TBT: One Week [and One Year] Under the Usurper

Well, it’s been one year and one week since Biden the Usurper seized the throne and assumed his reign of the federal government.  Of course, he’s a senile puppet—or maybe he’s playing at senility—and rubber stamps whatever the progressives want.

I’ve really disengaged from national politics over the last year, as I find much of the wrangling fruitless.  I personally advocate for radical decentralization and focusing our energy and attention at the lowest levels of government to bring about change.  If economics functions on a “trickle-down” basis, politics “trickles-up”—(re)gain control of the mechanisms of power and the institutions locally, and you’re going to change—albeit slowly—the greater heights.

That said, even I am not ignorant to the state of the country.  Workers are quitting their menial jobs in droves—or not returning to them after being furloughed—as they can enjoy excessively generous unemployment benefits.  Prices are through the roof on everything, especially food.  Farmers are facing higher prices for the inputs for fertilizer, which means food is just going to get more expensive.  The supply chains are totally disrupted.  And we’re wringing our hands over The Virus, which has gotten milder over time, and was never all that deadly anyway.

Police officers are arresting nine-year olds in New York City for not having vaccine passports.  Masks—which don’t work at all—are a sign of the pious—the New Elect—and increase carbon dioxide levels.  Companies are forcing employees to get The Vaccine, which isn’t even a vaccine in the traditional sense, but an experimental gene therapy that appears to increase dramatically the incidences of myocarditis in even the healthiest individuals—including professional athletes, who are dropping like flies.

Americans might have lost their spirit of ornery rebellion, but if their kids are getting arrested and/or discriminated against and they can’t buy stuff they want at low prices, they’ll make a fuss.  They already are.  The Biden Administration might not bear the responsibility for everything that is happening, but they’ve done precious little to ameliorate—and much to exacerbate—our current situation.

That’s why now more than ever, we’ve got to get serious about fixing things where we are.  Grow your own food, stack cash (even if inflation eats into it), and learn to live lean.

With that, here is 27 January 2021’s “One Week Under the Usurper“:

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TBT^2: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony

One of the many benefits of teaching music is (re)discovering beloved favorite works.  During last week’s round of distance learning, I had to pull out some of the classics.  If we’re going to sit on a Google Meet call, let’s listen to some music, not just talk about it.

I really love programmatic music—instrumental music that tells a story, often accompanied by program notes explaining (usually very briefly) what the listener is supposed to hear in the musical “story.”  Students often like to imagine their own stories when listening to instrumental music, which is great, but I find that programmatic works give students (and myself!) some guideposts to follow.

Fortunately, Ludwig von Beethoven provided some handy ones for us in his Sixth Symphony, quite possibly my favorite symphony, and certainly my favorite of Beethoven’s.  It’s the so-called “Pastoral” symphony, as it depicts a pleasant trip to the country (besides the roiling thunderstorm in the fourth movement).

It’s also unusual in two respects:  instead of the standard four movements of the classical symphony (a fast opening movement, a slow second movement, a dancelike third movement, and a fast fourth movement), Beethoven includes five; and the third, fourth, and fifth movements all flow seamlessly into one another, without the customary pause between each.

It is also long, especially by the standards of the classical symphony (the Romantics, however, would have easily matched Beethoven for runtime), clocking in at nearly forty-five minutes (the typical classical symphony averages around twenty-five-to-thirty minutes, but forty-five would have been the upper limit for the time).  But that length is in service to Beethoven’s vision, and he fully explores every theme in this symphony.

Here is a particularly excellent performance—the one I showed, in part, to my classes last week—by the Berlin Philharmonic, under the direction of Bernard Haitnik:

With that, here is 4 February 2021’s “TBT: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony“:

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Midweek Mad Scientist Movie Madness II: Metropolis (1927)

Since the first installment of Midweek Mad Scientist Movie Madness two weeks ago, I’ve watched several more films from Mad Scientist Theatre, a collection of mostly bad, mostly public domain films.  As with any such collection, the appeal is in the handful of renowned classics, and some of the hidden gems.

The first three flicks on the very first disc are all silent movie classics.  I’ve already reviewed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which both debuted in 1920.  I appreciated and enjoyed both films for different reasons, and both were very well done, although quite different, films.

The third film is 1927’s Metropolis, perhaps the greatest silent film of all time.  I took a modern German history course in college, and we were supposed to attend a screening of Metropolis for class.  For some reason, I did not attend, which was very out of character for me (I only missed class twice in college:  a session of Human Geography because my saxophone sextet had its recital that morning, and a rehearsal of the University Band so I could play The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion the night it was released).  I guess we were never tested on it, but when I found out there was a robot woman, I was kicking myself for missing the flick.

Now, some twenty years later, I’ve finally watched this classic of Weimar Germany’s wild cinematic scene.  I wish I’d gone to see it in college!

As with Jekyll and Caligari, you can watch Metropolis for free on YouTube (although, apparently, the film won’t be back in the public domain in the United States until the end of this year):

As you can see, it is a long film—depending on which cut you see.  Apparently, there are dozens of different cuts and restorations, and no one knows for certain which is the “definitive” version.  One of my readers asked me which cut I saw, and I have no earthly idea (sorry, cinephiles).  It’s whatever version Mill Creek Entertainment decided to put on this collection.  I do know the film felt long in parts—although I was glued to the screen for most of it—but it didn’t feel like it was two-and-a-half hours long.

What I can say is that Metropolis is worth seeing, not only because it is an important film in the history of cinema (and the height of German Expressionism), but because it is a good movie with an important message:  the head and the hands must work together through the heart.

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

In “The Worst of 2021” post, there was a much-neglected gem amid all the filler:  this January 2021 post about Czech composer Bedřich Smetana‘s The Moldau.  My good friend and former colleague H. L. Liptak—herself a noted writer and a recent subscriber, *hint, hint*—praised it in her a comment on “The Worst.”

That got me thinking about this post, and that it deserved a comeback.  Thus, here is January 2022’s “The Joy of Romantic Music II: Bedřich Smetana’s ‘The Moldau’“:

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TBT: Supporting Friends Friday: Audre Myers

A little Welsh birdie told me that today our dear Audre Myers is turning twenty-nine for the forty-first time.  Therefore, in lieu of my originally planned TBT—which will appear next Thursday—I’ve done what any decent blogger would do and hastily and have revived this classic post about Audre, one of the most popular posts of 2021.

As far as I can tell, this will be the first edition of Supporting Friends Friday to enjoy the TBT treatment.  Who more fitting to receive such a dubious honor than Audre?  Audre’s been a constant source of encouragement, amusement, and inspiration, and is one of those folks who keeps me writing.

So, before I get overly mushy, here is 27 August 2021’s “Supporting Friends Friday: Audre Myers“:

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Midweek Mad Scientist Movie Madness I: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1920) & The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

For Christmas I received a couple of box sets, each containing fifty films from their respective genres.  The first collection I cracked open, Mad Scientist Theatre, consists of, well, fifty films about science and scientists gone wrong (or mad, I should say).

I’ve decided to write reviews of the films from these collections throughout the course of the year semiregularly.  Son of Sonnet is taking a bit of a hiatus from writing for the time being, so these midweek reviews seemed like a good way to fill the void his pen has left.  I don’t plan on writing these reviews every Wednesday, but maybe once or twice a month.

Also, I’ll be making the meat of these reviews for subscribers only.  That’s not to cut out my lovable band of regular readers, but to further sweeten the pot for existing subscribers.  I thought about doing these posts for $5 and up subscribers, but as of this past weekend, I finally have a subscriber at the $3 level.  Because I think she will enjoy these oddball film reviews, I’m going to make them available starting at that level.

That said, I will still provide a substantial portion of these reviews for non-paying readers, as their energy and enthusiasm in the comment sections really keep the blog alive and fresh.

So!  With that lengthy preamble out of the way, the first two flicks on the first disc of Mad Scientist Theatre are both silent films from 1920:  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.  You don’t need Mad Scientist Theatre to watch these films, either, as they’re both in the public domain (indeed, they’re both 102-years old, which is wild to contemplate—film is a young medium, but it was around and commercially viable a century ago).  You can view both on YouTube:

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (with the original color tinting, which is not on the Mad Scientist Theatre collection):

These are quite different films, but each interesting in their own way.  The themes and situations explored in each are eerily prescient for those of us living through our own “Roaring Twenties,” with all this decade’s excesses, licentiousness, and absurdity.

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Guest Contributor: 39 Pontiac Dream on Traveller’s Tales

As an early Christmas gift, we have a contribution from regular reader and occasional contributor 39 Pontiac Dream.  Ponty typically contributes photographs (see here, here, and here), but he’s also quite an accomplished writer in his own right.  He contributes posts to the English blog The Conservative Woman, a favorite among my readers.

That said, TWC hasn’t always been eager to print Ponty’s video game-related writing.  Their high-brow editorial and submission standards are The Portly Politico‘s gain:  now we get to read Ponty’s writing on video games here!

I’m also excited to have more guest contributors.  We’ve heard from photog in the past, as well as newcomer Son of Sonnet (read his Gemini Sonnets here, here, here, and here).  Now we have good ol’ Ponty pitching in.

As the blog evolves and its audience grows, I am hoping to host more guest contributors.  The pace of daily blogging has been difficult the past few months with work and other commitments, so having some other writers share the load certainly helps.

And, of course, I’d love to be able to compensate these writers (though Ponty has told me several times that getting published is enough for him).  Your subscriptions to my SubscribeStar page have made some minimal patronage possible; please consider a subscription or donation to keep things going and growing!

Regardless, Ponty has written a very detailed mini-history-cum-review of British game developer Traveller’s Tales, which has published a number of LEGO games.  Ponty and his wife are avid gamers, and Ponty seems to have a soft spot for these games.

I have not made any major changes to Ponty’s submitted text, other than adding an apostrophe to “Traveller’s.”  I’ve even preserved the charming “u” in “favourite,” to make sure the piece preserves its distinctly British flavo(u)r.

But enough of my yakkin’.  Here’s Ponty:

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Retro Tuesday: Christmas Break Begins!

Yesterday marked the true “beginning of my glorious, two-week Christmas break.”  It’s been a busy break so far, with a very productive Town Council work session last night, and a meeting with our new Mayor-Elect this morning.  I’m also meeting with a parent later in the day to sign some paperwork for a program for her daughter.

That’s a breakneck pace compared to past Christmas breaks, but it’s nothing too daunting.  I’m looking forward to some time with my parents, brothers, sister-in-laws, niece, and nephews soon, not to mention other family members.

It’s a lazy time of year for the blog, too:  not much is happening in the news, and everyone is settling in for a long winter’s nap.  I will have a guest contribution from 39 Pontiac Dreamer tomorrow—a review of a video game series—and some other goodies after Christmas.  Otherwise, look for a lot of re-runs from yours portly this week.

That said, the topic of this post from last Christmas Break—the need for some time off at Christmas for everyone, not just those of us in the cushy education racket—is still relevant.  Granted, some workers have decided to take the entire year off, it seems, enjoying generous federal unemployment and other kickbacks from The Age of The Virus, rather than return to their honest, albeit grueling, jobs.  Maybe let’s shoot for something a bit more balanced, yeah?

Still, work, while ennobling and healthy, can easily become overtaxing and detrimental.  There are diminishing returns, too:  after too many hours and too much effort, both mental and physical, we all start to get sloppy.  Some folks are built with the drive and energy to go nonstop, but I suspect most of us appreciate having a little downtime here and there.

With that, here is 21 December 2021’s “Christmas Break Begins!“:

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Monday Morning Movie Review: The Skin of the Wolf (Bajo la piel de lobo, 2018)

Christmas Break starts today, and I spent the opening weekend visiting my girlfriend in Athens, Georgia.  We spent a lot of time on the couch; naturally, we got in some movies.

One of them really stuck with me:  the 2018 Spanish film The Skin of the Wolf, or Bajo la piel de lobo.  It is a Spanish language film, but there is very little dialogue, so there are not many subtitles to read.  Indeed, much of the storytelling is visual, and the story is, in part, about the perils of not communicating.

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