Paying attention while cooking

So, there I was, baking cheesecake. Had to put it in a bit longer, too sloshy.

And then I had this driving urge to take some measurements for a stereo cabinet project, went downstairs, spent some time measuring, making drawings, checking over supplies, materials on hand, etc., determining that I'm short two or three pieces from being able to do it entirely from materials on hand matching the existing stereo cabinet, realized the place I'd get the stuff is already closed for the day so I'd have to go out at a later date to pick ub the material.

"But what about the cheesecake?" you ask, as well you should!

Um, it isn't sloshy any longer. the cheesecake itself is quite firm, slightly golden on top, maybe a bit more towards the brown end of golden, but still ok for eating, but the crust, well, the crust, it looks quite, um, charred is the word I'm looking for here, charred, blackened, rather scorched looking, will be interesting to see if that's merely the part above the cheesecake or if the rest of the crust is equally overheated.

And there you have it, a perfect example of part of my disability, that when something grabs my attention to work on I concentrate on it to the exclusion of all else, including whatever I was already doing. Conversely, if nothing grabs my attention it's very hard for me to work on anything. But here I was, working on one project, baking, and another project jumped to the forefront of my brain and yanked me downstairs, to the first floor and the basement, for I don't know how long, the timer wasn't doing its annoying reminder beeps anymore when I got back, and if Ralph Miles had still been open I'd have been gone longer shopping for materials, I had completely forgotten I had something in the oven, it was the smell of smoke as I came up the stairs that reminded me. I had forgotten I was baking before I left the apartment in the first place.

You know something? This is not good. It's the first time I've forgotten I had something in the oven, that I had a cooking project in progress and forgot about it, but I very much fear it won't be the last time. It ties in with my gradual deterioration, and disturbs me greatly. And smoke alarms aren't any good when you're two floors away.

We had a timer that had a cord so it could be hung around one's neck, so that you didn't need to worry about forgetting that you were baking or whatever, but I don't know where it is now, if it was with mom stuff and has already been sorted and disposed of, or if it is here, and just misplaced, but it behooves me to either find it or obtain a new one, so I don't repeat this fiasco.

One works with disabilities, one doesn't deny them, they are real.


More Mom Stuff

Mom wants to learn how to knit. This is commendable, at 84, except for one thing; she's known how to knit for longer than I've been alive. Or rather, she did know how to knit, as recenlty, I think, as six months ago, but now not only does she not know how to knit, she appears to have no memory of being able to.

I have several sweaters that mom made for me, and have had many more in the past. The best pair of gloves she made me just died, due ot mice getting at them, which actually means improper storage on my part, leaving then under a pile of stuff instead of putting them away properly. At one point in time I had no socks other than what she had knit for met, and scarves as well.

When sorting through mom's stuff, Beth [my sister] laid claim to all mom's knitting and crocheting supplies, and it was a vast collection of needles and hooks, dozens and dozens, the accumulation of well over fifty years of active knitting.

As children, Beth and I sometimes referred to mom as "the automatic knitting machine", given how we always saw her with knitting when she was sitting down watching TV or listening to music, riding in the car, sitting talking with people, just about anytime she didn't need her hands for anything else.

And now she has no memory of knitting, or how to knit.

I'm getting good at not letting mom hear me cry while on the phone with her.

Derivative works and artistic creativity

Music. Let's look at music, creativity, and interpretation.

Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition. Phenomenal work. But what most people are familiar with is the orchestration by Maurice Ravel, and to quote from the liner notes of my copy, "this modification of the music's essential nature has greatly increased its accessibility." Haven't heard the original work so I can't be sure of this, but I suspect the promenade portions aren't anywhere near as reminiscent of Aaron Copeland's style in the original, whereas the orchestration of the promenade screams Copeland at me, which probably has to do with Copeland being influenced by Ravel. Anyway, Ravel took Mussorgsky's piano work, altered it for orchestra, and produced a work of creative genius. Derivative, yet original.

Interpretation. There's a reason Conductors get top billing, when they conduct they produce a unique interpretation of what the composer envisioned. Musicians are noted not only for their technical skill, but their ability to work with the conductor to produce unique interpretations, to create each work anew, to breath fresh life into a work played many times before.

Covers. One artist originates a song, then others add it to their repertoire, each performing it differently, sometimes taking a song which was so-so with the original artist and creating a hit due to their interpretation of it [and sometimes, well, Trini Lopez anyone? (taking a hit and making it far less)]

I should be nice in mentioning Mr. Lopez, while I dislike his style he had quite the following, and a unique hand at interpretation.

Something we sometimes come across are those who are technically proficient, but who seem flat in their performance, for while their technique is good, they have no ability to add anything to the work via interpretation. In theory they produce exactly what the composer or arranger intended, by following the score without variation, but one has to wonder.

The ideal is someone who is technically proficient, who has great skill, and also has the spark of creativity which allows for interpretation; they can deliver a letter perfect performance without variation, but can also add those little nuances which separate the inspired performance from that which is technically proficient but non-interpretive.

Something to bear in mind. The modern standard is to have all the parts scored, every note indicated, but this was not always the case. There was a time when the base line was filled out, the figured bass, with key signatures given, but the rest of the score was not given; the musicians filled it out anew with each performance, and what was prized was the ability to take the figured bass line and fill in the other parts on the fly, to have a structured jam session each and every time. That was musicianship!


Do I own that CD? One possible solution

One possible solution, obviously, is to get rid of all your CDs, then you know the answer to "Do I have this already?"

Not finding this an acceptable option, I have, as a time waster, embarked upon the effort of creating an Excel spreadsheet to catalogue my music CDs, with the intent of expanding it to include cassettes and LPs as well. A maximum of ten data points per record, such as composer, director, artist, album title, issue and reissue dates, labels, format and media.

Having started on this yesterday, I already have 116 entries, which looks to be about a third of the CD collection.

Oh, the reason for using Excel instead of OpenOffice for this is quite simple, my PDA will open Excel files, so I can take this list with me.

While at a certain level this is the silliest thing I could be doing, especially given not going out to buy CDs so not being concerned by the question, do I have this already?, it is giving me a sense of accomplishment, and is reacquainting me with my collection, which I had utterly ignored for the last five years; when I go into an isolationist period, I go into an isolationist period! And unlike other recent activities, this isn't making me melancholy.

So, that's what I've been doing the past two days.


The Manhattan Transfer, Walt Disney, and other stuff

I was introduced to The Manhatten Transfer by an evangelical Christian back when I was attending Portland Community College; she was in my ballroom dance class, and we hung out a bit outside of class, and she gave me some tapes [the others were Keith Green tapes, tied in with that missionary work aspect of things].

Since then, while in Chicago, I bought The Manhattan Transfer Anthology - Down in Birdland, which I'm listening to as I type. So I've been listening to this group, off and on, since 1983 or there abouts. But I jsut found out that I could have been familier with them a lot earlier, if my family's television viewing habits had been different. You see, shortly after they started, back in 1975, they had a short-lived television program, Sunday nights at 8:00, according to their website the old Ed Sullivan Show time slot, and a show akin to that old warhorse.

1975. Sundays, 8:00PM. Let's see, what was I doing? Watching the Wonderful World of Disney and putting together jigsaw puzzles with my parents, either that or up in my room reading books, I can't take oath as to which, it's been a few years. OK, it is possible I was reading and my parents were watching The Manhattan Transfer, it's nice to think that dad appreciated them as much as I've come to, they are definitely a group he'd have liked. And it is possible that I wouldn't have enjoyed the show, but given the variety/comedy shows I did enjoy, I feel sure that I would have found it of some interest. But thinking about it, I was probably reading a book.

At that time of my life, odds were good that at any given time I was off reading a book. Or hanging out with Nathan Banks, who was my best friend for several years, in which case I might still have been reading a book.

So why are you reading this, anyway? Go out and get something by The Manhattan Transfer, and listen to it, you'll be glad you did.


Balkan Folk Dance, or, why I didn't do well in ear training

Back in High School, back before there was dirt, freshman year it was, 1975-76 school year, winter term or spring, I'm not entirely sure which, I got drafted by my sister into taking a folk dance PE course. She paid for this; my feet were basically the same size they are today, and I was six inches shorter, or some such difference [can you say clumsy?] My sister folk danced barefoot, I wore hiking boots, they made me dance next to my sister, I had my revenge! Mwa ha ha! Oh yeah, it was spring term that Dave Adlhoch started the folk dance class.

Anyway, there I was at an early, formative, stage in my life, tossed into the world of Eastern European Folk Dance, Balkan, Turkish, Russian, and all parts in between, with excursions to Israeli Folk Dance. I spent the next five years or so taking folk dance classes for PE, and attending the then very active Reed College Folk Dance scene every Friday evening, gradually growing into my feet and gaining a great fondness for Eastern European Folk Music, including buying what records were available in the Portland area.

Fast forward to 1983, Portland Community College, I'm taking Music Theory, doing well in the composition section [while showing my rebel creds by giving the melody to the Tenor part, let the Sopranos suffer!], doing well in the sight singing section, but having real problems in the ear training section. See, to Western ears, minor chords are supposed to sound "wrong", this is part of how you identify them as being minor; take someone who has spent much of the proceeding seven years cultivating a taste for Eastern European, Israeli, and other folk music, and none of what they played sounded "wrong" to me, I was used to chords which cannot be done using "traditional" J.S. Bach based Western European tempered chords and harmony, this stuff was ho hum boring and sounded just fine to me, if unimaginative.

Just goes to show I was too worldly for that class, my ears weren't parochial enough for them.

I was reminded of this just now, as I sat listening to the Bulgarian Women's Choir 1993 world tour CD; still sounds just fine to me.