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Life and Times of an itinerant slacker in Sacramento. Thrills, Spills Galore coming soon. Not to mention lots of opinions.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Lighter Side of John Phillips Sousa

I have always thought of John Philip Sousa as a somewhat humorless character, the bearded guy in a military style uniform we see in his pictures. This is the guy who wrote, Hail to the flag of the free, may it wave as our standard forever, as the relatively idealistic and heavy lyrics to Stars and Stripes Forever , his most popular composition. Note his words do not include anything about ducks (attributed to Fred Allen). It’s also my favorite encore to play at band concerts, because it is a fun tune, and if you don’t get a standing ovation, you can be sure your band sucks. If you don’t have your own concert band, you can play Stars and Stripes forever on Activision’s Sousaphone Hero.

In his concert tours, Sousa’s favorite encore was a very funny March, The Roosters Lay Eggs in Kansas ,
written by his close friend Mahew Lake. This sounds like something Carl Stalling might have written for a Warner Brothers cartoon. Carl Fischer Publishing dug this out of their archives for release this year, and my band is playing it.

This tune is a hoot, and the band gets to sing. Here’s the lyrics:

The roosters lay eggs in Kansas
The roosters lay eggs in Kansas
The roosters lay eggs as big as beer kegs
The roosters lay eggs in Kansas

This seems so strange from a man who joined the U. S. Marines at age thirteen, believed his greatest composition was the result of Divine inspiration, and took it upon himself to be America’s Salesman in Europe.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I'm Going to Wisconsin in October!

I hope I don't run into these guys...

Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures
see Obama pictures

Georgia's on my mind

And now for something completely the same.. .

Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures
see Obama pictures

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

OK, So I Haven’t Written for a Couple of Weeks

My life has not lately produced a flood of bloggable experiences. Therefore, I am forced to share my dorky experiences.

I finally fixed our dryer’s external lint trap and swept out the garage. The sweeping was more like landscaping than a normal cleaning job. I realized that I hadn’t swept the garage since 2003, plus the dryer has been leaking lint for the better part of the year.

I have been tutoring a couple of nights each week, and it looks like this will continue and hopefully increase now that all the darling children are back in school. Parental math anxiety has been heightened by a politically motivated mandate from California’s State Government that all eighth graders must pass algebra starting soon. This work of genius is the one of the best cases against State bureaucratic control of schools I have seen. Currently about ½ of eight graders take Algebra, and about one half of those pass. The other 1/2 can’t add fractions correctly over 1/2 the time. We need to teach arithmetic before we teach Algebra. However, I imagine the State Department of Something or Other will redefine Algebra as something easier. That’s what they have done for the High School Exit Examination , although they still can’t get nearly ¼ of the seniors to pass the test and graduate.\

I read 'Paradise Lost'. That is a very enjoyable read if you ever find yourself in the mood for blank verse iambic pentameter. I don’t know what that means, but everyone agrees 'Paradise Lost' was written that way. Between some rather bring musings, Paradise is a ripping yarn. I can’t believe no one has made the movie. Interestingly, there was no Satan, with the casting out of fallen angels, before Milton dreamed him up. Milton’s biography makes it even more interesting. Milton was a close insider in Cromwell’s revolution and regicide. After the restoration, Milton narrowly escaped the honor of trial followed by ye olde drawing and quartering. Of most interest is that a lot of religious education Kathleen received from her Irish Nun Parochial grammar school teachers originates with this English Protestant. I enjoyed Satan’s musings the most. Satan sounds just like every arrogant corporate executive. Anyway, I can’t wait for the occasion when I can say,’ Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven'. Notice the iambic pentameter. Cool.

I have been thinking about what kind of short story I could build out of Dante, Milton, and our California’s obsession with Algebra. Progress is slow and not promising.

Geezopete I gotta get a life.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Painless Peanut Sauce

Try this on pasta (preferably flat Chinese noodles) with some vegetables.

One measure peanut butter
Two measures broth
Pepper flakes or cayenne to taste

Nuke in the microwave, whisk until creamy, and stir in your noodles.

This whole thing takes about 2 or 3 minutes, so you can easily do it while noodles are cooking.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Why Music Matters

As we look forward to another season of our music, I want to take a little time for reflection on why we spend our evenings making music. In my family, we spend a total of about twelve hours in our music groups each week. Sometimes I wonder about the value of spending our time this way. After all, we’re missing out on all sorts of shared cultural experiences offered on TV.

I gained a different perspective on this question by looking east, to Estonia. The Estonians’ shared musical heritage, which involves almost all the population’s participation in large group singing festivals, was the spark that ignited their bloodless revolution after nearly 50 years of brutal Soviet occupation. The story of how music saved a nation is the subject of a recently released film, The Singing Revolution (

The Singing Revolution became an unstoppable force in September 1988, when 300,000 Estonians, about one quarter of the population, gathered at song a festival to share their musical heritage and openly address their dreams of independence. The rest is history.

For me, this is a reminder that it is in part through our shared culture that we preserve our vital freedom. We nurture our shared culture by participating in community music groups.

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I must enjoy shouting into a vacuum, but I think about getting my act together one of these days. My mom says I am very handsome and intelligent.

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