Wednesday, August 27, 2008

If your name was Ludwig, what would you do?

I learned something really amazing the other day from a friend of mine who is into music. Oark was not much of a musician. He played for the half time at a few football games. But he never was good enough to like, you know, play for the New York Symphony Orchestra or anything like that. On the theory that those who can't do teach, Oark saw himself as a scholar of music history. That was not the weird part. The weird part was, I saw Oark as a scholar of music history, too. What was even weirder was some of the theories he came up with. He told me about it over an Italian meal.

"Beethoven loathed his name," Oark said. There was a piece of lasagna impaled on the end of his fork which he waved around as he said it.

"Really," I exclaimed.

"Really," said Oark. "That's why he called his greatest piano sonata the Pathetique."

"I've always wondered about that." There was certainly nothing pathetic about the tune. It is one of the greatest musical masterpieces ever composed.

"He called it Pathetique because he couldn't stand his name," Oark continued.

"He did not like being called Ludwig?"

"Would you?"

I had to admit I would have a problem with people calling me Ludwig. That is probably because Ludwig is not my name. If my name was Ludwig that would go a long way toward dealing with any objections I might have.

"That's why he wrote all those symphonies," Oark said.

I was blown away. "Beethoven wrote symphonies because his name was Ludwig?"

"What would you do if your name was Ludwig?"

I hesitated to admit it, it was so embarrassing. "I would write symphonies," I said.

"There you go."

"But I would probably start out with advertising jingles for Madison Avenue," I hesitated to add. "Symphonies are complex. I would start with something simple. Sell chewing gum or something like that."

"That is what Ludwig did. Only he sold newspapers."

"Well, I'll be."

"He wrote the symphonies so he would have something pleasant to listen to."

"What a tragedy. The man hated his name that much," I said.

"He hated those advertising jingles for newspapers, too."

I felt sorry for him.

"He'd put his hands over his ears every time anyone called him Ludwig and and say 'For Wolf's sake, please don't call me that.'"

"For Wolf's sake?"

"Short for Wolfgang. He was Austrian so he couldn't say 'For Pete's sake.'"

"I can see how that would be a problem," I said. "So what did he want to be called?"

"The best information we have is, he was partial to Percy."

"Beethoven wanted to be called Percy?" I asked. I could not believe it.

"You heard it here first."

I had to walk away from that conversation. Everything I thought I knew about music was turning out to be noise and everything I thought I knew about noise was turning out to be music. I would never listen to The Moonlight Sonata the same way ever again. As a matter of fact, I might not ever listen to it at all.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Weird Tourism in the Land of Clinton

Holy Bill Clinton, Batman!

If you want to consider a tourist spot for your next vacation that is a bit out of the ordinary, consider West Helena, Arkansas. No, this doesn’t have anything to do with the Whitewater scandal, but this town in Clinton country is so poor hillbillies come in from Appalachia just to go slumming. The crime rate there is so bad the mayor has declared a 24-hour curfew. Yes, that’s right. You can be arrested in West Helena for sitting on your own porch in broad daylight.

Not that you would want to. The police carry fully automatic M-16s, equipped with laser sights, but the citizens have armed themselves with the more durable AK-47. The AK-47 is a Russian design assault rifle, fully automatic like the M-16, but made in both Russia and China. The Chinese counterfeit everything nowadays. With the police on one side and the citizens on the other, both armed with machine guns, sitting on the porch is not a favored leisure time activity. Neither is pickup basketball at the local school.

No information is available on what a police officer gets paid in West Helena. A lot, we hope. Naturally the ACLU has threatened to sue, but whom could you sue in a town that poor? And what lawyer would have nerve enough to show up in a town that violent?

For information on other tourist spots in Arkansas, please contact the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

Clinton country. Don’t make any sudden moves.;_ylt=AvkvL1LZxmJ6Z7NNojA7_xBH2ocA

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Revenge of the Turds

The Paul Klee center, an art museum, in Berne has announced that a problem recently emerged with one of their art objects. The piece is part of an exhibition called East of Eden: A Garden Show. Dogs sometimes, um, relieve themselves in the garden, so the garden show included a dog turd the size of a house.

Now that is a dog turd. Don’t mess around with anything small. Make it the size of a building. I’d hate to meet the dog. Especially if I worked for the post office. Naturally the title of the piece was “Complex S**t.”

Unfortunately, the turd was not accompanied by a pooper scooper of comparable size. A gust of wind blew the turd out of the museum and it ran amok, bringing down an electrical power line and knocking out at least one window before landing near a children’s home.

I can just hear the children now. “What’s that, mommy?” Surely none of them had ever seen a turd that big before.

As of writing the museum was undecided whether or not to put the turd back on display.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood Catches Up With the Times

Mr. Rogers has a lot of admirers but I never was one of them. Whenever I saw him on TV saying "Would you be my neighbor? Would you be my neighbor?" I wanted to say, "No, I won't be your neighbor, you twerp. Get off my TV screen."

It was a real issue for me.

Well, last night I had a dream. I dreamed I was in what for me, at least, was the worst place in the world I could be in. I dreamed I was in Mr. Rogers' neighborhood.

In the dream Mr. Rogers' neighborhood has been taken over by a 1920s Chicago gang who used to call themselves the Risky Night Riders. Now as far as I know, the Risky Night Riders may have been great guys. But they were not the kind of guys you usually think of when you think of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. The cartoon characters all cleared out. They left for the suburbs or another country or something. But Mr. Rogers was upside down on his mortgage, so he had to stick around.

So there is this one Risky Night Rider. This guy must live in the gym. He is 500 pounds of solid muscle. His muscles are so big the Democrats have asked him to run for governor of California. Nobody else has muscles big enough to run against Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Then Mr. Rogers walks up. You know how tiny Mr. Rogers is. And he walks up to this this 500 pound guy, and he says in that little tiny voice of his, "Would you be my neighbor?" And the Night Rider guy says, "I AM YOUR NEIGHBOR, YOU IDIOT."

Now that's what I call a good night's sleep.