

In which Jethro auditions for the role of Wild Equine.

Here is a "Why Paddy's Not at Work Today" type of story, except I in fact did have to go to work, black and blue though I am. I described today's adventure (see below) to the Triangle Jewish Chorale and they asked me to write it up as a Yiddish song for next year.

BTW the Yiddish word for donkey is "eyzl."

While I was visiting my son Zed in Connecticut for four days, Jethro was just standing and standing in his round pen waiting and waiting for the donkey-sitter to come play with him. No exercise. He probably was pretty restless.

So today I hitched up the cart and off we went.

The first half hour of the ride went like a dream. Jethro was obedient, cheerful, malleable (i.e. when I said stop he stopped). He was so good and steady I was thinking about taking him out on the Big Road (the road he'll have to stay calm on if I am eventually to realize my ambition to take him to the grocery store) when suddenly a motorcycle came over the hill.

Jethro rolled his eye in an inauspicious manner. I could read his thought-bubble: he was trying to decide whether to hold steady or lose his *&^%. Unfortunately, he decided in favor of wild abandon. He reared way up on his hind legs, like the trick horses in the movies, made a very sharp U-turn, and GALLOPED full speed up a long hill. It was kind of fun in the cart bouncing along behind him, wondering where we were going. We'd never gone this fast before.

When Jethro loses it, he forgets the difference between road and not-road. We careened across a driveway, narrowly missing a flowerbed, towards a deep ditch. Again I saw him consider: "Jump or Not Jump?"

He voted for Jump and leapt across the ditch. The cart behind him (with me in it) plunged into the ditch and bounced up the other side. He landed more or less forehead-to-tree-trunk and that's when he finally decided to stop, his rear end all bunched up, like a cartoon character (cue the screeching brakes).

I got off the cart and saw he was still rolling his eyes. We had a long, quiet discussion. We agreed we would try again, now that the motorcycle was gone. I led him into another U-turn and we headed back down the road.

I walked beside him for a while, not holding his halter but protecting him by my presence. He is much calmer when I'm next to him. When he first came to live with me, I thought, "How sweet, he thinks I can protect him," but now I know that, as per this story...
A donkey and his owner are being pursued by a bear; the donkey stops to change into his running shoes.

The owner says, "You're crazy! There's no way you can run faster than a bear!"

"I don't have to run faster than a bear," replies the donkey. "I only have to run faster than you."
... he likes me next to him simply because he can outrun me.

Anyway, his eyes were still semi-rolling and he was hyperventilating. He clearly needed some Valium, but he doesn't have a prescription. We weren't near home, so on we walked.

A car stopped, the window opened, the driver did something friendly in a sudden manner. Jethro reared up again and the tornado he stirred up as he reared knocked me over. I bounced on the pavement. I got up and we continued along.

Third time is the charm. I was still walking beside him when yet another friendly neighbor stopped to say hello.

Jethro yanked away, ran down the middle of the road, then crossed over and went across a ditch into a huge hay-field where the grass is more than a yard high. He galloped across it until he was as small as a penny and then disappeared from sight altogether. I could still hear his Bulgarian bell ringing.

I trudged after him through the high grass but slowed and stopped as I realized I would never be able to catch up with him.

Then, following the advice of a donkey-whisperer, I turned my back on him. And waited. The bell went silent, then got louder. He was coming closer! I looked, he stopped, I turned away from him again, he came towards me again. He veered and galloped, veered and walked, sometimes closer, sometimes farther...

When he was very close he stopped. I went to pick up his lead line. Usually after an "incident" he's perfectly happy to let me be boss again. This time, though, he decided he was enjoying the wild life and took off again. He galloped out of the field, crossed more ditches, the cart turned on its side, he dragged it a while, he made a wild turn, the cart righted itself, he made another wild turn, the cart bounced hard and landed on its other side, he dragged it that way as he galloped on.

The cart righted itself, Jethro galloped across the road, went through a ditch and found himself, again, face-to-trunk with a tree. This time he let me catch him. We walked on, what alternative was there?

We were quite close to home when the last great menace appeared - a baby in a stroller, with a nanny, we have seen this baby many times, but Jethro couldn't take any more. He reared one more time and, trying to catch him, I nearly tore off 1/3 of my thumbnail, so I almost fainted, I don't remember anything about the rest of the way home except that I was limping and Jethro was calm, even abashed. He's now back in the sensory-deprivation round pen.

I would like to thank my friendly neighbors for being so patient with my donkey, who has been bad in the past but never this bad. Now that he thinks he's a wild mustang, and now that the wheels of his cart are bent and wobbly, what next? I guess buying some new wheels comes next.

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A new enthusiasm for pushcarts.

A friend of mine is tired of regular jobs and thinking maybe he'd like to be a pushcart peddler. Of course this appeals to me.


Monday, May 05, 2008

[New York]: Ugh, how one's heroes betray one

I grew up on Carl Hiaasen's hilariously, ridiculously bitter environmentalist satires of evil developers in South Florida. And now I find out he wrote a book about how obsessed he is with golf???

And what's his excuse?
“The great irony is that golf courses are becoming the last bit of wildlife refuge we have,” he said. “I saw a bobcat on a golf course once, and I don’t know that there’s anyplace else you could do that now.”

Nope, that's not going to do it for me, Carl. In fact, um... I have another explanation...could it be that the bobcat was on the golf course because heinous developments such as golf courses had just eaten up the last tiny shred of habitat it had left???

{{scream of rage}}