Monday, May 13, 2013

May Miscellany

I knew there was something I wanted to tell you...
I've never done a post quite like this one, where I just check off a list of some things that I wanted to write about. But now that I'm done with it, I feel much better.

1. The Return of the Cicadas

There have been plenty of articles in the news about the return of the 17-year cicadas, and how you should expect to have to deal with millions of them swarming all over the place this summer.  Cicadas are a noisy presence in Memphis every summer, and I can only imagine how ubiquitous they are going to be this year.  They're disgusting creatures, and there's no way I'm going to include a picture of one of them here.

Instead, here's a song I wrote called "Cicadas Shriek," which I recorded with The Great Depression many, many years ago.  That's me on the steel guitar.

2. Kat Edmonson

After seeing her on a recent episode of Austin City Limits, I have developed an admiration for (and perhaps a small crush on) Kat Emdonson, the Texas-born singer and songwriter who has released two albums so far.  She sings entertaining, jazzy tunes, and she has an idiosyncratic voice that reminds me a little of Blossom Dearie.  There's a soft spot in my heart for this type of music, and I think that in a different life I could have played jazz guitar in a bossa nova band.

Kat Emdonson is more than just a pretty girl with an angelic voice; there's more depth to her and her music than is apparent at first.  She covers "Just Like Heaven" by the Cure and "(Just Like) Starting Over" by John Lennon with inventiveness and charm, and her original songs are witty.  There's a satisfying payoff in a song like "Champagne," in which she assumes the  persona of a charming airhead ("I'm such a dope," she says) while singing about "wine's historiography" and employing the word "Bacchic."  I would like to hear more from her soon.

3. I Threw Away One of My Hammond Organs

At one point, some time in the 1970s, this Hammond organ you see in the pictures below--this enormous, two-ton vintage beast--was considered portable.  I bought it for $50 at the Used Piano Warehouse in Memphis in 2004, then hauled it in and out of clubs is a dozen cities.  It was a nightmare to carry around, and I was always accidentally breaking the keys off and having to mend them with popsicle sticks.  When we'd set up on stage, and I'd realize that I'd broken another key, I'd have to sprint to the nearest grocery store, buy a box of popsicles, and scarf one down real fast so I could superglue the stick in place.

By the end of my last tour with the monster, it wouldn't even play.  It then sat in my garage for years because I didn't have the heart to get rid of it.  Until now.  There it goes.  Right in the old dumpster.

4. Interesting Short Fiction and Poetry

In my ninth and tenth grade class, we read "There Will Come Soft Rains," by Ray Bradbury.  I had read this story as a youth, but hadn't thought about it again until doing AP training last summer.  It's remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is the only story I have ever read that has exactly zero characters in it.  See for yourself.  (Here it is in comic form from the old Weird Fantasy comic books.  And while you are at it, read the poem by Sara Teasdale that gives it its name.)

I also taught "The Scarlet Ibis," by James Hurst, a dark little bit of Southern gothic fiction that I had never read before.

There's a lot of great poetry being published by interesting poets in on-line journals, I have found recently.  Brian Simoneau is such a poet.  Click here to hear him read his poem, "What You Learn,"  on the Dialogist, or read his work "Some Things I've Never Done and Never Will."

5. Shavuot

I had never heard of Shavuot (שבועותuntil this spring.  It is a holiday that celebrates the Jews receiving the Torah from God.  Orthodox Jews such as my students celebrate by reading the book of Ruth, abstaining from meat, and learning from the Torah in an all-night study session.  Non-Jewish faculty members celebrate by taking three days off.  Blintzes and cheesecake for everyone!

6. Other

My students took their AP literature tests.  I attended my first Kiddush.  Renee and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary.  We went to the Symphony in the Garden, which is one of our favorite events of the year and always a wonderful way to commemorate our anniversary.  The Memphis Grizzlies and Pittsburgh Penguins keep winning.  And, finally, my son graduated from preschool.  He and I wore matching bowties that his mother made.

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