Phone it in Friday XXX: Blog Updates and Writing

Ah, yes—the bleak midwinter.  A time for eating frozen pizzas and warm soups, washed down with hot, black coffee.  A time for turning in early at night, indulging in the warmth and comfort of fleece sheets and heavy quilts.

I see why bears hibernate right now:  ’tis the season for coziness, to embrace the hygge.  I certainly eat like a grizzly preparing for a few months of hibernation, but I don’t sleep off the excess fat stores.  It just gets added on until another round of gastrointestinal self-denial kicks in after I gaze at my double chin too long.

It is with the spirit of the hibernating grizzly that I write this post.  I love writing, but like most writers, that love is sometimes coupled with hate—or, in my case, weary indifference.  It comes in waves, most of them brief, but I’m currently riding one at the moment—or flailing about frantically amid it, my head occasionally dipping below into the briny deep.

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TBT^4: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony

I love it when I’ve been blogging long enough that some pieces get the coveted “TBT^4” designation (or higher!).  I don’t know if readers pick up on this delight, or that I’m even layering commentary upon commentary, but it’s one of those little things that I enjoy about the blog.

I particularly love it when I get to reblog a post about something I really like.  I know classical music isn’t exactly the hot new thing, but most of the hot new things stink, and this music has stood and will continue to stand the tests of time and fashion.

That’s probably no truer than for the music of Beethoven, a truly titanic, tumultuous, troubled figure, the man who bridged the gap between the symmetry and precision of classical music and the stormy, emotional grandiloquence of Romantic music.

Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, the “Pastoral,” is my favorite of his symphonies.  I’m a sucker for programmatic music, and Beethoven takes us on a moving trip through the countryside.

With that, here is 20 January 2022’s “TBT^2: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony“:

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Midweek Video Game Review: Pokémon Brilliant Diamond

Monday was the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., Day (and Robert E. Lee’s Birthday, for those so inclined), which meant that many folks here in the United States had Monday off for the federal holiday.  Yours portly was one of the many societal leeches suckling at the teat of this paid holiday, and I enjoyed it to the fullest.

While I was quietly productive on the day itself, the rest of the weekend saw me lolling about in indolence.  For whatever reason, the last couple of weeks left me exhausted, and I indulged in some relaxation Saturday and Sunday.  Besides some light housework, I kept myself occupied with an excursion back to my childhood:  Pokémon.

I managed to pick up a copy of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond, the 2021 remake of 2006’s Pokémon Diamond, last fall for half-price (around $30).  With work and lessons and what not, I hadn’t had time to play it, so I was more than a little excited to rip off the cellophane and pop this little baby into my Nintendo Switch Lite.

I vaguely remember playing some of Diamond on the Nintendo DS, but I know I didn’t finish it, and I’d forgotten a great deal of the game, beyond some of the starter Pokémon.  I have not finished the game—not by any stretch—but managed to put about eight hours into over the three-day weekend, and it was much like playing a classic Pokémon game.

That is both a good and bad thing.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Ponty’s Top Ten Best Films: #4: Kill Bill: Volumes 1 & 2 (2003-2004)

Ponty always delivers some of the most thoughtful and poignant film reviews, and this week’s installment is no different.  He’s really nailed the essence of these films, which are properly understood as two parts of one larger film.

I’m also impressed with Ponty’s rigor in making his picks; he’s much more intentional about his choices than I am.  I’m impressed with the way he considers his picks carefully, and it’s apparent that he really struggled with what to put into this #4 slot.

But, wow, what a pick!  When these flicks came out in 2003-2004 I was just starting college, and managed to largely miss them.  I always thought (and still somewhat do think) that the title is stupid, but it does say what the flicks are about.

There’s where any stupidity ends.  The Old West meets The Mystical East, all with Uma Thurman slicing and dicing through baddies.  It’s grindhouse and kung-fu and everything trashy and awesome thrown into one super-long flick.

With that, here is Ponty’s review of 2003-2004’s Kill Bill: Volumes 1 & 2:

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Lazy Sunday CLXXX: More Movies XXXIII: Ponty’s Best Films, Part I

Last Sunday we looked at my #10, #9, and #8 picks for the best films.  Now we’re looking at Ponty’s choices for the same.  So far, I think Ponty has the better list, although I stand by (most of) my picks.

His first three are all in the horror genre, but all vastly different films.  They’re also exemplars of the genre, and are must-see films:

Happy Sunday!


Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

SubscribeStar Saturday: Christmas Break Travels, Part III: The Shirt in Prescott

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.

On our way back from visiting the Grand Canyon, my brother and I stopped in Prescott, Arizona.  Despite it’s spelling, “Prescott” is pronounced almost like “press kit.”  For my Central Savannah River Area readers, it’s akin to Martinez, Georgia, which is not pronounced like a Mexican’s surname, but as “Martin-ez.”

Anyway, Prescott is an Old West town—it used to be the territorial capital of Arizona, from 1864-1867—that has now turned into something like a yuppie outdoor shopping mall.  That sounds facetious, yes, but it’s actually a pretty cool little town.  The entire town square was bedecked in Christmas lights, and as it was unseasonably cold for Arizona in late December, it actually felt like Christmas in a cowboy town.

Prescott really plays up its heritage as a bustling town of the Old West:  Western wear stores line the main shopping area, and bars and restaurants play up the legendary Western folk heroes and villains who frequented the establishments (or the spots where those establishments now stand).

It was in one of those Western wear stores that I came face to face with sartorial destiny.

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Rest in Peace, Jeremy Miles

Earlier this week, my good friend Jeremy Miles passed away after a struggle with cancer.  Long-time readers will know that Jeremy was a writer and poet, and released several volumes of his poetry over the past few years (somehow I missed his last release, Shadows in Suburbia; sadly, it will be the only volume of his poetry in my collection that will never host his autograph).

Jeremy’s influence in the tiny world of Florence County, South Carolina coffee shops was absolutely massive, to an extent and in a way that he in his self-deprecating humility would never acknowledge.  His poetry captured the spirit of a golden age of open mic music, that glorious period in The Before Times, before The Age of The Virus, when musicians and poets promiscuously plied their creative wares in a supportive and encouraging environment.  His first published collection of poetry, A Year of Thursday Nights: Everyday Poetry, conveys the energy and creative ferment of those halcyon days, all with his sly humor and playful wit.

He was also a good man—a great man.  Always clad in black from head-to-toe, and always wishing it were Halloween, he always encouraged those around him with his gentle demeanor.  He was that guy that looked cool, but was never intimidating or exclusive about his natural coolness.  He was cool, yes, but warm—a warmth that derived from his sensitive and reflective nature.  Anyone was welcome in Jeremy’s circle, and if you could quote Big Trouble in Little China, even better.

Jeremy was moved to hospice this past Sunday, and passed early on Tuesday, 10 January 2023.  I was unable to visit him before his passing.  While I regret that, his girlfriend pointed out to me that now I will always remember him as he was—joyful, funny, ebullient, full of life, a shining beacon of friendship and love, even in all-black.

I regret, too, not spending more time in conversation with him this past year.  He was rallying and even played a few songs with his band, Jeremy and the Blissters, but the cancer—that terrible, wicked disease—won out in the end.

But cancer cannot destroy the culture that Jeremy created.  Nor can it destroy his memory.

I will miss him deeply, as I know many others will.

Rest in peace, Jeremy Miles.

TBT^2: The Joy of Romantic Music II: Bedřich Smetana’s “The Moldau”

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about classical and Romantic music, both of which hold a special place in my heart.  Part of the reason is that I am not currently teaching the Pre-AP Music Appreciation course that guaranteed a near-daily baptism in the greatest works of these periods.

So in casting about for a good TBT installment, I came across this little post about one of my favorite bits of programmatic work, Bedřich Smetana’s “The Moldau.”  It’s a beautiful work that transports listeners on a magical journey down the titular river.

I love programmatic music because of its accessibility to average listeners (and because there’s something intriguing to me about a text accompanying purely instrumental music)—anyone can listen to this piece and hear the different scenes on the cruise down the river.  It’s also such a beautiful expression of Smetana’s love for his homeland.

With that, here is 13 January 2022’s “TBT: The Joy of Romantic Music II: Bedřich Smetana’s ‘The Moldau’“:

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