Category Archives: music

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

It is, of course, one of the most powerful, masterful, and best-known pieces of music ever written.

Mozart completed the “little serenade” in Vienna in 1787, but it wasn’t published until 1827, long after Mozart’s untimely death.

The Serenade is incorrectly translated into English as “A Little Night Music”. But this is and always has been the way I prefer to think of it. A creation of Mozart written shortly before he hopped aboard the ferryman’s boat and rode off into the eternal night. It is the artifact that proves the art of the master who even has the word “art” as a part of his name. A little music to play on after the master is gone to prove his universal connection to the great silent symphony that is everything in the universe singing silently together.

It is basically what I myself am laboring now to do. I have been dancing along the edge of the abyss of poverty, suffering, and death since I left my teaching job in 2014. I will soon be taking my own trip into night aboard the ferryman’s dreaded boat. And I feel the need to put my own art out there in novel and cartoon form before that happens.

I am not saying that I am a master on the level of a Mozart. My name is not Mickart. But I do have a “key’ in the name Mickey. And it will hopefully unlock something worthwhile for my family and all those I loved and leave behind me. And hopefully, it will provide a little night music to help soothe the next in line behind me at the ferryman’s dock.

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Filed under artwork, cartoons, classical music, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, Hidden Kingdom, magic, metaphor, music, Paffooney

A Colored-Pencil Drawing of Music

I now have the ability to scan an artwork with my phone. And this is significant because I do have a number of artworks too big to scan in my current scanner/printer. But I really don’t have anything more to say about this particular picture. I will not tell you what it means. That is for the viewer to decide.

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Take the Midnight Train to Anywhere

 

Journey back with me to the 1980’s, and hear once again the music of escape.

There was a time when I was young when I did not know where I would be when the next new dawn came.  Yes, I once took the midnight train (except it was a bus) and I arrived in a teaching career in deep South Texas.  I crossed borders into another culture, another way of life, another journey made of words and pictures that hasn’t reached the final station yet.

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At the outset, we all take a risk.  Born and raised in South Detroit (although it was really North Central Iowa) I passed through established procedures, rules, and regulations to do things that desperately needed doing for people who could only help themselves in very limited ways.

Some spoke mostly Spanish.  Some lived in broken homes.  One boy lived for a while under the bridge of the Nueces River, but attended school every day because he was hungry to learn, and because free school lunch was the majority of the food he got to eat.  He got on a midnight train, and I never saw him or heard from him again.  His sister, though, lived with a tia who treated her like a daughter, and grew up to be a school teacher.  I let her teach the lesson for me during one class period, as part of an educational experiment, and it put her on her own midnight train.

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It was a train going on the same track I followed.  Not because of me and what I did for her.  But because she came to realize it was the right journey to take for her.  It was the perfect anywhere for her.

But there is danger inherent in getting on a midnight train going anywhere.  You don’t know who is waiting for you down the line, or what your circumstances will be at the next station along the way.  There may be strangers waiting up and down the boulevard, their shadows searching in the night.  I befriended other teachers, mentored some, learned from many,  even married one.  I had a run in or two with people who sell drugs to kids.  I had all four of my car tires slashed one night.  I had a car window broken out.  I had a boy once tell me he would kill me with a knife.  I later had that boy tell me he had a good job and a girlfriend and he was grateful that I talked him out of it and never turned him in to the police.

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And we end up paying anything to roll the dice just one more time…  At one time or another we have all been there, aboard that midnight train to anywhere.  There is a moment in everyone’s life when… well, some will win, and some will lose.  Some were born to sing the blues.  I have been there.  I have done that.  And it occurs to me, that song plays on in my head still.  I am still on that journey.  And I won’t stop believing.  Because it goes on and on and on and on…

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Filed under autobiography, insight, music, nostalgia, philosophy, poetry, review of music, strange and wonderful ideas about life

O Mio Babbino Caro

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This beautiful song, an operatic aria by Puccini, is from the comic opera Gianni Schicchi.  But, more important than that is what the song actually means in context.

In the opera, Gianni Schicchi is a con man intent on swindling a family out of their inheritance and knowing all along that he will be destined to go to hell when he dies.  The family is gathered for the reading of the rich man’s will, which is, because this is a comic opera, lost for the time being.  Their main concern is for the money, which rumor has it has all been willed to the church.  But one among them is actually worthy of inheriting the money, Rinuccio the son of the rich man’s cousin.  And, as luck would have it, as it always does in comedies, Rinuccio is the one who, during the manic and desperate search for the will, actually finds it.  And assuming he comes out well in the will, he secures a promise from his mother that if he inherits money, he can marry Schicchi’s beautiful daughter Laurretta whom he truly loves.

But when he reads the will, he is devastated.  The money all goes to a monastery.  He begs Schicchi to help him convince the family that he should marry Laurretta anyway.  This Gianni Schicchi tries and finds it harder than turning water into wine.  So Schicchi is about to give up when Lauretta finally speaks up for herself through the song,

O Mio Babbino Caro (My Beloved Father)

At this point Schicchi is moved by the beautiful song and even more beautiful love his daughter has surprised him with.  He not only agrees to help, but executes a bizarre plan, hiding the rich man’s body and pretending to be him come back to life to rewrite the will.  Now the will favors Rinuccio, and over the protests of the family, he inherits the money and marries his true love, Schicchi’s daughter.  The opera ends with Schicchi singing his case to the audience, telling them in song that going to hell is worth it to aid true love.

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And this, then, is the truth of O Mio Babbino Caro.

Love, expressed through the surprise of hidden talent suddenly revealed, is the most persuasive argument there is.

Whether it is the love in the music suddenly discovered in the overwhelming voice of a little girl like Jackie Evancho or Amira Willighagen, or the late great Maria Callas who also sang the role, or even the singer of Puccini’s greatest work who is yet to perform it and make silly old men like me weep for beauty’s sake, the song is the most persuasive argument there is in favor of true love.

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That is a thing I desperately want to capture in the novel I am writing now, Sing Sad Songs.  Love expressed in music.  Love that reverses loss.  Love that heals all things.  And Love that moves all people.  The love that is masterfully sung in O Mio Babbino Caro.

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That book is now published and available on Amazon.

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Filed under art criticism, classical music, daughters, humor, music, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Followed by a Moon Shadow

Moonshadow by Cat Stevens

I first heard this song as a freshman in coll20160424_181349ege.  It struck me that it was hauntingly beautiful… but maybe I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant.

The song is about losing body parts and being okay with that.

That can actually be kinda creepy, right?

It is probably a song about gradually dying.

But that’s not really what it’s about.

I am there now.  Peeling, cracking, drying out… my life has reached the downhill run toward the finish line.  But I am not worried and not afraid.  Life is so much more than hands and eyes and legs and feet.  I can lose those things and have no regrets.  I am so much more than merely the sum of those physical things.

My spirit soars.  And my life is bound up in words and meanings that are now written down, and are at least as imperishable as paper.  And may, in fact, be written on a few human hearts here and there.

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Why Do You Think That? (Part Two)

In my short, sweet sixty years of life, I have probably seen more than my share of movies.  I have seen classic movies, black-and-white movies, cartoon movies, Humphrey Bogart movies, epic movies, science fiction movies, PeeWee Herman movies, Disney movies, Oscar-winning movies, and endless box-office stinkers.  But in all of that, one of the most undeniable threads of all is that movies make me cry.  In fact they make me cry so often it is a miracle that even a drop of moisture remains in my body.   I should be a dried-out husk by now.

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I wept horribly during this scene.  Did you?

And the thing is, people make fun of you when you cry at movies.  Especially cartoon movies like Scooby Doo on Zombie Island.  (But I claim I was laughing so hard it brought tears to my eyes.  That’s the truth, dear sister.  So stop laughing at me.)  But I would like to put forth another “Why do you think that?” notion.  People who cry while watching a movie are stronger and more powerful than the people who laugh at them for crying.  A self-serving thesis if ever there was one.

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Movies can make you cry if you have the ability to feel empathy.  We all know this.  Old Yeller is the story of a dog who endears himself to a prairie farm family, saves Travis’s life at one point, and then gets infected with rabies and has to be put down.  Dang! No dry eyes at the end of that one.  Because everyone has encountered a dog and loyal dog-love somewhere along the line.  And a ten-year-old dog is an old dog.  The dogs you knew as a child helped you deal with mortality because invariably, no matter how much you loved them, dogs demonstrate what it means to die.  Trixie and Scamper were both hit by cars.  Queenie, Grampa’s collie, died of old age.  Jiggs the Boston Terrier died of heat stroke one summer.  You remember the pain of loss, and the story brings it all back.

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Only psychopaths don’t feel empathy to some degree.  Think about how you would feel if you were watching Old Yeller and somebody you were watching with started laughing when Travis pulls the trigger on the shotgun.  Now, there’s a Stephen King sort of character.

But I think I can defend having lots of empathy as a reason for crying a river of tears during Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  You see, identifying with Quasimodo as the main character, hoping for what he hopes for, feeling like a monster and completely unloved, and fearing what he fears connect you to the story in ways that completely immerses you in the experience.  This is basically a monster movie.Original-Hunchback_of_Notre_Dame

But the film puts you inside the head of the malformed man, and you realize that he is not the monster.  Righteous Judge Frollo and the people who mistreat Quasimodo for his deformity of outward appearance are the real monsters.  If you don’t cry a river of tears because of this story, then you have not learned the essential truth of Quasimodo.  When we judge others harshly, we are really judging ourselves. In order to stop being monstrous, and be truly human, you must look inside the ugliness as Esmeralda does to see the heroic beauty inside others.  Sometimes the ideas themselves are so powerful they make me weep.  That’s when my sister and my wife look at me and shake their heads because tears are shooting out of me like a fountain, raining wetness two or three seats in every direction.  But I believe I am a wiser man, a more resolved man, and ultimately a better man because I was not afraid to let a movie make me cry.

The music also helps to tell the story in ways that move my very soul to tears.  Notice how the heroine walks the opposite way to the rest of the crowd.  As they sing of what they desire, what they ask God to grant, she asks for nothing for herself.  She shows empathy in every verse, asking only for help for others.  And she alone walks to the light from the stained glass window.  She alone is talking to God.

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Yes, I am not embarrassed by the fact that movies make me cry.   In fact, I should probably be proud that movies and stories and connections to other people, which they bring me, makes me feel it so deeply I cry.  Maybe I am a sissy and a wimp.  Maybe I deserved to be laughed at all those times for crying during the movie.  But, hey, I’ll take the laughter.  I am not above it.  I am trying to be a humorist after all.

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Lessons From Tchaikovsky

I used to be a classroom storyteller.  As an English teacher for middle school kids, I often would give brief biographical insights into famous people we were talking about at the time.  I told them about Crazy Horse of the Sioux tribe, Roger Bacon the alchemist and inventor of chemistry as a science, Mark Twain in Gold Rush California, and many other people I have found fascinating through my life as a reader and writer of English.

One bright boy in my gifted class remarked, “Mr. B, you always tell us these stories about people who did something amazing, and then you end it with they eventually died a horrible death.”

Yep.  That’s about right.  In its simplest form life consists of, “You are born, stuff happens, and then you die.”  And it does often seem to me that true genius and great heroism are punished terribly in the end.  Achilles destroys Hector, but his heel is his undoing.  Socrates taught Plato, and was forced to drink poison for being too good at teaching.  Custer was a vain imbecile and got what he deserved at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, but Crazy Horse, who made it happen, was pursued for the rest of his short life for it until he was finally captured and murdered.  Roger Bacon contributed immensely to science by experimenting with chemicals, but because he blew up his lab too often, and because one of his students blew himself up in a duel with another student, he ended his days in prison for practicing sorcery.

But if you have listened to any of the music I have added to this post, the music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, then you recognized it, unless you have lived your whole life under a rock in Nomusikvetchistan.  And why is that?  Because even though it is all classical music written in the 1800’s, it’s basic genius and appeal is immortal.  It will outlive all of us.  Some of it, having been placed on a record on the Voyager space craft may get played and appreciated a million years from now in the vicinity of Betelgeuse.  It will still be a work of pure genius.

And, of course, the horrible life and terrible death thing is a part of it too.  Tchaikovsky’s work took an incredibly difficult path to success.  He was criticized by Russians for being too Western and not Russian enough.  He was criticized in the West for being too exotic and basically “too Russian”.  He railed against critics and suffered horribly at their hands.  Then, too, his private life was far less private than it had any right to be.  He was a bachelor most of his life, except for a two year marriage of pure misery that ended in divorce.  And everybody, with the possibility of Pyotr himself, knew it was because he was a homosexual.  He probably did have that orientation, but in a time and a career where it was deemed an illegal abomination.  So whether he ever practiced the lifestyle at great risk to himself, or he repressed it his entire life, we will never know for sure.

But the music is immortal.  And by being immortal, the music makes Tchaikovsky immortal too.  Despite the fact that he died tragically at the age of 53, possibly by suicide.

So, this is the great lesson of Tchaikovsky.  The higher you fly, the farther you fall, and you will fall… guaranteed, but that will never make the actual flight not worth taking.  Some things in life are more important than life itself.  As I near the end myself, I cling to that truth daily.

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A Night at the Symphony

Last night my wife took us to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for a performance of Gustav Mahler’s Das Klagende Lied (The Song of Lamentation).  So, you can bet we were in for a happy night just based on the title of the piece.  As you might’ve detected from the post title’s similarity to the Marx Brother’s movie A Night at the Opera, I took along my wacky mental versions of the Marx Brothers… whom I call the Snarcks Brothers.  They are Scarpigo, Cinco, and Zero Snarcks. Think Groucho, Chico, and Harpo, and then my mental fartgas won’t prevent you from understanding quite as easily.

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Jaap Van Zweden, conductor of the DSO, and aspiring impersonator of Grumpy from the Seven Dwarfs

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Scarpigo, Cinco, and Zero Snarcs… so to speak…

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love classical music and I like Mahler okay.  But his music tends to be depressing and sad.  I don’t mean merely depressing and sad, but deep down at the bottom of the canyon with hill giants tossing boulders at your head in the midst of a thunderstorm symphonic sort of depressing and sad.  It could really bum me out, so I was prepared to have Scarpigo lean over the balcony rail numerous times to shout “Booga-booga!” at the concert goers.  And the Blues lost to the Sharks in the Stanley Cup playoffs already this past week.

Fortunately the DSO often adopts the old movie theater tactic of cartoon shorts before the feature film… the same way Pixar does for Disney now.  They chose Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto as the cartoon short.  Now this is also supposed to be sad music, a single clarinet, a single harp, and a single piano… surrounded by violins, the gushing tears of every symphony orchestra.  But it is Copland, my fourth favorite composer of all time, behind only DeBussy, Motzart, and Beethoven.  As a synesthete, I can tell you that Copland’s music is always no bluer than silver, and tends to be more vermilion, rosy pink, yellow-orange and carmine red… more happy and passionate than depressing.  Then too, Cinco Snarcks whispered in my ear that since I have this Van Zweden/ Grumpy thing going on already in my head, I should look carefully at the clarinet soloist.  Yep, bald head, white hair and slight white beard and glasses… Doc!  And the pianist, bald head and big ears… Dopey!  The night would be Gustav Mahler and the Seven Dwarfs.  Zero Snarcks was thinking about squeezing off a toot or three from his little horn and maybe using light cords hanging from the ceiling for an impromptu trapeze act, but he took one look at the elegant, swan-like harpist  and fell too much in love to interrupt.

The main show, however, was everything I thought it was going to be, and worse.  They had a translator screen hung from the cords Zero wanted to go for a swing on, that took all the incomprehensible choir-crooned lyrics and translated them from German into English.  The story of Das Klagende Lied is taken from the Grimm Fairy Tale, The Bone Flute.  It tells the tale of two knightly brothers, one good and one evil, who set out to win the hand of a very self-centered but beautiful queen.  She can only be won by the finding of a special red flower that grows under a willow tree.  The knights agree to split up and search the enchanted forest for the flower.  Naturally, the good knight finds it and plucks it, putting it in the band of his hat.  And just as naturally, the good knight flops down stupidly under the willow tree to take a nap.  The evil brother finds his brother sleeping and sees the flower in his hat.  So, like any evil knight would, he kills his brother and takes the flower.

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Scarpigo’s comment on this particular story.

The evil brother then rushes off to the queen’s castle.  A minstrel wanders past the willow tree, finds a gleaming leg bone, and immediately thinks, “I have to make that into a flute!”  And when he does, the only song the flute will play is the lament about how the evil brother made meat pie out of his good brother and stole the flower.  Then, naturally enough, the flute forces the minstrel to go play at the wedding.

I’m sure you know how it goes from there.  The queen hears the bone flute’s enchanted song and flops down dead, apparently a heart-attack from shock.  And if the queen dies, then the castle has to magically fall down on the new king, the minstrel. and all the wedding guests.  A gruesome, terrible time is had by all.

So, I had a good time after all.  Scarpigo leans over to whisper to me, “That was more fun than a barrel of monkeys smoking crack, wasn’t it?”  Yes, purple, blue, blue-violet, and indigo music, and I am left depressed as hell. But when my wife asked how I liked it, I put on a happy face and said, “That’s the silliest thing I ever heard!”

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Filed under commentary, Depression, flowers, foolishness, goofy thoughts, humor, music, review of music

What the Heck is this Blog About?

I read a lot of other people’s blogs for a lot of reasons.  As an old writing teacher and retired Grammar Nazi, I love to see where writers are on the talent spectrum.  I have read everything from the philosophy of Camus and Kant to the beginning writing of ESL kids who are illiterate in two languages.  I view it like a vast flower garden of varied posies where even the weeds can be considered beautiful.  And like rare species of flower, I notice that many of the best blossoms out there in the blogosphere are consistent with their coloring and patterns.  In other words, they have a theme.

Fox logic

So, do I have an over-all theme for my blog?  It isn’t purely poetical like some of the poetry blogs I like to read.  I really only write comically bad poetry.  It has photos in it, but it isn’t anything like some of the photography blogs I follow.  They actually know how to photograph stuff and make it look perfect and pretty.  It is not strictly an art blog.  I do a lot of drawing and cartooning and inflict it upon you in this blog.  But I am not a professional artist and can’t hold a candle to some of the painters and artists I follow and sometimes even post about.  I enjoy calling Trump President Pumpkinhead, but I can’t say that my blog is a political humor blog, or that I am even passable as a humorous political commentator.

One thing that I can definitely say is that I was once a teacher.  I was one of those organizers and explainers who stand in front of diverse groups of kids five days a week for six shows a day and try to make them understand a little something.  Something wise.  Something wonderful.  Something new.  Look at the video above if you haven’t already watched it.  Not only does it give you a sense of the power of holding the big pencil, it teaches you something you probably didn’t realize before with so much more than mere words.

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But can I say this is an education blog?  No.  It is far too silly and pointless to be that.  If you want a real education blog, you have to look for someone like Diane Ravitch’s blog.  Education is a more serious and sober topic than Mickey.

By the way, were you worried about the poor bunny in that first cartoon getting eaten by the fox and the bear?  Well, maybe this point from that conversation can put your mind at ease.

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Mickey is tricky and gets good mileage out of his cartoons.

You may have gotten the idea that I like Bobby McFerrin by this point in my post.  It is true.  Pure genius and raw creative talent fascinate me.  Is that the end point of my journey to an answer about what the heck this blog is about?  Perhaps.  As good an answer as any.  But I think the question is still open for debate.  It is the journey from thought through many thoughts to theme that make it all fun.  And I don’t anticipate that journey actually ending anytime soon.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under humor, insight, inspiration, music, Paffooney, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life, word games, wordplay, writing, writing teacher

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

It is, of course, one of the most powerful, masterful, and best-known pieces of music ever written.

Mozart completed the “little serenade” in Vienna in 1787, but it wasn’t published until 1827, long after Mozart’s untimely death.

The Serenade is incorrectly translated into English as “A Little Night Music”. But this is and always has been the way I prefer to think of it. A creation of Mozart written shortly before he hopped aboard the ferryman’s boat and rode off into the eternal night. It is the artifact that proves the art of the master who even has the word “art” as a part of his name. A little music to play on after the master is gone to prove his universal connection to the great silent symphony that is everything in the universe singing silently together.

It is basically what I myself am laboring now to do. I have been dancing along the edge of the abyss of poverty, suffering, and death since I left my teaching job in 2014. I will soon be taking my own trip into night aboard the ferryman’s dreaded boat. And I feel the need to put my own art out there in novel and cartoon form before that happens.

I am not saying that I am a master on the level of a Mozart. My name is not Mickart. But I do have a “key’ in the name Mickey. And it will hopefully unlock something worthwhile for my family and all those I loved and leave behind me. And hopefully, it will provide a little night music to help soothe the next in line behind me at the ferryman’s dock.

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Filed under artwork, cartoons, classical music, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, Hidden Kingdom, magic, metaphor, music, Paffooney