Saturday, May 30, 2009

Plant World: Summer Edition

Yesterday evening Richard Bonomo stopped by with his digital camera and took some photos of Plant World:  Summer Edition, now that my plants are all out on my balcony.  In this photo, you can see my amaryllis, orchid, white calla lily, and a tiny bit of the mini red rose, as well as a bunch of dracaenas and tropical cacti in the background.

Figure 1:  My Own Little Garden of Eden

This second picture Rich had to take by leaning his hand way out over my balcony and having me tell him when the camera was in the right position.  That is a little edge of Rich you can see at the right side of the photo.

Figure 2:  The Succulent Area of Plant World:  Summer Edition

After all that photography and cinematography, we were a bit hungry so we walked to the restaurant near my house, which as you can plainly see is called Jerkns.  This picture was taken on Rich's cell phone, which is why the quality isn't as high.

Figure 3:  Jerkns, Your Neighborhood Restaurant

Today A-Fooze and I proctored an exam for some members of Richard Bonomo's catechism class, since some of the other kids had already taken the exam.  Anna Banana II was there as well, substitute teaching for someone else who was out of town.  Then A-Fooze and I went to the downtown farmers' market and had pastries and cheese curds as we walked around admiring the flowers and early produce (like rhubarb) for sale.  Later Rich and I walked to a house that was for sale not far from his current domicile, and Kathbert biked up just as we got there, but nobody had informed the poor realtor that an offer had already been accepted.  So I headed home, and Hardingfele came over and admired Plant World:  Summer Edition until it was time for the tortilla party at Rich's.  I brought the maseca flour, and A-Fooze brought the tortilla press, and we had a great time making little balls of dough and then smashing them into flat tortillas in the heavy iron press.  A-Fooze also brought black beans, refried beans, chorizo, and chicken, and Kathbert brought banana peppers while Anna Banana II brought condiments like salsa and sour cream, and she also cut up some green onions.  Then we had tacos!  Later we had the rhubarb cheesecake Anna Banana II had brought, and then we watched a hilarious movie from the 80s called Hairspray.  If you have never seen this movie, I highly recommend you watch it.  Right now.  Again and again, like A-Fooze, who had borrowed it from the library last week, already watched it three times, then renewed it today and plans to watch it again tomorrow with El Fiance.  Yes, it is that good.

Here is the movie version of Plant World:  Summer Edition.

Famous Hat

Friday, May 29, 2009

Pictures of Paradise

Here are more photos from Palm Tree Fan's Caribbean cruise this past winter. While I have gone on a Caribbean cruise myself, my photos are for the most part not worth posting. (Unless, of course, you enjoy looking at the sail of a catamaran. I'm not saying that the all-you-can-drink beer and margaritas influenced this subject choice...) Or how about a lovely picture of Tiffy taking a picture of the sunset? Yes, it's true - I am not a good photographer!

Figure 1: Wish I Were Here

In keeping with the tropical theme today, I created a station on the internet radio site that plays Hawaiian music. At some point I tried to add Tahitian music, and the internet radio site has a real paucity of anything Polynesian (other than Hawaiian), but for some reason it started playing reggae after that. I like reggae well enough (but NOT reggaeton!), so I let it go, although it is supposed to be a Polynesian music station. Maybe they figure tropical is tropical...?

Figure 2: Or Here

As long as the "purity" of my station had been so violated, I decided to go ahead and add some calypso music. I couldn't find anything under either "calypso" or "steel drums," but oddly now my station has started playing Ted Nugent! What has that got to do with the tropics at all?

Figure 3: I Would Certainly Settle for Being Here

Speaking of purity and violation, and relating to the astrology theme of yesterday, once Ubi Caritas was trying to annoy me by saying how after we got married we would live in the suburbs and drive an SUV. (This is why I am still single.) I said, "You know, there may be vehicles called the Aries and the Taurus, but they'd NEVER name a car after your sign!" So then we debated about the best advertising slogan for the, say, Ford Virgo:

Ubi Caritas: "Feels like a new drive every time!"
Famous Hat: "Pure driving pleasure!"

And now you can see why neither of us went into marketing.

Famous Hat

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Letter to the President

Exactly two weeks ago, my dracaena marginata (see below) took it upon itself to write to President Obama. Below is the text of its letter.

Figure 1: Dracaena Marginata
(scanned by Famous Hat)

Dear President Obama:

I am wondering what your administration plans to do about the lack of floral representation in the Zodiac. All the signs are animals or people (except for Libra, which is an inanimate object), which is very kingdomist. I would appreciate more plant representation! We clean your air, we grow your food, and we beautify your landscapes, and yet you would rather be represented by a crab or a virgin?? I realize that you, as a Lion, are probably satisfied with your sign, but would an oak tree not be just as cool? Or some kind of exotic orchid? If you do implement any policy changes regarding zodiac signs, please make sure that Capricorn is a palm tree. That would make the person who waters me very happy. Remember: Capricorn = Palm Tree. Thank you very much for your kind attention to the concerns of a humble houseplant.


Dracaena Marginata

Figure 2: Capricorn the Palm Tree

(photo credit: Palm Tree Fan)

Palm Tree Fan: maybe Aries can be another kind of palm tree, since there are lots of kinds.

Figure 3: Aries the Other Kind of Palm Tree

(photo credit: Palm Tree Fan)

Oddly enough, to date Dracaena has not received a reply. It was very much hoping for some sort of form letter that had nothing to do with its original policy question. Richard Bonomo once wrote to President Clinton to thank him for letting the Pope use his helicopter, and a few weeks later he received a generic form letter thanking him for his support of Clinton. Since Rich is a die-hard Republican, he was not exactly a huge supporter of Bill Clinton. However, no matter what our political affiliation, I think we can all agree that George Clinton is the Ultimate Funk Monarch of All Time, and if you don't believe me, go listen to "Flashlight." I'll wait.

When I mentioned to Hardingfele that it was very disappointing not to have received a reply from the President, she said, "He doesn't reply to crazy people." So then I had to point out to her that he wouldn't be responding to a crazy PERSON but a crazy PLANT. Perhaps that is the source of his apathy: plants can't vote. Maybe Dracaena should take up plant suffrage as its next cause. As if it didn't have enough suffrage when I scanned it...

Famous Hat

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Terror on the High C's

Wednesday, like most other days of the week, is a good time to reminisce about tropical vacations. While this picture may look as if I am on life support, what I am actually doing is snorkeling.

Is This Hell... or Cozumel??
(photo credit: Tiffy, using my disposable water camera)

I know this doesn't explain the title of this post, although Tiffy and I were "attacked" by pirates on Key West. The religious differences were too great, however - Tiffy and I being Catholic, and pirates of course following the Flying Spaghetti Monster - so it didn't work out.

Once there was a woman named Florence Foster Jenkins who was a terrible singer. She used to have recitals all the time, and people begged to attend them because they were so entertaining. She used to have numerous costume changes during each recital, and her accompaniest would make fun of her behind her back. What's my point? Just that if you are not a very good singer, and you have recitals but nobody wants to attend, maybe you should make them more entertaining. Just sayin.'

Famous Hat

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Memorable Memorial Day Weekend

Did you have a good Memorial Day weekend? Mine was wonderful! On Friday Anna Banana II and I went down to the lake to hear a Cajun band play, and a group of folk dancers were doing the two-step and the waltz to their music. It was a gorgeous evening. Then Rich and I went to the new Star Trek movie at midnight, and I knew it would throw my schedule off a little, but I didn't expect to sleep until dinnertime on Saturday! All I got accomplished that day was making the fondant for a frog cake for Cecil Markovitch using the recipe my coworker gave me for marshmallow fondant. My results were not nearly as professional-looking as hers, but Cecil seemed pleased anyhow. If you look closely, you should see not only two frogs (and a third being eaten by a snake) and two lily pads with flowers, but also a pineapple, a crab, and a penny sitting on a lily pad. The penny is in honor of Richard Bonomo and the penny birthday cake I made him earlier this year. The pineapple is a joke, because Cecil Markovitch HATES pineapples! (One of the B-Boys actually gave him a REAL pineapple!) Then I had some leftover brown fondant, so I made the little crab in honor of my OTHER choir director, who was hosting the birthday party, and also one of the B-Boys, the newlywed one, because their birthdays are at the end of next month, a day apart. (So they're Cancer the Crab, see.) Anyway, it seemed like something relevant to add to Frogs' Night Out, and what else was I going to do with some leftover brown fondant? These photos were all taken on Kathbert's cell phone.

Figure 1: Frog's Night Out (top view)

Figure 2: Frogs' Night Out (view of snake eating frog)
This theme was suggested by my OTHER choir director,
who saw a snake swallowing a frog on a TV show.

Figure 3: Frogs' Night Out (another view of snake eating frog)

Sunday after Mass a bunch of us went to brunch to celebrate the birthday of my Archirritant's ex-husband, then I went home and baked a Black Magic cake to put my fondant creations on. Cecil Markovitch's birthday party was on my OTHER choir director's pier; in attendance were Rich, Kathbert, Antoshka, both B-Boys (but not Mo-Girl, who was having a Girls' Night In), A-Fooze and El Fiance, Anna Banana II, and of course the host, the guest of honor, and me. We ordered pizza, and Cecil brought spinach salad, Anna Banana II brought hummus and veggies, the B-Boy who just returned from his Hawaiian honeymoon brought some kind of Hawaiian treats made of macadamia nuts and sesame seeds, and A-Fooze made Hungarian crepes that she calls "polichenta." (I have no idea how to spell that.) She made some filled with apricots and others filled with lingonberry jam in honor of the host. (Like me, she is from temperate climes but feels tropical at heart, loving bright colors and warm weather and Latin music.) Frogs' Night Out was a big hit, but most people didn't care for the fondant, which tastes like Peeps. Cecil did eat the little fondant pineapple and declared it was the best pineapple he had ever eaten. The rest of us demolished the real pineapple the B-Boy had given him for a joke.

Then yesterday I met T at her sister's lake house. T's niece's alter ego, the Evil Cherry Mouse, calls her Tiffy, so I said I was going to call her that on my blog from now on, and she said that was fine. We played games in the yard with her nieces and their friends, then her brother-in-law took us for a ride in the speedboat; Tiffy's nieces and their friend Little Mighty went tubing while the youngest girls sat watching them and Tiffy and I sat up front. Then we all colored cardboard fashion dolls and gave them names like Topaz Tanzanite, Paris France, Delaney Downhillski, Chloe Madskillz, and Kilarney Kilbride. (Tiffy's older niece was almost named Kilarney because her parents went to Ireland when they were expecting her.) After dinner Evil Cherry Mouse's alter ego, Tiffy's mild-mannered niece, and her friend Little Mighty wanted to go canoeing but they had to have an "adult" in the canoe with them so I agreed to go. I felt like Cleopatra in her barge as they paddled me along! We saw lots of carp, baby ducklings, a heron, and a tree with roots that looked like a skull. Then it started to rain so Tiffy's older niece hollered for us to come back in for do-it-yourself sundaes. Mmm!

This morning when my alarm went off, I could barely get up. In fact, I fell asleep briefly and dreamed I lived at Our Lady of Perpetual Sobriety and that they were having Mass at 6:30 am to accommodate some girls who wanted to attend a movie at 5:15 pm, when they usually have daily Mass. The celebrant was a priest we used to have who returned to Nigeria years ago. Then I woke up and wondered what that was about!

Famous Hat


By popular request of my #1 reader, Hardingfele, here is "Polyhymnia":

A figure on horseback rode before the lengthening shadows, desperately searching for a village where the evil had not yet struck. He searched from east to west, from shore to shore, but the blight had spread everywhere. The evil was without form or beauty, and it left devastation in its wake, devouring everything in its path. Still Slane rode on ahead of it, ever in danger of being consumed himself as he sought a haven that had not yet been destroyed.

Slane's mount, the brave steed Hyfrydol, was foaming at the mouth from exhaustion, and he knew they could not keep up their breakneck pace for much longer. He hoped the dark horseman who rode fast upon his heels with foul intent could not guess at his own purpose. Suddenly, as he came to the crest of a hill, he saw a sun-drenched valley stretching out below him, and in it the untouched hamlet of Llanfair. Slane sighed, "Deo Gracias!" and guided Hyfrydol down into the valley.

Llanfair was a very beautiful old village. At the top of Duke Street was Regent Square, with the ancient churches of St. Theodulph and St. Denio on either side, an enormous fountain in the center, and the Kingsfold Tavern at the edge of the square. The Kingsfold was the center of village life in Llanfair. It was a close, smoky room with a hearth at one end and a heavy wooden door with iron handles at the other. Above the door were inscribed the words: "O Heiland, Reiss die Himmel auf" in Gothic letters. When the door opened and sunlight poured into the dim tavern, everyone looked up in surprise at the stranger who entered.

"Who is that?" Rhosymedre asked the barmaid, Aberystwyth. They were the best of friends, although Rhosymedre and her husband Thaxted went to St. Theodulph, while Aberystwyth and her husband Irby went to St. Denio. The two churches stood across from each other, and each parish thought the other was sorely confused in matters of doctrine.

"I've never seen him before in my life," said Aberystwyth. "Where do you suppose he's come from? He looks as if he's been riding for days!"

"Picardy will soon find out," said Rhosymedre. The mayor of Llanfair was a short, self-important man who stood before the stranger, not at all fazed by the way the man towered over him, and said, "Welcome to our fair hamlet of Llanfair, friend! Let me buy you a drink. You look in need of refreshment."

"Sir, I thank you kindly," said the stranger, "and I will accept your offer, but I'm afraid that I do not have good tidings to share. There is a great evil headed this way. Do you know of the malevolent sorcerer Margen the Haughty?"

Everyone in the Kingsfold Tavern murmured in surprise. They had never heard the name, but the way the stranger pronounced it, this sorcerer was indeed someone to be feared.

"We have no quarrel with anyone," said Picardy. "What do we have to fear from this man? We are pious, upright folk."

"You do not understand," said the stranger. "My name is Slane, and I have ridden for fully a fortnight searching for anything not ruined by the evil perpetrated by this sorcerer. He wishes to destroy us all."

"Then what should we do?" wondered Picardy. "Is he searching for tribute? We have no gold to offer him."

"No amount of gold could save you from him," Slane replied.

"We can defend ourselves," Thaxted declared. "We have plenty of artillery. This Margen the Haughty will never be able to withstand the onslaught of the King's Weston and the Tallis Cannon."

"No," said Slane, "there is no weapon that can defeat his power."

"Down in yon forest there stands a hall," said Irby. "The Germans say it is ein feste burg. We could flee to it and save ourselves."

"No," said Slane, "there is no wall able to keep his evil out. We must stand and face him here, else he will gather us in and destroy us. But I warn you, he is a fearsome adversary. He will take your two beautiful churches, raze them to the ground, and build edifices so hideous you will shudder to look upon them. They will be even more loathsome within, with no beauty of any sort to contemplate, only bare walls and strange angles and ugly banners bearing feel-good slogans. He will force us to learn songs with incorrigible melodies and faintly heretical lyrics. He will erase the memory of our existence from the earth and leave us no descendants. He is utterly ruthless."

"Then what shall we do?" cried Rhosymedre in despair.

"I know!" said Picardy's wife Diademata quite confidently, surprising them all. "We will call upon the Son of L___ who lives beside the lake. He will save us! His power is much greater than that of this Margen the Haughty. Slane, stay with us this night and seek him on the morrow."

That evening Slane was the honored guest of Picardy and Diademata, who lived in an estate called Besançon at the intersection of Old Hundredth and Darwall's 148th. Besançon was a lively place, ringing with the laughter of Picardy's daughters Melita and Aurelia, and Slane sincerely hoped he was not too late to save them all from the clutches of Margen the Haughty.

Early the next morning the watchman cried, "Wake, awake for night is flying!"

Slane arose and prepared to seek the Son of L___, the only one who could save them all. The villagers all gathered in Regent Square to see him off, and he exhorted them:

"O filii et filiae! Do not let this Margen the Haughty into your village under any pretext whatsoever! He was less than a day behind me when last I saw his evil form. I warn you, he will come with fair appearance and gentle voice to persuade you, but do not let him in! Remember how he burned down St. Columba in Beach Spring, and I hardly need remind you of what he did to St. George's, Windsor. And of course there are the sad cases of St. Anne in Finlandia and St. Agnes in Antioch, and the castle of Fortunatus (New), and others too numerous to mention. But we will prevail! If you but trust in God to guide you, we will all survive this ordeal! God be with you!" And he spurred Hyfrydol on and thundered off down Duke Street.

The residents of Llanfair watched Slane recede into the distance, until they could not see even the cloud of dust kicked up by Hyfrydol's hooves. Then they formed a circle around the village, both the men and the women, and waited for Margen the Haughty to arrive.

The day was sunny and fair, and birds sang in the trees. Suddenly a deathly quiet rose up about them as all creatures of our God and King abruptly fell silent. Even the insects left off their chirping. The villagers felt a shadow fall upon them, then they heard hoofbeats far off to the north. They strained their eyes to see the approaching figure, unsure if it were Slane returning with the Son of L____, or the dreaded Margen the Haughty. The figure drew closer and closer, until finally they could make out his form. It was a stranger wearing a cheerful mask, and the mask is called Happychurch. He rode up to Lambillotte and stood before him on his mount Haas.

"Hail, sir," he said in a pleasant voice. "May I enter yon village?"

"Are you Margen the Haughty?" responded Lambillotte.

"My name is Margen, but I assure you, I am far from haughty. I am here to show you that you need not fear God. He loves you. Why do you continue to sing about His terrible power? Sing about how much He loves us! That is how He wants us to worship him."

Lambillotte thought he saw the sense in what Margen had told him, and he was about to let him pass, but then he remembered Slane's warning.

"No," he said, "while it is true that God loves us, we must also fear Him. When we sing in this village, we sing about how much we adore Him, not how much He loves us. We do not need to make Him love us, but we need to learn to revere Him."

Margen turned Haas and rode around the perimeter of the village until he was standing in front of Ellecombe.

"Dear lady, I entreat you - may I enter your fair village?"

"Are you Margen the Haughty? I have been warned about you!"

"I am not haughty," Margen assured her. "I am here to free you from your fearful conceptions of God. Why should you have to worship in a church that reminds you of how immense He is and how small you are? Let me show you another way, where you will worship in a space that does not make you feel insignificant, but instead lets you feel a part of the group."

Ellecombe thought there may have been some wisdom to what he was saying, but then Slane's words of warning rang in her ears. She said, "A house of worship built to focus our attention on God and His greatness does not detract from our bond as a congregation. If anything, when we all face the altar instead of each other, our purpose is far more united."

Margen turned Haas away from her and rode until he was before Nicaea. He dismounted Haas and held a book out her, saying, "Dear lady, here is a book you may find enlightening. It is called the Michaelangelo Codex, and within its pages is contained a great mystery, a secret that the Church has been suppressing for many centuries."

"Really?" Nicaea reached for the book out of curiosity. "What secret knowledge has the Church kept hidden from us?"

Margen smiled through his mask Happychurch and said, "Let me enter your village, and I will share it with you."

Suddenly a loud cry rang out: "Margen, drop that accurséd tome and begone!"

"Hark, a thrilling voice is sounding!" said Nicaea. "I believe it is the Son of L___ himself!"

The Son of L___ rode up on his fiery steed Breslau, followed by Slane on Hyfrydol. He guided Breslau between Nicaea and the evil sorceror and glared down at the latter.

"Fool!" he said to Margen scornfully. "What do you know of secrets and mysteries? That book is filled with lies and conspiracy theories! The great mystery of the Church is the Victim Divine whose grace we claim, and the Church has always shared this secret with all believers! Why do you pant after other mysteries? What could be more mysterious than His Real Presence among us?"

Margen the Haughty made a move as if to draw a weapon, but the Son of L___ dropped a ton of l__s on him. Dazed, Margen fell to the ground, and the Son of L___ tore off his mask Happychurch so that all the villagers could see his true visage. They gasped in horror and drew back.

"See what you would have given up your faith for?" said the Son of L___. "Would you trade the Divinum Mysterium for this empty promise?"

Then the people of Llanfair realized how close to disaster they had come. They resolved never to fall for the treacherous lies of Margen the Haughty, who climbed back onto Haas and rode away, never to torment them again. For so it is written in the words of the sacred Green Book.

copyright 2005 by the author. No part of this story should be published elsewhere without the author's explicit permission.

All references to hymn tune names or lines from hymns or songs are in lavender.

Famous Hat

Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy Ascension! (One Day Late)

Yesterday I had a moment that might be as close to perfection as one can have in this life. I was sitting on my balcony, admiring my plants in the golden evening light, when a tiny hummingbird flew up to my blooming orchid. It had second thoughts, either about the orchid or because of me, and zipped off into the soft evening air, but it was still a delightful little guest.

Then I went to the Lutheran church for their Ascension potluck and service. (Generally our church does nothing for Ascension, since it is moved to the following Sunday, but apparently this year they had a high Tridentine Mass, and by the time I learned about it, I'd already promised to attend the Lutherans' celebration.) One woman brought lasagne made with spinach pasta, so that it looked like it was full of green peppers. People who hate green peppers didn't try any, and those of us who love them thought the peppers really added to the flavor. There's the power of suggestion for you! Their service was beautiful and simple, moving from the outside courtyard to the narthex to the west transept, and the closing hymn was the gorgeous tune "Bryn Calfaria." (They tell me this is the Episcopalian in my blood, that I am obsessed with hymn tune names. Catholics and Lutherans usually just refer to them by the lyrics, as in "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" versus "Picardy.")

True story about hymn tunes: four years ago I was on a HUGE kick about this, totally obsessed, and I looked up a bunch of my favorite hymns to find out their tune names. Then I wrote a story for my OTHER choir director using these names for the characters and places in the story. The hymns that had tune names that were long, unwieldy German phrases I simply incorporated into the story in their English translations, such as "If you but trust in God to guide you." This story is called "Polyhymnia," as in "many songs," and it's all over the place now because people kept giving copies to other people, but I do diss a well-known Catholic songwriter (who is actually now UCC) so hopefully I don't get sued for libel! (Then again, the songwriter in question does have an entire website dedicated to how much people can't stand him, so I am the least of his problems.)

Have a fabulous holiday weekend! I am hoping to get to the farmer's market for the first time this year. Yes, how lame is that? I haven't been yet. It's either been lousy weather or I've been in Missouri for a wedding. My office mate is taking today and Tuesday off, so I thought it would be quiet and boring here at work, but I got pulled into an argument between two other parties over conference rooms. Good times. Fortunately I was able to engineer a peaceful solution. (Famous Hat to the rescue again!) In case you have not had a chance to get to a farmer's market yet, or worse, they don't have one where you are, I am posting a photo Palm Tree Fan took of some tulips she bought recently at the farmer's market so you can feel like you are there right now, drinking coffee and eating a scone and admiring produce and flowers.

Famous Hat

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Spring and Fall

Except for allergies, the best months in my opinion are May and October. They have both the loveliest weather and the most beautiful flora. Here are two pictures Kathbert took with her cell phone (isn't that thing amazing?), of crabapples blossoming just a week or two ago and gorgeous leaves on a maple last fall.

Figure 1: Spring

Figure 2: Fall

"Spring and Fall (To a Young Child)" is my favorite poem by one of my favorite poets, Gerard Manley Hopkins. He was a Catholic priest and did not have children of his own; it is believed he wrote this after a walk in the woods with his young niece, who became upset over the leaves dying in autumn. Here is the text of it, for those who are unfamiliar with it:

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Yes, Margaret, we all die... some of us more violently than others. As the stale joke goes, "I always hoped to die peacefully in my sleep like Grandpa did, not screaming in terror like the other people riding in his car." Some die under the harsh glare of the city streetlights.

Figure 3: Tetracide by Streetlight

Murder is nothing new; in the second generation of humanity we were killing one another, or at least Cain was killing Abel. In the police archives one can find old photos of murder scenes that could have happened yesterday, so familiar do the surroundings and personages involved appear.

Figure 4: Tetracide circa 1923
Famous Hat

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lights Off in Plant World/Deathbots!

Yesterday was a very exciting day: I moved every single denizen of Plant World onto my balcony and unplugged the lights! It mostly went smoothly, but I have Coccyx Shock Syndrome (wish I'd thought of that, but I stole it from the name of another biking team) from sitting down on a chair that wasn't there. Ouch! The poor little organ pipe jade plant I was holding went flying right out of its pot, and now it hardly has any leaves left. Oops! But once everything was in place, I sat in my chair (making sure it was there first) and gazed with great joy at my blooming amaryllis, orchid, and calla lilies. It was like my own little Garden of Eden! Cashmere wanted to come out too, but I'm always afraid she'll leap right off the balcony. Instead, I cuddled her and let her look out the window, and that seemed to make her happy.

Once when I was home visiting my parents, my niece, nephews, and I decided to draw deathbots. This all started because of a short story I had written called "Japandemonium," which is about nothing deeper than watching Saturday morning cartoons and eating sugar cereal as a kid. The protagonists of "Japandemonium" are a pair of deathbots named Megamort and Ultra Ultra Thanatos, so I drew my conception of what they might look like.

Figure 1: Megamort and Ultra Ultra Thanatos

Then my niece and nephews decided to draw their own deathbots, and they asked me to name them. The first two are the deathbots my niece drew.

Figure 2: Conator the Dairy Product of Death

Figure 3: Kay Soh the Fromaginator

The next three are the deathbots drawn by my youngest nephew.

Figure 4: Snooky-Woo the Harbinger of Annihilation

Figure 5: Rosebud the Extirpator

Figure 6: The Ooble of Doom

This last picture was drawn by my older nephew, who is the Evil Middle Child. (Anna Banana II, who is the very middle of many children, tells me that middle children are ALWAYS evil. So then if you are an only child, like Kathbert and Hardingfele, does that make you an Evil Middle Child as well?) It is, as I'm sure you'll agree, a very odd-looking deathbot, but probably entirely effective. He also named it himself, with a very unwieldly name.

Figure 7: I Wish This Were Real the Deathbot

Famous Hat

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Honeymooners

This weekend Richard Bonomo, Kathbert, one of the B-Boys, and I helped Anna Banana II in what has become something of a yearly ritual with her: she moved into a new place. She thanked us with pizza and delicious homemade brownies. Then we were talking about how we should decorate the other B-Boy's car because he was returning later that very evening from Hawaii with his new bride, Mo-Girl. It turns out that both his car and Mo-Girl's car were at the B-Folks' house, so we went with Plan B: we decorated the front door of their new apartment so that all their new neighbors (including a woman who goes by - I kid you not - Flame) would know that they had just returned from their tropical honeymoon.

Figure 1: B-Boy and Mo-Girl's Front Door
(photo credit: Kathbert's cell phone)

Figure 2: Close-up of Sign
(photo credit: Kathbert's cell phone
sign design: Famous Hat)

Then on their dining room table we left a bottle of white wine called "Honeymoon," a yellow calla lily, and a loaf of bread. (This was taken on Rich's cell phone, which does not take such good photos as Kathbert's does - hers is practically as good as a real camera!) The sign says: "A bottle of wine, a loaf of bread, a plant, and thou... Welcome home!"

Figure 3: B-Boy and Mo-Girl's Dining Room Table

And in an attempt to find the cold-blooded killer of the Number Four, I am providing the police photograph negatives of "A Clear Case of Tetracide." Please help us bring this number killer to justice!

Figure 4: A Clear Case of Tetracide (Police Negatives)

Famous Hat

A Clear Case of Tetracide

Famous Hat

Monday, May 18, 2009

Do You Have a Sagbut?

It's that time of year again - time to start thinking about Early Music Camp! I have gone every year for the last five years, and this year they are offering all sorts of wonderful classes. Monteverdi! Landini! Period tuning methods and modal singing! As our banjo player said, it hardly matters if you get into your first, second, or third choice class because they all sound so fantastic! A number of people in my folk band are Early Music Camp addicts, including the banjo player, the flute player, and one of the fiddlers... and me, of course. So I asked Hardingfele if she would like to go to Early Music Camp, and she said there was only one class that interested her: sackbut techniques.

If you know anything about early music - and who doesn't, right? - then you know that the sackbut (or its even more entertaining alternate spelling, "sagbut") is just an old-fashioned trombone. If you read this blog regularly, then you know that Hardingfele plays the fiddle and the hardanger fiddle. And if you know anything about playing musical instruments, then you know that playing string instruments is totally different than playing brass instruments. It's like languages: if you know one in a family (say, Romance) then you can more quickly learn another one, so Spanish helps with Italian and violin helps with mandolin. Going from the violin to the sackbut is like learning Spanish and then Turkish; you might have a slight advantage in having learned a foreign language, but none of the vocabulary or syntax will be the same.

When I asked Hardingfele why she wanted to make such a dramatic switch in instrumentation, she admitted that she had just been enamored of the way the word sounds. It is, I will grant you, a very funny word. Supposedly it comes from the Old French for push-pull, so it could have been called a pushme-pullyou. Then again, the creature from the Dr. Doolittle books which looks like a llama with a head on each end might equally be called a sackbut!

The Alternate Sackbut (or Sagbut)
(photo credit: Palm Tree Fan
terrible photo editing credit: Famous Hat)

Famous Hat

Friday, May 15, 2009

It's Official: I Am Nobody!

The downturn in the economy has gotten everyone gloomy about their jobs: will it end tomorrow? Will they have to take pay cuts? Once upon a time I worked at a happy little start-up company that was gobbled up by a giant, evil corporation, and then they began laying people off bit by bit. I lasted two years. Thursday of my final week we had a meeting in which they explained that production of the equipment would move to China within the next year, "but," they assurred us, "nobody will lose their job." The next day was the first of the month, so when they called me into the HR department, I naively thought they were finally going to give me the raise they had been promising me for, oh, five months. (I had taken on extra job responsibilities with no increase in pay.) Somehow it escaped my attention that it was also a Friday afternoon, which is when they always lay people off.

At first I wasn't sure what to say when they told me my position was being eliminated. Once the shock wore off, it occurred to me that I had officially been proclaimed "nobody" - after all, hadn't they said just the day before that "nobody" would lose her job? And then hadn't I just lost mine? The implication was inescapable. And with that, I was free to enjoy life on a whole new level. Let me just state for the record that being laid off was amazing; I had free health care for a YEAR, I was paid to sit at home and write a novel (and look for jobs now and then), and this was the start of spring so I was free to enjoy the beautiful weather. Just as things got hotter, I found another job - with air conditioning, which I didn't have at home at the time - and the day before I started the new job, I finished the stupid novel. (And I do mean STUPID. Hardingfele is the only other human who has ever read it, and she can attest to its lack of literary quality.)

Of course, now that I have a condo and all those dependents (two rabbits, a hedgehog, and a jungle full of plants) to support, I couldn't be as carefree about being laid off. Still, sometimes I remember those three months of writing with such nostalgia, when I chose my own hours and was free to take a walk outside if I so chose. Coincidentally, I am working on yet another terrible novel (actually, three, but one is nearly done) so I am all ready for this economic downturn!

Famous Hat

Thursday, May 14, 2009

You Know the Economy Is in Sad Shape...

... when office supply stores are offering free health and beauty products! Because when I think "health and beauty products," the first company that pops into my mind is Random Office Schwag. What? It isn't the same for you?

Figure 1: Coupon: Spend $175 on Random Office Schwag,
Get This Free!

It seems that if you have more than one of anything, everyone thinks you are a collector. A friend of mine was once given a ceramic elephant as a gag gift, then someone else gave her an elephant, and then there was no going back - her reputation as a hardcore elephant collector was cemented. I am now known as a collector of pens (which is at least more useful than ceramic elephants), and so a coworker bribed me today to do a very difficult task (putting some stuff in the mail for him) by purchasing this very cool pen for me:

Figure 2: Syringe Pen

Here are some more beautiful flower photos that Palm Tree Fan sent me. I believe these are Gerbera daisies.

Figure 3: Flower in Palm Tree Fan's Garden

Figure 4: Flower in Palm Tree Fan's Garden

And this is a picture of her "grand-kitty" Cosmo. Do you wonder what he is watching so intently? Scroll down for the answer.

Figure 5: Cosmo

Figure 6: Tree Rat

Famous Hat

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More May Flowers

I don't have much blogging time today, so I am just posting some more photos that Palm Tree Fan took. We had plenty of April showers, so now it's time for May flowers!

Figure 1: Hosta Flower

Most people call these flowers black-eyed Susans, but my friend "Ethel," who has brown eyes, insists on calling them "brown-eyed Ethels."

Figure 2: Black-Eyed Susans/Brown-Eyed Ethels

When Palm Tree Fan and I were comparing how adorkable we are, we somehow got on the topic of astrology, and she said her husband is interested in it. He's the only non-animate sign, Libra the Scales. Have you noticed that the other signs are all animals or people? Why are none of them plants? I recently came upon a website called Hortiscope, and it got me thinking about what my plant sign would be. Of course I would prefer to be Palma the Coconut Palm, but who knows? Maybe I would be Ambrosia the Ragweed. (How random that the Latin name for something that makes us all so miserable is "ambrosia," the food of the gods, right?) Actually, it is not random at all; it comes from a Greek word for immortality (though not the super cool word athanatos - I LOVE that word!), because the gods who ate ambrosia were immortal, and as anyone who has ever tried to eradicate it can tell you, ragweed is well nigh impossible to kill.

With her luck, Hardingfele's plant sign would be Alliaria the Garlic Mustard, since she has devoted a good part of her life to the eradication of this pest plant!

Famous Hat

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Smackdown: Hornets vs. Protestants

Once Richard Bonomo came to see me at work, and as I may have mentioned, my office is at the very top of a tall building. We got on the elevator, and as it went down, it acquired more people. On one floor it stopped and the doors slid open, but there was nobody waiting outside to get into it. Instead, an enormous black hornet flew into the elevator, and everyone ducked as far back into a corner as possible. I cried, "Don't kill it!" as someone swung a folder at it, but two floors later the elevator stopped again, the doors slid open, and again nobody was waiting to get on, but the hornet flew out. Then Rich said, "It looks like he just wanted that floor," and everyone laughed.

Now I have seen dogs window-shopping in Greece and cranes trying to get into the Pharmacy Library, but that is the first time I have seen an insect seem to do a normal human activity. It is funny to think that our first impulse is to believe the bad ol' hornet is going to get us, when maybe all it wants is to go from the 6th to the 4th floor, like all us lazy hominids who don't take the stairs. But if we are always expecting the worst out of people, of course we would expect the worst out of other creatures too. So next time you find yourself trapped on an elevator with a hornet, ask yourself, "Does this hornet want to be with me any more than I want to be with it?" After all, it can only sting you, but you can squish it, which is a little more deadly... unless you happen to be deathly allergic to hornet stings. Next time, don't kill the hornet unless it is clearly coming to attack you. At that point, it's self-defense.

Remember, it could always be worse: instead of being trapped on an elevator with a wasp, you could be trapped in an elevator with a WASP.

Famous Hat

Monday, May 11, 2009

Funny Money and Bunny Backrubs

I had a lot of fun this weekend. Saturday did not start out promising: it was drizzly and cold, but I dragged myself out of bed anyway and to church for confession... only to find a sign saying there was no confession there this week. I didn't have time to go to another church before our band's gig at a children's festival, complete with its own currency called a "uni." You could buy a uni for one dollar and then sell it back for 90 cents, and the extra 10 cents went to a children's charity that helps kids in Bangladesh. Hardingfele grumbled that she would have preferred our tips in standard US currency, but I thought the unis were a fun idea - and they were way more colorful than dollar bills! I should have kept one for my money collection... However, we had a lot of fun spending them on useful things like pesto pasta salad, cranberry oat bars, houseplants, and carp wind socks. Rockstar Tailor had a blast playing games, getting her face painted, and creating an "egg holder" out of what looked like the stuff from a clothes dryer lint trap. We played after the fire breather did his thing, and when the giant walking banana arrived, that was our cue to finish playing. It was just our banjo player, two fiddles, and me on the mandolin so it was a stripped-down sound without any guitar, accordion, or penny whistle.

T came up to visit this weekend, and then she, Anna Banana II, and I went to a handbell concert. You haven't lived until you've heard the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" on handbells. Some of my bandmates were there too; the squeezebox player brought her parents for a Mothers' Day gift, and the banjo player's husband played organ. (That's right, what is a handbell concert without an organ, a brass quintet, and percussion?)

Then yesterday T gave Charlie and Cashmere bunny backrubs. Charlie was so relaxed he looked like he had no bones. He was like a little puddle of bunniness. Cashmere wasn't quite so relaxed, but at least she let me cut her toenails with less fuss than usual. Then T and I went to the Tree Park to see the blooming crabapples, magnolias, and lilacs. It looked and smelled like heaven! and everyone else in town seemed to have the same idea, because it was PACKED. After T left, some other friends of mine hiked through the Tree Park, but I fell asleep on my futon and missed them. Richard Bonomo called and woke me up, so I met them for dinner at a Mexican restaurant, then we all went to Cecil Markovitch's place for a dessert my OTHER choir director had made with the first rhubarb of the season. (He had just bought it at the farmers' market.) Besides Rich, Cecil, and my choir director, Kathbert and Anna Banana II had gone on the hike, and then one B-Boy joined us for dessert. (The other one had some lame excuse about being in Hawaii with his new bride or something.) Cecil showed me his nameless new fish who is bigger than Arphaxad and Amminadab put together, and he gave me a piece of his cool purple Christmas cactus, which he says blooms golden-pink. Like I need another plant... I forgot to mention that Hardingfele and I stopped by a local plant sale right at the end, when everything was half price, and negotiated an even lower price for a weird houseplant which I believe is called a sea onion. One was dormant, so I took that one, since it didn't seem right to pay such a deeply discounted price for a plant in its prime. Since it was so cold this weekend, the denizens of Plant World had to come back inside.

Famous Hat

Friday, May 8, 2009

True Adventure: Photography Class!

Photography is a funny thing; Palm Tree Fan can take a picture and it looks just like a Thomas Kincaide painting, but if I took that same photo, it would just look like an old cabin with some trees around it. And if my friend Ethel took it, it would be slanted! Both Ethel and I are artistic in other matters, but neither of us has the least bit of talent in photography. At one point, when my point-and-click Vivitar died, I bought a used Yashika and tried to take pictures of my plants and pets. However, I was so busy messing with the f-stop that I didn't think about little things like, say, focusing, and when my photos came back from the developer, they had a little brochure included with them that was entitled: "How To Take Better Photographs."

Ethel tries to be creative with her photography, so creative that sometimes you cannot tell what exactly she took a picture of. Once she signed up for a photography class, but after the first session she said, "This is for people with REAL cameras. I just have an automatic one." You know, the old PhD camera - Push Here Dummy! I offered to let her borrow my Yashika, but she said maybe I should take the class. So I went to the second session and the teacher said, somewhat suspiciously, "You weren't here last week. What's your name?" So I did the only logical thing - I said it was Ethel Jones. She looked at the class roster and said, "Oh, you ARE registered!" and everything was cool... until the REAL Ethel Jones walked in the door. I thought, "Man, I am SO busted!" but the teacher recognized the real Ethel Jones and didn't ask her name. However, I felt it would be unethical for both of us to take a class that only one of us had paid for, so I dropped out. Or stopped being Ethel Jones, depending on how you look at it.

This is a typical move on the part of Ethel. On another occasion, we were traveling in someone's car to a state park, and she pulled an apple out of her knapsack and asked if I wanted to share it. Now Ethel is the youngest of a gazillion kids, and I think of her like a sister, so neither of us thought anything of sharing this apple as she took a bite, then I took a bite, then she took a bite, then I took a bite... When the apple was gone, she said, "Do you want to split another apple?" and pulled a second one out of her knapsack, and I said, "Ethel! Why didn't we each just eat our own apple?" She said, "I wasn't sure I'd want a whole one."

Famous Hat

Thursday, May 7, 2009

True Adventure: Camping Up North!

Palm Tree Fan sent me some more photos she took, and one of them is from Up North, where my friends and I love to go camping, so that was all the excuse I needed to blog about it! Up at the top of our state is a park on the edge of a Great Lake, with lots of great trails for hiking and biking, canoes to rent, and fish boils to attend! If you have never been to a fish boil, it is kind of like dinner theater, except that when the entertainment is done you eat it. The fish is boiled in a huge cauldron with potatoes and onions, and they stoke the fire until it is raging around the edge of the cauldron, and then suddenly the water boils over and rushes down the side like a volcano erupting. And the end product is DELICIOUS! But watch out for bones.

We have seen many wonderful things at this park, like a mama grebe swimming on the lake with five little babies on her back, and coralroots, which are tiny translucent white plants with red stripes like candy canes, and all sorts of lighthouses. Once T, Anna Banana II, and I canoed out to a little crescent-shaped island, and I hiked all around the perimeter. At another park even further up the peninsula, we saw blue crawfish! Another time we climbed up a tower called Eagle Tower, and just as we got to the top, a bald eagle flew right overhead. Even rainy evenings are fun Up North, because there are all sorts of artsy little shops and cafes to duck into until the storm passes.

Once we stayed at a park further down the penisula, and there were quite a few of us, including both B-Boys, Florita and several of her nieces, Anna Banana II, Richard Bonomo, T, and of course me. We stayed in the "rowdy section," where you can make noise until midnight, and we had built a campfire and were singing songs as I played the mandolin. To our surprise, the ranger came over and told us with some embarrassment that the family at the next campsite had complained about our noise level. He agreed that they should have stayed in the "family section" if they wanted early bedtimes, but we did tone it down... a little. (Things are never very toned down when Florita is around!) The next morning we all got up and went to Mass with the little round priest who comes every year from New England to spend his summers Up North.

Anyhow, here is a picture that Palm Tree Fan took Up North, of a place called Cave Point:

And here is another picture Palm Tree Fan took in a town about an hour west of our city. Coworkers tell me this town is full of old buildings and is a really fun place to go shopping. They say it is very cute, and its claim to fame is Cornish Fest. This photo certainly looks like a Thomas Kincaide painting come to life!

Famous Hat

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Scanned Images: Wedding Favors

Today seemed like a good day to do some scanning, and so I am proud to present Scanned Images: Wedding Favors. The following images are the little wedding favor rattan box that was sitting at my table at the wedding reception, and the special Hawaiian Kisses with macadamia nuts that were inside of it.

Figure 1: Small Rattan Box

Figure 2: Contents of Aforementioned Box
(Macadamia Nut Kisses)

Those were the official wedding favors. At this wedding there were the standard Three Types of Guests: Those Who Take Their Favors, Those Who Leave Their Favors, and Those Who Take Both Their Own Favors and Those Left Behind. If you think that I, Famous Hat, fall into the third category, you are only partially correct. I, of course, have my own special category: She Who Also Wants Botanical Keepsakes.

As I may have mentioned, the flora at this wedding was all imported from Hawaii. I fell madly in love with an orchid that had gorgeous chartreuse blossoms with purple throats, and I asked permission to take an offset. Both the bride's mother and sister, who are florists, expressed doubt that the offset would survive a voyage across two states. Not to be denied, I then asked about a beautiful piece of foliage in the bouquets. These bouquets were amazing, with flowers that looked like pale pink peace lilies and all sorts of tropical foliage. The piece I was coveting had yellow-edged leaves and looked somewhat dracaena-like, and there's no plant family I know better than the dracaena one! They are very simple to grow. The bride's sister said she thought a piece of this plant, which is called Song of India (and is, in fact, a dracaena) would easily survive the long car trip and happily grow in a vase of water (much like "Lucky Bamboo," which is also a type of dracaena and not bamboo at all), so I currently have it sitting in Plant World. After eight hours in a car with no water, it looked a little droopy, but as soon as I got home, I cut back the stem and stuck it in a vase of water, and by the next morning it looked perfectly happy.

Here is a picture of what a full-grown Song of India looks like:

Figure 3: Song of India
(Photo credit: "borrowed" off the internet)

Famous Hat

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hey, Music! Whatcha Tryin' to Tell Me?

Yesterday I moved most of the denizens of Plant World to their summer home on my balcony. It's surprising how much work moving plants is... Before completely finishing the job, I sat on my balcony to admire my plants (and rest), which is where Hardingfele and Tailor found me when they stopped by to pull garlic mustard and help me pump up my bike tires. Then somehow I never got around to moving the rest of the plants outside after that...

Plants always seem to be happier outside. Here is a direct quote from my coworker Palm Tree Fan regarding her house plants: "Most plants grow towards the sun.... mine grow towards the sink... the main water source!" Yet the bleeding hearts in her garden seem to be thriving:

Figure 1: Bleeding Hearts in Palm Tree Fan's Garden
(Photo credit: Palm Tree Fan)

On another topic dear to my heart, people often say music speaks to them. I usually don't know what people are singing in the songs I like, even when they are in English, but here are some examples of songs that speak to me. (Do I listen? That is another question.)

Kanye West says to me: "I ain't sayin' she's no gold digger, But she don't go with no broke n----"

Now I once had a date with a man who was both poor and black, but the take-home message I got from that relationship was that poets are bad news. He used to quote Nabokov over the phone to me and read me his own poetry, but after our one and only date we each thought the other one was completely insane. (Fair enough, we were probably both right.) I didn't learn my lesson anyhow, since I'm still stupid crazy about "artistic" men.

Andre 3000 says to me: "Now don't have me break this down for nuthin'! I wanna see you on your baddest behavior! Lend me some sugar - I am your neighbor! Sh-sh-shake it like a Polaroid picture. You know what to do!"

On a related theme (sugar), El Gran Combo asks me: "Que, que fue, fue azuquita pal' cafe?" Which translates to something like: "What, what was it, was it that sweetened the coffee?"

And of course Khaled says something to me in the song "Didi" that sounds like: "Eye leeky eye leeky eye kapom pee." Since I don't know Arabic, I don't have any idea what he's trying to tell me, but that doesn't stop me from singing along!

Famous Hat

Monday, May 4, 2009

True Adventure: B-Boy Wedding!

This weekend Richard Bonomo, A-Fooze, her Mexican fiance, and I drove two states south to attend the wedding of one of the B-Boys. (That's right, ladies, there is only one totally available B-Boy left! Supplies are limited so hurry on down!) We took Erin Caitlyn O'Honda since she is younger than the Bonomobile and gets way better mileage, and El Fiance's truck probably would have broken down before we got to the border of our own state. On the way down we ate lots of junk food and played games like "Twenty Questions" and the one where the first person thinks of the name of a city and then the next person has to think of a city starting with the last letter of that city's name. Unfortunately, we quickly found that most cities seem to end with A, O, or S, while only a limited number start with those letters. I said, "We should do countries, since they end in more letters. Like you could do England-Denmark-Kenya-Argentina-" and A-Fooze interrupted, "No fair playing with yourself!"

The tiny town where the wedding was held is most known for being the birthplace of Walt Disney, and loudspeakers at the corners of Main Street USA blared such songs as "It's a Small World" and "When You Wish Upon a Star." When I commented to the owner of a local bed-and-breakfast that she must get tired of hearing that, she said she turns it on for the tourists. Oops! Open mouth, insert foot. The bride's family hails from Hawaii and so they had imported all the flowers and the priest from there. Because this town was too small to accomodate two weddings, and another one was happening in the afternoon, the wedding was in the morning and the reception was in yet another town which is most well known for having a name that rhymes with "bacon." The reception was lovely, with a gorgeous orchid at each table in a glass vase full of black Hawaiian sand (imported, natch). Then Rich, A-Fooze, El Fiance, and I got back into Erin Caitlyn O'Honda and drove two states north, arriving home after midnight.

Yesterday I slept through Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Sobriety but did wake up long enough to go to the Lutheran Church and sing the Bach cantata/train for the triathlon. (Same thing, right?) As Florita (who was at the wedding) would say, "Iguanitas, las ranitas," which translates to "little iguanas, little frogs" - it's all the same thing. Then I went back to sleep until evening Mass at OLPS. At no time yesterday did I go grocery shopping, so this morning YES, there were no bananas! Charlie doesn't mind, since he likes broccoli and carrots, but Cashmere was quite put out. I gave her a bunny treat and explained that I had no bananas to give her, but she sat giving me the stink eye as I ate my breakfast grits, so I did what any mature human would do - I swiveled my chair around so my back was facing her. There isn't a rabbit on the face of this earth who can glare at you like old Cashmere can! Shh, don't tell her, but I just bought a banana at the cafeteria and ate it.

Famous Hat

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ultimate Cross-Training

Last night I did some grueling training for the triathlon in the basement of a Lutheran church, after training earlier in the stairwell at work. I am sure you are thinking, "OK, Famous Hat, I can buy that you are training in the stairwell by running (or at least walking at a brisk pace) up a bunch of stairs, but training in a Lutheran church? Come on! Maybe if it were a Shaker one..." (After all, they do spinning! just not on exercycles.) But I have it on good authority (my choir director) that what we were doing was "just like training for a triathlon." In his words.

This coming Sunday is something the Lutherans call "Cantate Sunday," and we are working on a Bach cantata, something in German about praising God. (Sorry, I studied Romance languages.) It is a beautiful piece, but we sopranos get quite a workout with a lot of high notes and hardly any time to breathe. Between you and me, what's up with old JS's fondness for having melismas on umlauted vowels? Seriously, it's like he purposely picks the most difficult vowel sound to put all those notes into. Even in Latin, a much easier language to sing in than German, he still finds some whacked-out vowel to put his melismas on; I remember singing something by him where we had to sing "Vi-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-irgo Maria" because he couldn't possibly have put the melisma on the "O." In the cantata we are currently working on, he also has some goofy syllabification that is counterintuitive. I think the word is "reichlich," and we all want to sing "re-e-eichlic" but of course Bach wrote "reich-li-i-ich." Since many of his choir members were his own children, we wondered if he wrote some of these cantatas to punish them for something.

I think my choir director was trying to encourage us sopranos as we worked on this gorgeous yet grueling piece, so he said it was just like training for a triathlon. Afterwards I asked him if, in fact, it could count as training, and he said yes. So there you go. Some people work out to salsa or techno, but I work out by singing Bach!

Famous Hat