Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Music Theory with Light Bright

I will say this for my office mate Light Bright: she does not waste her downtime at work. When things are slow, she is studying music theory. Since she knows this is a subject I am very familiar with, she often asks me questions. For example, today we had the following exchange:

LB: I’m confused, looking at this chord chart. What’s in an A major chord?

FH: (surprised to be asked such a question by a semiprofessional banjo player) A, C# and E

LB: I know that…but on this chord chart, see, it has open string A, open string E, and then a Db. Why would there be a Db in an A chord?

FH: Because Db is the same as C#... in equal temperament. Which, as you know, is pure evil. They wouldn’t be the same in a REAL temperament.

LB: Yeah, I know how you feel about that subject.

She said she is learning the theory behind music so she can teach music. I said I had always wanted to do a series of videos with things like eight vs. twelve bar blues, or how to distinguish modes. Here is the handy list of modes I gave her:

Dorian – sounds Medieval or Celtic, sample tune “Scarborough Fair”

Phrygian – sounds Mideastern, sample tune Tallis Third Mode Melody: “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” (the Lutherans sing it to this; we Catholics sing it to the tune “Kingsfold”)

Lydian – sounds major keyish, sample tune “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore”

Mixolydian – sounds like a fiddle tune, sample tune “Old Joe Clark”

Aeolian – this is just minor key

Ionian – this is just major key

She said this was a really helpful description of the modes.  Maybe one or two of my readers will also find it helpful, although some of you probably know this stuff better than I do so feel free to embellish or correct these descriptions in the comments. 

Famous Hat

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Coffee Resolution

I have never been a big one for making New Year’s resolutions, but some people just love making them… and then breaking them. This may seem like an odd time to blog about this particular topic, but I had to wait and see how things turned out before I shared the story, right? And here it is:

My office mate Light Bright decided to make her New Year’s resolution that she would stop drinking coffee. Now I have heard of people giving up coffee for Lent, but aren’t New Year’s resolutions reserved for changes that you want to make permanent? And why would anyone give up coffee forever? Not only does it taste great and keep you awake, it also prevents strokes, according to a new Swedish study. So I asked Light Bright why she wanted to give up coffee forever, but she didn’t have an answer other than that it was something to give up.

So… within a week or two, Light Bright was drinking tea for caffeine, and soon she was caving and having a cup of decaffeinated coffee “for the flavor.” I asked what she was gaining by giving up coffee and then drinking decaf and tea, since it wasn’t the flavor of coffee and it wasn’t the caffeine either. She thought about that… and by February she was back to drinking coffee.

That is the end of the story, but I do have to mention that when I was editing some dictation she had typed up, I was amused to see we were inviting a guest speaker from Mount Cyanide Medical Center in New York. Is that where the pro-euthanasia doctors work? This doctor was going to give a talk attended by “physicians, fellows, and residence.” So the House that they always refer to in Vegas – does it enjoy attending medical talks? Interestingly, Light Bright hails from Las Vegas. Coincidence???

Famous Hat

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rosary Beads and Popcorn Adventure

Today Jilly Moose and I went to the Bead Show and bought lots of beads with a plan:  we were going to make rosaries!  (I am writing this from Jilly Moose's computer and she would like to say that she does not endorse the previous post AT ALL.)  We each bought a funky ring, and I had a necklace made for Easter.  I got a bracelet of jade beads shaped like milk jugs, and of course we got all the stuff to make rosaries:  Hail Mary beads, Our Father beads, and crucifixes.

Then we went on a road trip on country roads to Rural Route 1 Popcorn to buy - you guessed it - popcorn.  We both got jalapeno cheese popcorn, and Jilly Moose got her favorite, Badger Popcorn, which is cinnamon red-hot and vanilla mixed together.  I am not a huge fan of sweet popcorn myself, so I sampled all the cheesy flavors. 

Then we tried to go to a new Mexican restaurant, but we had trouble figuring out how to get to it - it took us three tries to find the driveway!  But it was worth it! 

Then we came back to Jilly Moose's house and made our rosaries.  Jilly Moose's rosary is very beautiful, with small magenta pearls for the Hail Mary beads and larger white pearls for the Our Father beads.  My rosary is more... unique, with tulip-shaped iridescent purple beads for the Hail Marys and pale green glass beads for the Our Fathers.  It sounds better in theory than it looks, trust me.  And then we used them to pray the rosary so we know they are fully functional.

Jilly Moose has approved this blog post.

Famous Hat

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Handy Boycott Coupons

Do you hate Governor Walker?  If the answer is No, then you might as well stop reading right now.  However, if your reply is a resounding Yes, then have I got a handy boycott list for you!  These are corporations that donated to Walker's campaign, so you can thank them for doing that by not buying their products.  Unfortunately, I have no idea who to credit for these clever coupons; they were in an email that Toque McToque sent me.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Where the Heck Was Famous Hat??

Sorry for the long silence, but I had sort of really good excuses this time, and for at least part of the time, people will back me up. Here’s how it went down:

Thursday – Tiffy, Jilly Moose, OK Cap, Richard Bonomo, and I went to a fake Irish pub for dinner, but they were charging $5 to get in the door even if you planned to eat dinner, so we went to another fake Irish pub. Since I was the only one with any actual Irish blood, they asked me what was authentic and I said NOT corned beef, so we got fish and chips and Guinness in commemorative glasses.

Friday – Tiffy and I had a lot of face time with Mother Nature, hiking to Picnic Point and then strolling through the zoo. Later we went to a fish fry with Richard Bonomo, Cecil Markovich, Anna Banana II, Luxuli and her husband. There was a very long wait for a table so we entertained ourselves with liquid refreshment. Possibly we entertained the rest of the establishment too; I seem to remember some people staring at me as I sang the first soprano line from “Duo Seraphim” by Handl, aka. Gallus. OK, so maybe it sounds better with the other seven parts…

Saturday – more face time with Mother Nature as Tiffy, Kathbert, Richard Bonomo, and I went into the woods to see the blooming skunk cabbages in all their stinky glory. Later we went to a party at Jilly Moose’s house for games and Irish coffee, and then she entertained us all with showing us the moose herd. Fact: she has one moose named Max and another named Maxwell Alexander.

Sunday – Anna Banana II, OK Cap, Jilly Moose, and I were attempting to lure Luxuli to a coffee house and then Rich’s house for her surprise birthday party, but that was a comedy of errors: Anna Banana II got sick, the coffee house closed early on Sunday so we agreed to meet at a particular restaurant but some of us went to the one on the West Side and others went to the more centrally located one, and Luxuli tried to talk us into going to her house instead. Finally we got to Rich’s and prayed the rosary in front of his fireplace in the den. Luxuli could hear people arriving, so finally her curiosity got the best of her and she left the den… to discover her surprise birthday party!

Monday and Tuesday – had big plans to clean and run errands, but I came down with a virus by the enchanting name of labyrinthitis which has the not so enchanting symptom of extreme vertigo. I have never really suffered from motion sickness, but now I feel for everyone who does! No fun thinking you are going to hurl just because you turned your head or bent over to feed the bunnies. And I didn’t dare drive! I am totally out of food and couldn’t drive to get any more, so last night I was thinking of walking (or, more likely, lurching) to Jerkins just down the road, but suddenly there were a million emergency vehicles in its parking lot, so I just went to bed. Today I felt a little better after taking some expired Dramamine Tiffy had forgotten at my house, and I survived the bus ride to work. Maybe by tomorrow I will be able to move my head without making the whole room spin. Here’s hoping…

Famous Hat

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Parade of Photos

As promised, here are the pictures from the St. Patrick's Day parade on Sunday.

Nothing says "Irish" like an old-fashioned cop car.

And what would a St. Patrick's Day parade be without a leprechaun?

.... or St. Patrick himself?

.... or some random dude wearing a green hat?

And here are more people wearing green!

Here is a ....  decicycle?  Front and back views.

Here is a very, very, very green float.

How about Irish wolfhounds?

A VW Beetle with green... and lots of other colors!

There were some signs of the ongoing protests here in town:

And here is a movie of parts of the parade, featuring more protests, pink bunnies, blue bears, pipes, drums, dancers, beading frenzies, and a random vuvuzela being blown in the background.

Famous Hat

Monday, March 14, 2011

Yet Another Rosary

Among the many things I have decided to give up for Lent is buying more rosaries, but I ordered this one before Lent began.  Back on the First of March, actually, and it finally got here.  What the heck was it doing all that time?  Who knows?  I checked the online tracking and on the 7th it was "Processed"... and then nothing until it arrived today.  (Or possibly Saturday, since I had it sent to my work address.)  As you can see, it was worth the wait, although this scan may not do it complete justice:

This is the King of Kings rosary from the Vatican Library collection.  It also kind of resembles my birthstone, garnet. 

Yesterday Jilly Moose, some others, and I went to the St. Patrick's Day parade.  This year I brought my camera, and tomorrow I hope to upload some photos and even a movie.  Stay tuned...

Famous Hat

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Another Picture Post: Chaplets, Blossoms, Protest

Yet another post of pictures!  First here are a couple of chaplets.  This one is made of Murano glass beads, and Kathbert really likes it:

This one I ordered online thinking it was a rosary too, but it is actually a chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady. That's OK, during lunch I pray it instead of playing ePlush, since I gave that up for Lent.

And here are some pictures of my plants.  First, my "Christmas" cacti blooming:

And here is a picture of the orchid my former coworker gave me:

Remember the frond on my Boston fern that was split at the tip as if it were giving the Peace Sign?  It doesn't seem so peaceful when it's strangling my dracaena marginata!

But the protesters are still peaceful!  Here are some photos from the protest earlier today.  Willie Nelson and Susan Sarandon spoke, but I wasn't close enough to get pictures of them.  This first picture is from the coffee shop where I was supposed to meet Anna Banana II, Jilly Moose, and OK Cap, but somehow we never met up so I just had my coffee, prayed the rosary in the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel, and then went down to the Square.

The rest of the photos are from the Capitol Square and State Street.

This is the marquee of a theater/restaurant on State Street:

Despite the fact that we have lost the battle, the mood was festive, with people in cars tooting their horns to the rhythm of "This is what democracy looks like!"  There were other clever signs I didn't get photos of, such as:  "Welcome to FitzWalkerStan," "Snooki is smarter than Walker!" "Walker isn't qualified to sub for my class!" "Remember to set your clocks back 50 years," and "WI will overcome!"  However, I was annoyed this time to see some pro-abortion signs.  What has that got to do with it???  So I made my own sign:

And this is what it says on the other side:

I haven't brought this down to the Capitol yet.  If I survive that adventure, I'll be sure to let you all know how it went.  And feel free to join me!  I hope I am not the only one; after all, plenty of Walker supporters are not pro-life, like the Koch brothers.

Famous Hat

Friday, March 11, 2011


Is there such a thing as "graphomania"?  If so, I must suffer from it.  Just the other day it occurred to me that I have the following journals:

Dream Journal (Dr. Mingus)
Diary (Mariah)
Prayer Journal (this doesn't have a name)
This blog (Famous Hat)

That is on top of poetry, short stories, and novels.  Novels?  Yes, that's right, I am always in the process of writing a number of novels:

The Great American Ninja Novel - I can't describe this one, other than to say the only person who has ever read it besides me is Hardingfele, and she said, "That book was so weird I couldn't put it down!"  It does suffer from a cast of thousands and lack of discernible plot.  I am thinking of totally redoing this one as a murder mystery, but when I told Richard Bonomo that I also wanted to change the title to Hyperwhack, he said The Great American Ninja Novel was better.

Tribute to Charlie - this is about a poet, a philosopher, a pianist, a playwright, a policeman, and an archaeologist.  In case you are wondering, Charlie is the pianist.  And (spoiler alert!) the archaeologist lives six millennia after the others and is trying to find out if a legend is based on reality, which of course it is because it is the story of the other characters, the ones who have more P-ness to their vocations.  (I have had several glasses of wine - do you think anyone will be able to tell?)

She the Horse - just so you know, everyone hates the titles of my novels, especially this one about Osby English, who has antigeria - if in fact there is such a thing - so that he ages veeery slowly at the cellular level and is actually (spoiler alert!) 960 years old.  His current wife has no idea what is going on.  This one comes with a bonus short story, "Whoa Isme," about three bratty teenage girls who are actually (spoiler alert!) a clone, a Neanderthal, and the adopted daughter of space aliens posing as professors of Medieval Studies.

And then a whole series of thinly-veiled autobiographical novels about my typical Cathopalian childhood, my adolescence as the one kid from the 'hood in advanced classes, my college years of sex, drugs, and Baroque music, and my working life.  Also, two novels that are my autobiography if I were a fish:  After This Exile about an amazing thing that happened to me in Paris during World Youth Day, and In This Valley of Tears about my ongoing recovery from some sort of autism.  If those titles seem familiar, you are very astute:  I stole them right from the Salve Regina.

Oh gosh, and then there's the murder mystery Under the Dragon Tree, where the protagonist is a plant.  Maybe I should have Keith write this one.  Just so you know, these novels do all exist in partial forms.  I just never seem to finish any of them but GANN, and I keep rewriting that one anyway.  Maybe what it comes down to is I suffer from graphomania.

Famous Hat

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Requiem for the State

Looks like my post about the Requiem Boxed Set yesterday was tragically well-timed, because freedom died yesterday in our state.  Hard-working people no longer have the right to gather peacefully to negotiate with their employee, if that employee is the state.  This is just the beginning - soon I will probably face jail time just for writing about my disagreement.  We are heading the way of China, a state so hypocritical that the government will not allow the Dalai Lama to choose his own successor because they say his successor has always been chosen after his death, and they want to preserve the Tibetan culture.  Somehow listening to an officially atheist government come out in favor of reincarnation does not inspire me to believe they have the Tibetans' best interests at heart.  And since when have they wanted to "preserve the Tibetan culture"?  They have only been trying to suppress it since, oh, forever.

On a happier note, the guy who makes the Lego rosaries left a comment on my post about the rosary I bought from him saying that he would give my readers a 10% discount.  So if any of you want one, this is your chance to get a discount!  OK Cap, I know you were thinking of getting one for your nephew.  Check out his comment if you are interested.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Requiem Boxed Set

Yesterday Jailbird Jones made Mardi Gras dinner for Richard Bonomo, Kathbert, and me: Cajun meatloaf! He said it was the Holy Trinity of red, green, and black peppers that made it so tasty and spicy. Then he attempted to open the bottle of white wine I had contributed to the dinner with a corkscrew, but it wasn’t working… and then Kathbert realized it was a screw top! Since the cap now had a hole right in the center, we had to finish the bottle that night. What a Mardi Gras chore, right?

Since today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, it seems appropriate to think about the Requiem Mass. Many composers have written one, but Mozart’s seems particularly moving, in part because he knew he was in some sense writing it for himself. That same immediacy also colors Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, which he wrote when he was dying at the age of 28 (makes Mozart seem like a paragon of longevity), and The Consolation of Philosophy, which Boethius wrote in good health, but as he languished in prison, knowing he would soon be tortured to death.

While it may seem like the Requiem Mass is no laughing matter, I can’t help thinking the following true story is kind of funny: years ago Tiffy and I were in a record store, waiting for the grumpy proprietor to ring up our purchases, and the patron ahead of us in line was demanding that he produce the Requiem Boxed Set. Tiffy and I looked at each other in bemusement, and apparently Charles was just as confused because he said he had never heard of the Requiem Boxed Set. At that, the gentleman ahead of us grew annoyed, since Charles had a well-deserved reputation for knowing every obscure classical recording ever made, and he said, “It has all the requiems on it! It has the Bach Requiem and the Beethoven Requiem-“

At this point Charles interrupted to inform the gentleman that Bach never wrote a Requiem Mass. This answer did not please the gentleman, who ranted on for a few minutes about how this boxed set contained ALL the requiems, and his friend had told him all about it, but he eventually saw that even Charles is incapable of causing something to materialize that doesn’t actually exist, so he left in a huff. Since Tiffy and I had long since won Charles’ grudging respect with our encyclopedic knowledge of Baroque music (and later stuff too, in Tiffy’s case), he grumbled to us about how the Requiem Boxed Set was the craziest thing he’d ever heard. Tiffy and I were fascinated by the concept, however, and I imagined what Requiem Masses written by some of my least favorite composers would be like, such as the bombastic yet foofy Wagner Requiem, the meandering and nonsensical Debussy Requiem, and of course the initially exciting but ultimately repetitive Ravel Requiem.

So if anyone knows anything about this Requiem Boxed Set, let Tiffy and me know. In all these years we have never seen it.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lundi Gras

Last night Richard Bonomo, Anna Banana II, Jilly Moose, and I went to a German restaurant for their monthly smorgasbord: meat, meat, and more meat. Rich was in meat heaven, and Jilly Moose was in German heritage heaven. I mostly ate the spaetzle, which of course nobody has to give up for Lent, unless you specifically give up spaetzle. (Too late, I already decided to give up ePlush.) There was an oompah band playing and little kids dancing to them, and the waitresses wore dirndls. A great way to say “goodbye” to pigging out for the next forty days!

Here is a story to prepare you for Lent: when Italian monks first arrived in Spain, they learned from the natives how to brew beer and acquired a real taste for it. As Lent approached, they thought of beer’s ingredients and could see no reason they would have to give it up, but they decided to defer to the Pope in this matter and sent him a barrel of beer with their question. The Pope, who was used to sweet wine, took one sip of the beer and wrote back that they could drink as much of it as they liked during Lent with his blessing, it was a wonderful form of penance.

Next week on Famous Hat: the short, difficult lives of the Proto-Teabaggers, who had to have plow pulls because tractors hadn’t been invented yet. And maybe another tale from the Sock Puppet League. So watch for that.

Famous Hat

Monday, March 7, 2011

Palm Trees Take Two

Today I saw a sign that said:  "Please check in at registration desk first," which seemed perfectly reasonable, but above it was an open hand with a red slash through it.  So does that mean wait or don't wait?  Perhaps it is a no high-five zone? 

If the photo I posted on Friday looked a bit doctored, you have some sharp eyes!  Here is the actual photo:

Famous Hat

Friday, March 4, 2011

Tropical Funeral

Yesterday at work I found out about a New Orleans-style funeral march up the main drag for our state, and there wasn’t time to go home beforehand, so I apologize for the lack of photos. A brass band played as hundreds and hundreds of us trailed afterwards, blocking rush hour traffic and being cheered on by tons of local business owners. They know who eats at their restaurants and buys their goods – Union workers! Certainly not billionaires from the East Coast or anything. My two favorite signs:

(Around the neck of a black Lab) “Animals for the Ethical Treatment of Humans.”

“We the People of Wisconsin have declared Scott Walker an LTE.” (Limited Term Employee.)

Up around the Capitol they had set up inflatable palm trees because of some news footage on a “non-biased” news station that was showing how violent the protests have become here. Since they have not been one bit violent, this news station found some footage of protesters getting in people’s faces… with palm trees in the background. Now you can say a lot of things about Madtown, but I’ve never heard anyone refer to it as “tropical.” Here I have lived in this city for many years and never realized that I didn’t have to go all the way to Mexico to see palm trees in winter – I could have just gone up to the Capitol Building! How could this have escaped my attention all this time? Just look at this photo that I clearly took and didn’t doctor or anything.

Madison, Wisconsin in Early March
Famous Hat

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why Gone Two Years!?

I have never been to Heaven but I imagine it would be something like the evening Anna Banana II, Jilly Moose, OK Cap, and I had last Saturday:  a wine- and chocolate-tasting gala in a conservatory!  By the end, between all that wine, the key lime-infused dark chocolate, and the blooming dendrobia and wisteria, I felt like I had reached another plane of existence.  We got commemorative wine glasses, and I also bought a souvenir:  a plant.  Because if there is one thing I need more than another rosary, it is another plant.  This is a sansevieria, and it looks kind of like a crown:

You can see the buds on my orchid in the foreground and the juniper on the far right.  But you know you wanted a closer look at that crazy sansevieria:

Wicked cool!  And here is the juniper I rescued the next day:

And here is the first blossom of the spring on my "Christmas" cactus, which actually blooms around All Saint's Day and again during Lent:

I guess nobody told it Lent is late this year.  Yesterday being the First of March, it was the second anniversary of Mr. Why's death, so a few of us stopped by his grave.  Here is a picture of Richard Bonomo with the flowers he brought for the grave:

As you can see, we went there after dark, and Toque McToque asked if we were creeped out, but I didn't find it one bit creepy.  Maybe I was too cold to be creeped out...  Mr. Why, couldn't you have died in July??  Then we put the flowers on the grave:

Mad props to Pete the Sailor Man for clearing off the grave marker.  As you may remember, we could not find it under all the snow last year, so we simply set the flowers by a decorative rock near Mr. Why's grave.  Since then, they have turned the decorative stone into a birdbath and added a bench:

Miss you, Mr. Why!  I hope to see you again someday, maybe where there is unlimited wine and chocolate under the blooming dendrobia and wisteria.

Famous Hat