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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

iPhone flashlight season, or the Bright Side Of Life

There is an app on my iPhone that sits tucked away on a back screen in a "folder" of less-used tool apps, at least for much of the year. It is one of the many flashlight apps, designed to either white-screen the iPhone or trigger the LED lamp on the back and thereby create a makeshift flashlight.

In the lonely-dark depth of winter, when I get up early on a weekday morning, I use it to keep from stumbling over the dogs on my way out of the bedroom of a morning. For the dark season I shift my apps around and give it prominent space on my phone's home screen so I can quickly find/toggle it.

This morning, I had to fumble to find it. I needed it, which is yet another sign that our all-too-short summer season is winding down. The turning leaves on our resident ornamental maple tree is another sign.

Wednesday's (always the malleable mid-week whatsit) commute soundtrack was nicely diverse and compelling. It kicked off with a Fionne Regan composition with "what the hell is he talking about?" lyrics:
Save the mayfly and drown the horsefly
Follow the prince from the donkey's hooves
Climb through the mirror

Then passed through Procol Harum to resolve with Tim Curry speaking: "This is a total bloody disaster! All my knights have fled, and we're lost in a dark and very expensive forest!" The intro, of course, to the Spamalot reprisal of Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life (an Eric Idle song originally recorded for Monty Python's Life of Brian).
When you're chewing on life's gristle,
Don't grumble, give a whistle,
And this'll help things turnout for the best, and...
Always look on the bright side of life

What's not to like about a playlist like that?

- Fionn Regan: Anglers Curse
- Brian Withycombe: My All
- Procol Harum: A Whiter Shade of Pale
- Spamalot soundtrack: Always look on the bright side of life


- Posted via Hermes.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Season grinding-on-shortened daylight

It was dark this morning when I got up at my usual weekday time of 5:45 AM. As in cold mid-winter post-daylight-savings-time dark, but without the cold. Cool, yes, but at 60° (15° C) hardly cold. It had lightened up by the time I left the house an hour later, but waking to darkness was a jolting reminder that the summer marches on. There has been so little of it this year, too.

An 83% probability of rain showers today is another full-stop from the last several days of glorious warm unbroken sunshine. Still, after today and tomorrow, the unmitigated yellow globe icon again dominates the foreseeable forecast.

The iPod was in an easy listening mood this morning. Or, as we might have said a few years back: mellow. It kicked off with a beautiful Cockburn tune (All The Ways I Want You), one with lyrics I think are especially poetic in their longing:

The hills are full of secrets
Owls watch by night
Down in town the bars are full
And the drunks are picking fights
These are things I know
But the facts are filtered through
All the ways I want you

2:19 freight train
Moaning somewhere near
I see you in the distance
But I can't get there from here
Hard to believe it's happening
But my whole world's shrunken to
All the ways I want you

Stars look down and laugh at me
I ought to take a bow
Don't have to tell them life's hard sometimes
There's one falling now
Nobody's here beside me
I can talk about it to
All the ways I want you
The playlist wrapped up with the David Lanz' rendition of A Whiter Shade of Pale. David's genius on this rendition was to bring in the organist from Procol Harum to reprise his signature work from the original version, which elevates this from merely a nice (dare I say "elevator music?") instrumental cover to a that-feels-right hum-along cover of a classic rock tune.

A good soundtrack for an early Monday morning whose timbre was already set by season-grinding-on-shortened daylight and unwanted cloud cover.

The full playlist:
- Bruce Cockburn: All The Ways I Want You
- Henry Mancini: Love Theme From Romeo and Juliet
- John Lennon: Imagine
- The Momas & The Papas: California Dreamin'
- David Lanz: A Whiter Shade of Pale


- Posted via Hermes.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Timeless music and nameless music

Monday, grey overcast but not raining. The forecast for today (indeed, for the whole week) presents the venerable-sun icon. That's the one where the golden globe is surrounded by whisps of grey clouds on either side, like tufty grey hair along a bald dome. The grey should burn off, more or less, and it should be a pleasant mid-seventies (low twenties, celsius).

The iPod lead off with a Cockburn tune from 1975 (January In The Halifax Airport Lounge) which could just as easily have been written yesterday, if you substitute Afghanistan for Cyprus:

Distant times in distant lands
Worthless money changing hands
"Changing them to what?" -- I wonder
As in the dust the jet plane thunders
Carries every feeling into gloom
I miss you like I miss the flowers in bloom

There's a crisis in the outer world
In the sky the smoke trails curl
Some Winnipeg boys are Cyprus-bound
I hope they live to touch home ground
I hope we live to touch, if just once more
I need you like the river needs the shore

In life so delicate and strange
Understanding seldom comes in range
We stumble through familiar scenes
Never thinking what it means,
In this cluttered landscape to be loved
I need you like I need the stars above

The playlist closed with a pleasant, if banal, bit of classical music. From one of those nameless compilation discs that get given away. No idea where I came by it, or when it found it's way into my music collection. No mention of the name of the composer of the piece, or of the full piece it comes from (if it does), or even the orchestra performing. Just "various artists" and Clarinet Concert. I recognize the tune, however, so I know it is Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A Major K. 622, which is a beautiful piece of music in the right hands.

The full playlist:
- Bruce Cockburn: January In The Halifax Airport Lounge
- João Gilberto: Meditacao
- Various Artists: Clarinet Concert


- Posted via Hermes.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Flying time, the cloud, and the fog wall

Yesterday I was surprised to find it was already Wednesday, and today I'm just as surprised to find it is already Thursday. Clearly, I am easily surprised. Or having too much fun and reaping the oft-cited consequence of flying of time. Bonus: Thursday is Friday for me during the summer. Panic: Thursday is my last day in the office to get all those things done that I should have this week. Likely: some things will be taken home for a little weekend work.

The notion of taking work home is also a changing thing, isn't it? I'm a pretty paperless person these days, so most of what I work on and with is digital and stored on one server or another, readily accessible from anywhere and most any device. As a result, I don't so much take work home as log back into it. For all of the hype "the cloud" gets these days (and despite Microsoft's rather pathetic attempts/commercials to make folks think the cloud is something other than it is), "the cloud" is a pretty neat thing in my book.

Today's top-down blue-sky commute started off with Procol Harum's Weisselklenzenacht , which translates as the signature. Which is a little odd because I suspect most of us think of A Whiter Shade of Pale as Procol Harum's signature tune.

About the time Frank started singing Witchcraft I crested a hill and, looking forward to the West, saw a vertical wall of brownish fog. I plunged into that wall about the time I crossed HWY 99. Approaching, it looked sort of like the photos of the recent mega-dust storm as it approached Phoenix. This was only the retreating vestiges of Sound fog rolling back, and it was mostly gone by the time I was parking on campus.

Today's full playlist:
- Procol Harum: Weisselklenzenacht (Live)
- Under the Influence: Mama's Room
- Frank Sinatra: Witchcraft
- ELO: It's Over


- Posted via Hermes.

Flying time, the cloud, and fog wall

Yesterday I was surprised to find it was already Wednesday, and today I'm just as surprised to find it is already Thursday. Clearly, I am easily surprised. Or having too much fun and reaping the oft-cited consequence of flying of time. Bonus: Thursday is Friday for me during the summer. Panic: Thursday is my last day in the office to get all those things done that I should have this week. Likely: some things will be taken home for a little weekend work.

The notion of taking work home is also a changing thing, isn't it? I'm a pretty paperless person these days, so most of what I work on and with is digital and stored on one server or another, readily accessible from anywhere and most any device. As a result, I don't so much take work home as log back into it. For all of the hype "the cloud" gets these days (and despite Microsoft's rather pathetic attempts/commercials to make folks think the cloud is something other than it is), "the cloud" is a pretty neat thing in my book.

Today's top-down blue-sky commute started off with Procol Harum's Weisselklenzenacht, which translates as the signature. Which is a little odd because I suspect most of us think of A Whiter Shade of Pale as Procol Harum's signature tune.

About the time Frank started singing Witchcraft I crested a hill and, looking forward to the West, saw a vertical wall of brownish fog. I plunged into that wall about the time I crossed HWY 99. Approaching, it looked sort of like the photos of the recent mega-dust storm as it approached Phoenix. This was only the retreating vestiges of Sound fog rolling back, and it was mostly gone by the time I was parking on campus.

Today's full playlist:
- Procol Harum: Weisselklenzenacht (Live)
- Under the Influence: Mama's Room
- Frank Sinatra: Witchcraft
- ELO: It's Over


- Posted via Hermes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The creepiness of the clowns

It's hard to believe that it's already time for Mr. Malleable's weekly visit, kids. The make-of-it-what-you-will mid-point of this week dawned with light clouds across a rapidly bluing sky and promises a nice mild sunny day.

Top was still down from last night and this morning presented no reason to pull it back up, so the drive in was with full ears-flopping-in-the-breeze effect. Light traffic again.

Great soundtrack this morning, particularly the tune from Karl Denson. A very tasty bit of 70's style soul-jazz

Listening to the amazing music, ears flapping away, I was puzzling what the future of our society holds now that our political process is so dysfunctional that basic and necessary functions of governance cannot be carried out in the national interest. The corporations funding our political system wanted to distract the electorate while they raided the treasury, so they brought the circus to town and wound them up. Now the clowns have taken over, nobody seems to know how to get the circus out of town, and even the corporate overlords are going to pay a price (albeit nothing so intimately painful as much of our citizenry will experience). The kid on the eTrade commercial was right about clowns, we seriously underestimated the creepiness.

I didn't come up with the answer by the time I finished my short commute. But I did notice that when Dr. Dog sings about a creek that trickles bourbon they make the word creek rhyme with brick, as it should. Good stuff.

Today's full playlist:

- Dr. Dog: Oh Man
- Bruce Cockburn: Soul of a Man
- Karl Denson: Flute Down
- Fountains of Wayne: I-95 (live)


- Posted via Hermes.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The weight of clouds

Tuesday morning and the weather is iffy. Forecast calls for a 68% probability of a half-of-a-tenth of an inch of rain today, otherwise sunshine. Then the forecast shows an unbroken string of round yellow globes for as far as the extended forecast extends. It's about time!

Top was down for the drive in, though, and the traffic was weirdly light. I had nobody in front of me or behind me until I got to 44th St, and even there it was only a couple of cars. Maybe the added atmospheric weight of the clouds showing up so soon after only a couple of sunny days pressed folks a little more deeply into their beds this morning, delaying the rising hour and correspondingly lightening my early morning commute?

Maybe it is a demonstration of the waterbed theory of life (press down on any single spot on a waterbed and it only causes another area to rise; so goes life), the weight of clouds causes a lightening of commute traffic.

Emily Wilson's poem Winter Journal: Scratchings among the Burnings offers a beautiful description of clouds (albeit winter clouds, in this case) when she writes, in part:
clouds in rafts above, upon one another, pushed up along
the margin of sky
dark underbellies
Shirring of grasses and the nearly empty apple tree behind
Where is this beginning from?
The roll of clouds bolsters up close
moves vaguely east
Hear the interstate, its rush of backdrop constant
Oh those deep colors are something sacred

Sacred, maybe, but also weighty in a disappointing way when folks are hungry for a little summer sunshine.

A nice playlist this morning, with a weighting toward the Latin influences:

- Lafayette Gilchrist: Volcano Red
- Franco de Vita: No Se Olvida
- Nada Surf: Always Love
- Jaime Torres: Cuidad Blanca


- Posted via Hermes.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Plugged back in

Monday, bright and blue-skied. First Monday back in the office in several weeks, and it doesn't feel different at all. Has it really been four weeks or so since I've been here? No, not quite. There were a few days of work, during those first two+ weeks out, when I was either in the office or at a work-related retreat.

I had the last two weeks of July scheduled for some time off and timed to coincide with mom moving to a new apartment, then mom went and had a heart attack at the end of June. That pretty well put paid to July. Douglas Adams wrote that in no known language has ever been coined the phrase, "As lovely as an airport." Hospital can be swapped with airport and that quote stands just as well.

The really good news is that mom came through and is doing very well. Operating pretty much under her own steam again, getting out, meeting her new neighbors, etc.

Since I wasn't planning to get away this vacation, I committed to unplugging. I de-activated access to my work email/calendar on all of my portable devices and willfully didn't check. This morning I will do a quick scan for messages that rate a The-Sun-May-Not-Rise-Tomorrow-If-You-Don't-Read-And-Respond-To-This-Message. Those which do, I will deal with. Everything else: select-all-archive.

Was this as good as a real get-away vacation? No. Did unplugging make a difference? Yes. I highly recommend it, in fact.

While I was gone my little blog here turned one full year. Sorry I missed it. I intend to keep going, for whatever it is worth. Not sure if I will stick as rigidly to the rules I set out (in my own mind) for this diary of shuffled commute music and musing, though.

This morning, in fact, wasn't a shuffled playlist at all. I listened to Joshua James' album Build Me This. Color me slow on the uptake, but until this morning I hadn't been able to put my finger on who James reminded me of. This morning it dawned on me: Rocco de Luca. Not to suggest that either artist is in any way derivative, only that their styles remind me of each other.

So... is it good to be back at work? In all honesty, I'm on the fence. I still need a good get away vacation someplace in the near future, and don't really feel that I've had that restful break we seek in time off. However, coming back to campus is not painful. I do like this place.

- Posted via Hermes.