Sunday, April 19, 2009

Susan and the Four Thousand Judges

Susan Boyle is the new international music rage. This has come about after she appeared on Britain's Got Talent [BGT], shown on April 11. Her song was "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables. [Claude-Michel Schonberg, Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer] Not only did she make it through this difficult song, she sang it with brilliance in a poignant and memorable performance.

There are many naysayers out there, including the one critic who claimed Susan's not 'a very good singer.' Bah! She's better than 90% of those US west coast warblers raking in the millions. And I've been impressed with the talent showing up in this and the last two editions of BGT: Connie Talbot; Paul Pots; Faryl Smith; Andrew Johnston; Escala---the list goes on. The 'America's Got Talent' [AGT] show is impressive, but I haven't followed it as well as the BGT---though I remember Terry Fator, Taylor Ware and little Kaitlyn Maher with pleasure.

At the audition, there was an initial dislike of Susan Boyle because of her appearance. I admit---and so does she---that she's a bit frowzy and plain looking, even a little over weight. You should't care. All great singers are not known for their thinness. After all, high cees take breath an abdominal strength beyond mortal man or woman. Even judge Amanda Holden commented "I am so thrilled because I know everyone was against you. We are all so cynical but that was a complete wake up call. It was a complete privilege" [to hear you.]

A few years ago, Deborah Voigt, a pre-eminent soprano, was told by Covent Garden she was too fat for the costumes. There was certainly a broo-ha-ha over that. But, because of increasing health problems, she had her stomach stapled and lost more than 135 pounds.
Once again invited to Covent Garden, she held no bitterness in accepting. In any case, no matter how fat or thin she is, she has a marvelous voice. Nobody can dispute that.

There are many other great singers who wouldn't win a beauty contest: Kate Smith, who was heavy all her singing life; Mahalia Jackson, another full-figured woman; Mama Cass, whose beautiful voice belied her excess weigh; Monserrat Caballe with the voice of an angel; and Maria Callas. Maria was a heavyweight in her early years before her weight loss program. And it was suggested that her voice seemed never quite the same after the excess weight disappeared. Personally, I didn't hear her until after her heyday, and I wasn't impressed by her voice or looks.

So, think about it. Does a person not among the beautiful people deserve to be heard and appreciated? Of course. And Susan Boyle can continue to captivate people with her voice whether the elite like it or not. All you beautiful people in Hollywood remember, you can be easily replaced by those of us common people with real god-given talents.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tiddly Winks and Golf

A TV show was making fun of 'tiddley winks' the other night. But tell me, isn't tiddley winks a table version of golf? Except for the walking on the grass and hitting the sand traps, it's pretty much the same concept, and they should be accepted or derided together. Maybe there're plans for a 'Tiddly Winks' channel on cable?

I find it sad how so many of the modern generation makes fun of and derides some of the pastimes of our forefathers and mothers. Subject on point. A hollering contest. Now, I don't care one way or the other [a hoot or a holler?] about it, but a lot of rural people like it. Well, they must. They keep entering the contests. And, I might add another comment to you of the younger generations. There is a difference between 'hollering' and 'screaming.' So, if you don't know what you're talking about, or you don't understand our historical past, please shut up. What else can I say.

Without televisions, Iphones, blackberries, computer games, this 3G speed and all, most of you from our current generations wouldn't know what to do with yourselves. Study at school? Now, that would be a change we can believe in.
There're advertisements on television about a language learning system costing about $200 a crack. I can't tell how it works personally, but it's probably sufficient for most people. My question to the company , however, is about the languages.

Clara, the Administration's Chief Economic Adviser

You have numerous people giving their endorsements on a number of language modules, but not a single one says anything in the foreign language. Now, that would surely show how the system works. but, since the advertiser---along with every other company---won't show real people, their actors can't really give you anything personal about the system.

An alarm company now boasts of it's ability to create a complete monitoring system. You can monitor your home in real time with pictures on your cell phone or computer. Wow! Talk about giving up your freedoms and protections. If you can see the pictures, so can any hacker. Instead of security, I foresee empty rooms at home. We have to temper our desires for more technology with our needs for privacy and security. In case you didn't know, this is the kind of concept setting Big Brother in motion. In effect, we'll be giving government a way to keep tabs on us in the name of security. Big Brother has to come from somewhere doesn't he?

I known. I know. Recently, a woman checked her home via her office pc and saw thieves doing what thieves do, and she called the police. I don't know the details after that, but on viewing the video I saw the the thieves leaving before the police came in. I don't know if anyone was ever caught. But remember, if you can see it on the pc, so can a hacker, especially one in radio contact with the thieves in your house.
My idea of Heaven would be an existence free of Vince for Sham-Wow ["'cause you know we can't do it all day"---though I hear the ad all day and night] and Billy Mays here. Howard Cosell is already gone and Crazy Eddie is out of the picture. Having to listen to that group til the end of time is my idea of the suffering in Hades. But wait! It's now the 11 o'clock news film. Crazy Eddie has been re-born in the ads for Universal Hotel Liquidators! The fellow's voice is like the up part of bipolar, and he just seems to be the next generation of annoyance. The company probably hopes that customers think if they buy enough furniture from him, he'll shut up. Well, maybe. Probably not.
Financial firms don't give up, do they? In a serious, baritoned voice tv ad from a financial firm, the client is concerned about what he sees in the economy and volatile stock market, and the dire predictions for the future. The advice he gets? "Don't let your emotions get in the way of your goals." Huh? Since when is a $50,000 loss in your IRA or 401K a result of 'emotions?' And what's the secondary point of the ad? Why, the firm's advisors are willing to get up very early in the morning to give such sage advice as above.

I remember when I was an active CPA, and I was asked to give a short talk to a financial advisor's clients. I started with a joke. "Do you known the best way to double your money?, I asked as I took out a ten dollar bill?" I then folded it in half and put it in my pocket with the comment: "Just fold it in half and put it back in your pocket." Everybody laughed except the financial advisor. I was never asked to give a short talk again. So I wrote a periodic column for a newspaper.
Want a car for $500? A house for $199 down? Yeah, sure, good luck. These extreme examples--which you'll probably never encounter---are announced in a serious, low, and calming voice in a television commercial. Following is the mishmash of a sentence: "an inventory of cars and homes are available now and will be sold to the public." Now, despite this first grade composition from grown-up people in an ad agency, what it's telling you is that when you call the 800 number [I'm surprised it isn't a 900 number] you'll be able to buy an inventory list. Of course, there're no promises that the items listed on the inventory sheets will actually be available when you track down a sales event. [Good luck on that one.] So, if you want a decent car or house, I suggest going the standard route. You'll sleep better.
There's a major store chain advertising about the GE small flourescent bulb to replace our ubiquitous incandescent bulbs. The major claim is all the electricity to be saved by using the new bulb. What they don't say is that each bulb has about 5 grams of mercury in it. Since one store bragged it had sold 100 million of them, I think it's safe to assume a total of 4 or 5 hundred million of them out there, mostly in California---San Francisco most likely.

And since many users will just throw away a used bulb---let's say 50%---that means that a potential of 1.375 million tons of mercury may end up in landfills or the air in our homes. And that's being responsible and green?

And so we're being urged to use hybrid and battery run cars, as if the electricity in the batteries comes from nowhere. Hey Greenies! It comes from power plants which you oppose on a selective basis! That's where! [I'm convinced the environmentalists are trying to replace all our existing power plants with those that run on big batteries.] And they promote natural gas cars, which emit only 'harmless' water vapor. "Harmless?" Isn't water vapor a major constituent of greenhouse gases? Doesn't it have a direct influence on humidity, smog, rain, fog, etc.? We haven't seen a major effect yet because of the dearth of such vehicles out there, but the greenies want more.

We have a normal air pressure [essentially the weight of the atmosphere] at sea level on Earth [14.7 lbs per square inch---that's per square inch of our bodies] that permits us to breathe freely. When water vapor increases in the atmosphere---thus increasing pressure, something else has to go---since our air pressure at sea level must remain the same. "The presence of water vapor in the air naturally dilutes or displaces the other air components as its concentration increases."

In very warm summer air [or excessive use of hybrid vehicles?] , the proportion of water vapor can increase the humidity and result in the stuffiness like we can experience in the jungle [or rain forest or chaparral or primevel forest or boscage] or a poorly air-conditioned building.

Consequently, I believe each battery operated or hybrid or natural gas vehicle spewing out water vapor should include as original equipment: a hygrometer [for humidity], a barometer [for air pressure], car diapers [for water vapor], asthma inhalers for those dangerous breathing times, and a danger sign posted clearly on each door. We must be careful at all time. I'm Mr General Science and I approved this message.
I received a strange item in the mail yesterday. It was a straight pin, the head of which was ingraved with all the economically accurate statements of President Obama's administration taken directly from his teleprompter during off-duty hours. There was a lot of empty space left over on the pin.

And I got proof! It's a sheet of paper having magazine-cut out letters saying Certificate of Authenticity, just press the reset button. The written words were barely legible: 'this is the real thing.' 'Overcharge' was printed over the the phrase 'reset button.' And the signature was unrecognizable, though there were tiny pictures of CDs and IPods around it. A little oak tree watermark was at the lower left corner; and it had a date stamp from sometime in the 1970s
Do we really need to give up even more of our privacy by having sound amplifiers sold willy nilly? Just watch the ads. Snoop on your neighbors. Snoop on others at a party. The ad also promotes it for listening to your children at play. The example shown has a childish attempt of an adult to sound like a child. Besides, don't children need privacy too? Unless your kids are alone, you won't be able to determine their voices from the others anyway. And relying on an ear amplifier of questionable quality [it's only $19.99 after all---but wait! Just for listening, you can get two for the price of one.] might lead you to reduce your visual contact, a sure way of inviting trouble.
I have nothing against Sarah McLachlin, nor do I have anything against the ASPCA. I deplore the way some dogs are treated and abused. It's unconscionable. But I'm sick and tired of Sarah's commercials. Whenever I hear her sing, all I can think of is her begging for money for dogs and cats. A noble sentiment gone too long and becoming annoying. Imagine how many kids we could save instead. Aren't they more valuable?

Maybe it's me, but I find the most annoying commercials are shown endlessly. I've seen some run back to back to back to back. Help!! Give me a break!
It seems many advertisers are asking questions in the beginning of their ads expecting you to be interested in the answer. Well, for starters, if a brand name indoor/outdoor allergy medication wants to know what most sufferers in the United States are allergic to, and two of the choices are peanuts and cats---the other being pollen, what do you think the answer is? Surprise! Just what the medicine needs. And then they repeat the quiz numerous times on the same channel.
Wow! Those IRS fighters for you are armed and ready to go! One women feels that blowing you down with her in-your-face attitude is the way to present herself to prospective clients. And who are those clients? Well, one in the ad claimed she saved him $150,000, another $100,000, and the third a quarter of a million dollars. So why is she advertising on a blue collar television show? I don't know, but if you're having trouble and owe $1,679.80, don't bother her with it.
Perhaps I should be asking those willing advertisers, the gold merchants, why they keep promising to pay higher and higher than the other guy. Look, I realize you guys can't pay full price for gold. You have to process it and make a reasonable profit. I know that. But what about the jewels on the broken jewelry sent to you? Do you pay extra for those? Or do they represent another pure profit portion? You don't mention such items in your ads. Opals, diamonds, rubies, pearls, agates, rhinestones, anyone?
I believe that among the 'World's Dumbest' entries should be the stations that carries such garbage, peopled by clowns who are not funny, are proud of their lawbreaking, and, in some shows, are commented on by forgettable ex-celebs. Unfortunately, I catch them on occasion when I'm a little early for the show I really want to see.
I just heard another lawyer advertisement looking for new clients. Naturally, the firm's partners build their reputation up, using the standard client [actor] testimonials. This time, a women states with a straight face: "...they're more than lawyers, they're human beings." Well, now we know. Most lawyers aren't human beings. Only those in that particular law firm are. I wonder what the other firms think about that?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

I Fall I Fall O Stay Mee!

The following is for those of you out there who remember something about Madrigals, probably from your collegiate years. I remember singing some at that time, notably the Spanish carol 'Riu Riu Chiu.'

What is a Madrigal you might ask? The Madrigal has numerous definitions because it has numerous antecedents. Some definitions include: [1] 'a song for two or three unaccompanied voices, developed in Italy in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.' [2] 'A short poem, often about love, suitable for being set to music.' [3] 'A polyphonic song using a vernacular text and written for four to six voices, developed in Italy in the 16th century and popular in England in the 16th and early 17th centuries.'  

            Claudio Monteverdi c1640             

We're told that the earliest known Madrigals date from about 1320. The Madrigal form was fully developed by about 1340. We have 190 Madrigals extant from the above centuries.    


Some composers of these surviving Madrigals include: Giovanni da Cascia; Jacopo da Bologna; Philippe Verdelot; Jacques Arcadelt; Adrian  Willaert; Cipriano de Rore; Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina; Orlande de Lassus; Luca Marenzio; Luzzasco Luzzaschi; Carlo Gesualdo; Claudio Monteverdi; John Wilbye; Giulio Caccini; Antonio Scarlatti; Thomas Morley; and John Farmer. Yes, I don't recognize all the names either, but this may be one of the few places where you can find all their full names. I thought adding the flourishing years might be too much.

Madrigals, as popular as they, were went into decline early in the 15th century, nearing extinction around 1450. Because of the influence of Francesco Petrarca's [Petrarch] poetic style and imagery, after 1540 the Madrigal reappeared and was enthusiastically recognized as the artform we now know it was. As time progressed through the middle of the 16th century, the Madrigal form had absorbed some of the 'elements of the popular villanella [a form of light Italian secular vocal music] and showed some truely bold experimentation in chromaticism, word-painting and harmonic and rhythmic contrast.'

Among my favorites is 'Riu Riu Chiu', a 16th century anonymous carol 'arranged in a South American folkloric style:'  

 Riu, riu chiu, la guarda ribera,
 Dios guardo el lobo de nuestra cordera.
 El lobo rabioso la quiso morder,
 mas Dios poderoso la supo defender;
 Quisole hazer que no pudiesse pecar,
 ni aun original esta Virgen no tuviera.

Holding a equally pleasurable place in my memory is 'The Silver Swan', from early in the 17th century and perhaps the most famous Madrigal from Orlando Gibbons. Although set in various voices, I remember singing it SATB [soprano, alto, tenor, base] in college. The madrigal is based on a legend that mute swans sing only just before death [thus the swan song.] Both the music and the words are probably from Gibbons' hand.

  'The silver Swan, who living had no Note,
  When Death approached, unlocked her silent throat.
  Leaning her breast upon the reedy shore,
  Thus sang her first and last, and sang no more:
  'Farewell, all joys! O Death, come close mine eyes!
  'More Geese than Swans now live, more Fools than Wise.'

Gibbons published the Madrigal in his 'First Set of Madrigals and Motets,' in 1612. Some say the last line is a reference to the loss of the late Elizabethan musical tradition that Gibbons wished to have continued.

Indian Hills Community College Iowa Madrigal Singers

A third example from my favorite list is 'Sing We and Chant It,' another 16th century work, this time from Thomas Morley.  

  Sing we and chant it
  while love doth grant it,
  fa la la, la, la, la, la
  fa la la, la, la, la, la
  Not long youth lasteth,
  And old age hasteth;
  Now is best leisure
  To take our pleasure,
  fa la la, la, la, la, la
  fa la la, la, la, la, la

Other Madrigals that I have easy access to [for this writing] are from John Wilbye, and published in 1598. He wrote such attractive works as 'Adew Sweet Amarillis', 'Fly Loue [love] Aloft,' 'I Fall I Fall, O Stay Mee,' and 'My Bonnie Lass She Smileth.'

  Adew, sweet Amarillis:
  For since to part your will is,
  O heauy tyding,
  Here is for mee no biding:
  Yet once againe ere that I part with you,
  Amarillis, sweet Adew.

From the title above:

  I fall, I fall, O stay mee,
  Deere loue with ioyes yee slay mee,
  Of life your lips depriue mee,
  Sweet, let your lips reuiue mee,
  O whether are you hasting,
  And leaue my life thus wasting?
  My health on you relyeing,
  'Twer sinne to leaue me dyeing. 

And my final choice of favorites is from Thomas Morley, 1594,

 April is in my mistress' face, 
 And July in her eyes hath place; 
 Within her bosom is September, 
 But in her heart a cold December.

A chilling thought for the Springtime, when lovers meet among the wafting blossoms.