Monday Morning Movie Review: Star Wars (1977)

The weather here in South Carolina has turned blissfully autumnal, which means we can finally partake in all manner of outdoor activities without dying of heat exposure and dehydration.  The humidity has calmed itself to a bearable level, and the mornings and nights are crisp and cool.

One of my enterprising neighbors—and most dogged constituents—took advantage of the cool weather this weekend to test out an inflatable projector screen.  He invited me to join his family for a private, driveway screening of the original 1977 Star Wars, later entitled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.  Specifically, he screened the “de-specialized” version, as he called it, so there was none of the clunky 1990s CGI additions of the special editions.

In other words, it’s the way Star Wars was intended… before George Lucas changed his mind and decided to change his own films.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: 1000 Days

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Well, here it is—the 1000th consecutive day of posting to WordPress (I hit 1000 posts about 114 pieces ago; now I’ve reached 1000 days of consecutive posting).  It’s crazy to think, but this latest incarnation of The Portly Politico has been going for roughly two-and-three-fourths years, a fresh post every single day.  I’ve written so much at this point, I’ve forgotten a lot of it.

Granted, some of those have been filler posts, saying, “Oops, I will have to post a real post later,” but I tried to avoid those as much as possible, and I have generally made them up (especially to you paying customers).  I’ve also come up with some series, like Monday Morning Movie Review and Supporting Friends Friday, to help with ease the load a bit (not to mention Lazy Sunday and TBT, both of which let me off the hook with some reblogging of old material).

It being the 1000th day, I’ve decided to look back at this latest incarnation of The Portly Politico—where it was, where it is, and where it’s going.

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TBT^2: The Joy of Autumn

Well, the first day of autumn was yesterday, although my Middle School Music students came into class Tuesday saying that their Geography teacher told them 21 September, rather than 22 September, was the first day of this glorious holiday.

I have little idea when the seasons calendrically begin, other than it’s always in the low-twenties of the month:  Spring in March, Summer in June, Autumn in September, and Winter in December.  As I’ve noted before on this site, in South Carolina it’s all pretty much one big season—summer—with some intermittent sprinklings of the actual season throughout the year.  That can even mean a cold front in the summer (Thy Will Be Done) or an unseasonably warm “Indian Summer” in mid-January.  I’ve sweated on New Year’s Day and Thanksgiving many times, and it’s always muggy on Halloween.

But I digress.  The discussion about when autumn really begins (some Bing!ing revealed it is 22 September this year, not 21 September) led to an impromptu crash course in songwriting.  We began listing all of the qualities of the fall, and the qualities of the then-soon-to-be-departing summer.  The students then crafted those into verses (about all the fun summertime stuff that was disappearing), with the chorus being all about how great the autumn is:  pumpkins, scarecrows, falling leaves, etc.

The kids ate it up.  I made up some cheesy crooner melody to go with it as a placeholder, but a precocious seventh grader began experimenting with an unusual C-Db-Eb chord sequence, which completely changed the melody.  I broke the students into groups to begin writing new verses, and another student took it upon herself to compile the lyrics into a master Google Doc.  Another student—a visual artist trapped in Music class—supplied the artwork for our soon-to-be-hit single, featuring a scarecrow and some other creature dancing around a flaming pumpkin (it’s pretty awesome).  Our little scribe-compiler mentioned that we needed a bridge, so we’ll have to get hopping on that.

It was completely unplanned—one student even suggested, snarkily, that I hadn’t planned a lesson that day, so I created this one out of thin air.  It’s only half true:  I did have a lesson planned—we were going to write, clap, and count rhythm lines—but the discussion of autumn sparked the idea for a much more engaging lesson about writing songs (which is, essentially, writing poetry, but better—there’s music attached!).

Anyway, here’s to autumnal weather to come—and good, middle school-penned songs to go with it.

With that, here is “TBT: The Joy of Autumn” (thanks to Pontiac Dreamer for today’s picture!):

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The Joy of Renaissance Music: Palestrina’s “Pope Marcellus” Mass

It’s another school year, which means another year going through the history of Western music in Pre-AP Music Appreciation.  This week we’re diving into Renaissance music, after spending last week covering the music of the Middle Ages.

Contrary to popular belief, the Middle Ages were not a period of depressing darkness, but rather a lively age.  I certainly wouldn’t want to be a peasant pushing an ox cart full of dung, but that peasant knew his place in the universe, in the sense that he knew he was part of an ordered cosmos with God at both its head and its center.

More on that another time, but I mention it to note that the Renaissance would not have been possible without that long age of faith in the Middle Ages.  Still, the Renaissance Period—variably dated, but starting roughly sometime in the fifteenth century, and extending to the seventeenth century—was a period of increased interest in the art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome, especially the human realism depicted in the art of those great civilizations, both a continuation of and a departure from the Middle Ages.

It also saw the declining influence of the Catholic Church in Europe, especially in the wake of the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century.  As Protestantism and other social forces broke the Church’s monopoly on education and its dominance over art and music, Catholicism mounted a Counter-Reformation, aimed at both reducing the influence of Protestantism and reforming real abuses within the Roman Church.

That effort, naturally, involved revisions to music.  Catholic priests denounced the increasingly theatrical nature of church music, decrying it as distracting from the simple message of the Gospel and the sacred Latin text, instead serving as gaudy entertainment for Mass goers.  Much like the megachurch arena rock concerts of today, services had become garish and maudlin, a reflection of the corruption within the Church.

It was in this context that Giovanni Pieluigi da Palestrina composed his greatest works.  According to Roger Kamien in Music: An Appreciation (the eighth brief edition, which I use with my students), Palestrina composed some 104 masses and 450 other sacred works, and his music became, essentially, the gold standard of church music until modern times (“masses” in the musical context are works built around five sung prayers, the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei, not to be confused with the Catholic service).

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Bull Terrier Tuesday: Dog Sitting

After a long and eventful weekend, Murphy and I are back in Lamar with an additional guest:  my childhood friend’s eight-year old blue heeler mix Gracie.  My buddy is going to the beach with his wife and kid, and needed a place along the way to drop their pup.

As such, I’m now running an assisted care facility for elderly dogs.  In all seriousness, the dog, Gracie, is a real sweetheart, and she and Murphy seem to get along well enough.  Murphy quickly established dominance once we got back to the house the other day, but then I put Murphy on her back to remind her who is really in charge, and it’s been relative peace in the house ever since.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: The Stuff (1985)

Shudder continues to deliver up the bizarre and unusual, proving it’s well worth the price of admission for the streaming service.  This last week saw the service bring the 1985 film The Stuff to the service.

It’s an unusual horror flick that combines elements of consumer protection advocacy, mass media advertising, consumerism, ruthless business tactics, and addiction into a blob of creamy terror.

Indeed, the film is something like The Blob (1958) and Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) rolled into one:  a greedy corporation knowingly sells a dangerous product, which turns out to be a goopy white organism that entire consumes the very people consuming it.

So, essentially, the entire flick is a metaphor for consumerism and corporate greed run amok.

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Lazy Sunday CXXXI: Friends, Part III

The celebration of friendship rolls on (read Part I and Part II), this week heavily featuring blogger buddies.  One of the real joys of blogging is the opportunity to read other bloggers’ writing, and to build up a community of like-minded writers.  These three writers definitely fit the bill:

  • Supporting Friends Friday: Mogadishu Matt” – Mogadishu Matt at Free Matt Podcast writes some of the more interesting “slice of life” commentary I’ve ever read.  He’s particularly humorous when writing his own, hard-boiled responses to letters sent to advice columnists.  He’s a man who has lived a rich—if not always easy—life, and he’s learned and grown from those experiences.  That really comes across in his writing.
  • Supporting Friends Friday: photog” – Good old photog is the proprietor of Orion’s Cold Fire.  I consider photog my closest blogging ally, and some of my writing for his blog got the juices flowing again for my blog.  He writes on everything from politics to photography (thus the nom de plume) to Star Trek.  Check him out!
  • Supporting Friends Friday: Audre Myers” – Audre is a fun-loving, child-like, but wise writer who frequently posts for Nebraska Energy Observer, Neo’s blog (which features far more stuff about English and American history than it does about running electrical lines in rural Nebraska).  Writing this tribute to Audre proved to be a turning point for my own blog:  Audre has tons of fans in Great Britain, and now traffic to my site has increased five-to-ten-fold on a daily basis, thanks simply to Audre’s friends and well-wishers commenting on the blog.  I’ve never had such lively comment sections, and that also means more comments from Audre herself!

Well, that’s another Sunday in the books.  Enjoy your day and support your writers!

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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Celebratory Saturday; SubscribeStar Saturday Delayed

This weekend I am celebrating some big family milestones, including my older brother’s birthday.  As such, this weekend’s installment of SubscribeStar Saturday will be delayed.  With all the fun this weekend, it’s hard to get the ire up to write “Decline, Part II” (read  the preview of “SubscribeStar Saturday: Decline, Part I: Afghanistan” and read the full post here).

It’s been a very long week at work—not bad, just long.  It was one of those weeks where I felt like I was working constantly, but never quite getting ahead on anything.  Finding time to write is getting harder, unfortunately—there’s not enough time in the morning, and by the time I get home in the evenings, I am wiped out.

That said, all is well.  I’m getting excited for the next Spooktacular, and should be placing an order for t-shirts soon.  I’ll have the designs for those shirts uploaded once I place the order.  I have two designs this year, so make sure to collect ’em all.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support!  If you’d like to subscribe to or view my SubscribeStar page, you can do so here.

Happy Saturday!

—TPP

Supporting Friends Friday: The Halloween Poetry of Jeremy Miles

I kicked off Supporting Friends Friday announcing the publication of my friend Jeremy Miles‘s third book of poetry, Hindsight: Poetry in 2020 (it’s available in paperbackhardcover, and Kindle editions).  The publication of a buddy’s book seemed like the perfect time to celebrate and support my friends’ various achievements.

That was in June.  Now, just three months later, Jeremy has cranked out another collection, one about which I am very excited:  Haunted Verses Haunting: A Halloween Collection (available in paperback and Kindle editions for $15 and $2.99, respectively).

The poems in this volume appear in Jeremy’s first three releases (get them here, here, and here), so they’ve seen publication before, but if you love Halloween—and I definitely do—this collection puts all of his spookiest poems together in one place.  If you love Halloween and you’re a cheapskate, you can save some cash and pick up the present volume (though I highly recommend you purchase his entire oeuvre, as I have done—at least in paperback).

Jeremy definitely loves Halloween, too, and often says he wishes every day were Halloween.  That might rob the holiday of some of its magic, but I appreciate the sentiment:  Halloween these days seems to get short shrift during the holiday season, with the commercialized version of Christmas stretching its imperialistic tentacles deep into October—and even September!  But that’s all to say that a guy who loves Halloween that much is going to release some of the spookiest, most spine-tingling poetry you’ll ever read.

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