Thursday, October 30, 2008

Inappropriate but Apropo

Yesterday we stopped to fill up our tank because gas had dropped below $2.00, and I can't pass up gas below $2.00 anymore. Anyway, at the next pump was an extremely large road service vehicle, the kind that has implements for all sorts of jobs on the road, from fixing potholes to helping stranded motorists.

Sam was entranced with the vehicle and while I was pumping gas, pumped Joy for its name. Joy didn't know (and I didn't, so any help here would be appreciated) so she asked Sam what he thought it did. He immediately latched on to the large hook on the back used for towing and pointing excitedly to it.

"It has a hook on the back!" he exclaimed. "It must be a hooker!"

We ignored the comment while dying with laughter on the inside (a useful trick when living with a 3-year-old boy), hoping that he would forget the term. No such luck. Later that afternoon Joy and Sam were drawing on his magnadoodle. Joy leaned over and asked Sam what he was drawing. He looked up with a big smile and said, "Mama, I drew a hooker!" He's latched onto the term, so if you see me beaten to a pulp by the side of the road some day soon, you'll know why.

And you'll know not to call a service truck for help.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Meet Ricky

Last weekend, on a whim, Joy bought two pumpkins at the grocery store and brought them home. Her idea was that she and Sam would decorate the pumpkins for Halloween. Just one problem - the notion of Sam with a knife is terrifying.

Enter Goofy Pumpkin. All you have to do is pick out eyes, ears, mouth, and nose, print them out, cut them out, and then glue them to your pumpkin. This way of decorating a pumpkin is much more our 3-year-old's speed.

Sam picked out his facial features, and then Joy and Sam glued them to the pumpkin. When it was all done, Sam cocked his head, looked at his creation, and declared him "Ricky."
But Sam wasn't done with Ricky, not by a long shot. The next morning, he ran up to his room, returned with markers, and began to give Ricky hair:After all, who wants a bald pumpkin?

We've been having to tell stories about Ricky all week, and I'm just waiting until Friday when I can merge Ricky stories with that of the Great Pumpkin. My child will be warped forever.

Monday, October 27, 2008

New Review - Rob Lane and Joseph Vitarelli's John Adams

You may have noticed that for the past month under our "currently watching" tab we've had the HBO miniseries John Adams listed. We haven't actually been watching it that long (it is only seven episodes), I've just forgotten to change it out for the past few weeks.

Turns out that it was serendipitous that I did not because my most recent score review was for the soundtrack release of music from that production.

Joy and I were both riveted by the miniseries - it is the kind of movie that you wish all Americans would see just to learn a bit of their history. The production design was at pains to capture the feel of Colonial America. The music? Not so much. It is fairly standard issue scoring, not too imaginative. You can read my specific critiques in the full review if you're interested.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

We're Dedicated to Him Now

Our church has a lovely tradition of dedicating new babies to God, dedicating new parents to the spiritual upbringing of their children, and dedicating the church to the education of its newest members. We dedicated Sam when he was all of two months old, and we had been in the church for all of two months as well. People barely knew us, but it was reassuring that as we were going through rough patches with Sam and his reflux that we had a church family at our backs.

The weekend of Sam's birthday we dedicated Noah. We figured that all the family was already around so they could participate without making a special trip. And as meaning as Sam's dedication was, Noah's held particular significance because we are fully ingrained in our church now. We know these people, we love these people, we are part of their lives and they of ours. That's why we cherish scenes like this one:
Our pastor is extolling the wonders of children and their place in the church while our music minister, with whom we've grown quite close, stands to the side ready to lead us and the congregation in the words of dedication. My favorite part? Our pastor takes each child dedicated and walks up and down the aisle with him, speaking directly to him about how unique and important he is to the life of our church. I call it the Lion King moment because she holds the child out for the church to see and to pray for, and invariably it feels as though the sun whips through the high windows and illuminates the moment.

So, I suppose we're now stuck with Noah. We've dedicated ourselves to rearing him in front of God. There's no backing out now, not that we ever would.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Palin Sings the Blues

Since most of my scholarly work is on Harry Partch, I've long been fascinated by the inherent rhythms in our speech and how those rhythms might be set to music. Partch searched among hoboes for the sound of America, noting down the rise and fall of hobo speech and transforming his notes into Barstow and U.S. Highball, two powerful works of Americana.

Decades later, Robert Ashley created modern operas out of the speech patterns of everyday Americans (most notably himself) that are thought-provoking and beautiful and hypnotic.

Steve Reich created his most powerful work, Different Trains, from recordings of train conductors and survivors of WWII concentration camps. He took their recorded voices, mimicked their inflections in a string quartet, and built an entire work off those motives.

This tradition continues:

I've always found politicians to have remarkable speech patterns that are almost musical in their affect, but matching the strange pauses and non sequiturs of both Katie Couric and Governor Palin was a marvelous move. Music and politics do not often mix, but when they do, it can be fascinating.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mouse Update

For those of you curious, the current count stands at four mice in the basement. We've now gone one full day without finding any mice, and our trash was picked up this morning, cleaning out the lovely smell we had gathering in the garage. Hopefully we're done for a while with mice in the basement. Now if I can only get the sink in our bathroom back together.

What? Haven't told you that story? We'll leave it for another day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Reading from Memory

Sam's been on a roll since turning three. First the three imaginary friends, and now today's accomplishment. I got to work early for a practice session for a concert on which I'm playing and had just sat down to the piano when my telephone rang. It was Joy.

"You'll never guess what Sam did just now," she exclaimed. "We were watching Thomas and answering questions in the quiz section when he pointed to the screen and said 'A is Thomas, B is Bertie, and C is James."

Joy was a bit shocked, so she went and grabbed a Thomas book, and he pointed to a few words and declared what they were. Unsure, she then took his magnadoodle and began writing words. Sam immediately recognized most of the names of the Thomas engines (no surprise there) along with words like "stop," "go," and "bus," among others. He's been pointing to words while reading and asking what they were for several weeks now, so it appears things are clicking together in his mind.

Now if only the potty training would fully click as well.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Son the Overachiever

Sam's always had an active imagination, but this past week it has really taken off. Right after everyone left from the big birthday weekend, he began talking about Gus riding his plasma car with him. We wondered where Gus came from, but that was nothing compared with Sunday afternoon. Sam has a card game from Discovery Toys, and he was carefully putting cards in four piles and moving them around, while telling Gus, and Hannah, and Clayton when it was their turn to play and which pile was there.

Yes, you read that right - my son has three imaginary friends. Forget the BFF imaginary friend most children have, my son needs three to keep up with him. At least our three new household members aren't eating yet. Grocery bills are high enough as they are.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

One Mouse, Two Mouse, Red Mouse, Dead Mouse

Last weekend, right after everyone left for the evening, Joy was doing a bit of laundry when she breathlessly came up the stairs proclaiming that she had seen a mouse. I dutifully went, looked, saw no mouse, but did see a half-eaten sweet potato. Like a good husband, I dedicated myself to getting it out of the basement.

The next night, I set our live trap with a bit of sweet potato, figuring the mouse already had a preference and knew where to find it. I was right. The next morning, the sweet potato was gone and the trap unsprung.

The next evening, I baited the trap with peanut butter on the trigger and sweet potato on the other side, figuring Mr. Mouse would need to climb over the trigger to get the potato and whamo, I'd have him.

The next morning, the potato was gone and the peanut butter undisturbed.

I figured I'd leave it set with the peanut butter one more evening and see if standing on the trigger to eat would catch our mouse.

It didn't. The next morning I found mouse droppings on the trigger, no peanut butter, and no mouse.

Figuring our Houdini rodent wasn't going to fall prey to live traps, I went and get a full-blown mouse trap and set it with peanut butter. That did the trick. Mr. Mouse was caught, our basement was safe, all was right with the world.

But just in case he had a partner, I set the trap again Friday night.

Saturday morning? Yep, another mouse. So, I once again set the trap yesterday afternoon, baited it with peanut butter, and put it down, thinking there was no way I'd find another mouse.

This morning? Yep, another mouse. Any guesses as to how long our basement can keep producing mice? If only it would produce golden eggs this regularly, we'd be sitting pretty.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

It was a Big Birthday Day

Sam's birthday was this past weekend, so we've been in intense celebration mode at our house (and intense detoxification afterwards). We started last Friday morning before any family arrived by taking Sam and Noah down to our local kid's science museum, Science City (see, we're not only about music around here - we also expose our children to the fun things science can do. Things powered by science are fun!). They have a dinosaur lab where you can watch technicians cleaning and assembling a dinosaur skeleton and then dig for your own dinosaur bones in the large sand pit. They have a mini-golf course where you play against the effects of gravity and other fun Newtonian laws. They have a playground where the equipment reacts in different ways to your different stimuli. And they have a model train. What could be better?

We played around for a while and bought as part of his present a membership so we can come back and take in the Railroad Experience which is part of the museum as well. The rest of the day was spent playing with Aunt Heather and Ana and then May and Pop when they arrived. But Saturday was the main event.

We got up early Saturday and took Sam out for breakfast with all the family to get chocolate chip pancakes. Then it was off to Sam's favorite park:
As he is now three, he immediately went for the jungle gym rated for ages 5 and older and went down the slide that is at least 12 feet in the air. The little kid's area where he's supposed to play? No interest at all. Following whatever the bigger kids do? That's the ticket. He rolled around in the sand, climbed in and out of everything possible, went high and fast on the swings, and spent every ounce of energy he gained from his chocolate chip pancakes.

After the park we had Kindermusik class, then we went to play with art at a Hallmark-sponsored kids art exploration, and then had lunch at the train restaurant. That's right, a train restaurant where your meal is delivered by a train that runs around the establishment's ceiling. Sam is in heaven at this place.

Presents came in the afternoon along with a very special visitor. Perhaps you can spot him on the table:
Yes, Thomas came to Sam's birthday party, and he's been telling anyone who will listen since that Thomas came to his party. What's better than a chocolate cake shaped like Thomas? Obviously nothing.

With Aunt Heather and Ana and May and Pop and Nana and Granddad here for the weekend, Sam never lacked for playmates. Each night he could barely go to sleep because he didn't want to miss out on any fun and he bartered for as much play time with grandparents as he could possibly get. We knew the birthday bash was a success when, on Monday morning when I woke him up to get ready for school, he croaked in his sleepy voice: "Is it still my birthday?" Fortunately it was as Nana had made cupcakes for him to take to school and his teachers had a balloon and birthday hat for him to wear.

He almost can't take off the hat even to today.

What was Noah's take on all the commotion?

See for yourself:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

If We Voted According to Musical Taste

There is one area of information about our presidential candidates that the media has not considered deeply enough - their musical tastes. You are thinking I'm approaching this topic because I spend my entire day submerged in music and its effects on culture, but stop and consider how we use music. Often we define ourselves according to music. Your friends generally have similar musical tastes to your own. You dress according to the culture into which you enter musically as well. If I throw out musical styles - country, hip-hop, classical, techno - your mind immediately conjures up the way people whose preferences lend towards those styles dress. I often joke to my class that Schoolhouse Rock got it wrong: we aren't what we eat, we're what we listen to.

With that in mind, I was pleased to see that Blender magazine compiled a list of the candidate's top ten songs:

Barack Obama’s top 10
The Fugees ‘Ready or Not’
Marvin Gaye ‘What's Going On’
Bruce Springsteen ‘I'm On Fire’
Rolling Stones ‘Gimme Shelter’
Nina Simone ‘Sinnerman’
Kanye West ‘Touch the Sky’
Frank Sinatra ‘You'd Be So Easy to Love’
Aretha Franklin ‘Think’
U2 ‘City of Blinding Lights’ ‘Yes We Can’

John McCain’s top 10
Abba ‘Dancing Queen’
Roy Orbison ‘Blue Bayou’
Abba ‘Take a Chance On Me’
Merle Haggard ‘If We Make It Through December’
Dooley Wilson ‘As Time Goes By’
The Beach Boys ‘Good Vibrations’
Louis Armstrong ‘What A Wonderful World’
Frank Sinatra ‘I've Got You Under My Skin’
Neil Diamond ‘Sweet Caroline’
The Platters ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’

The inclusion of R&B and classic rock on Obama's list, but a few things stood out to me about McCain's. First of all is the inclusion of not one, but two ABBA songs. Two! And the second is that those ABBA songs are the most recent on his playlist. For a man currently trying to appeal to young voters, this list is not good.

But then, Obama's list isn't that grand either. Sure he's got a few powerful tracks, but Nina Simone? Sure is younger than any song on McCain's list, but his music isn't that striking and his inclusion must be because Obama inspired the song. No props for including songs about you unless you also put Ludacris's "Politics: Obama Is Here."

That leaves us with the VP candidates to help us make up our mind, and since Sarah Palin is so new, this is all I can find that describes her musical choices, her talent portion from the Miss Alaska competition:

That's right, the only information I can find is that James Galway is her favorite artist.

Does this change your vote? Probably not, but I think it does give insight into the thoughts and mindsets of the candidates.