Thursday, June 22, 2017

Washington's Nightmare

Focused as I am these days on music, both playing and writing, I don't talk much about my books, but I just got caught up on reading my most recent reviews on Amazon and I came across one from February that was so glowing and kind that I just had to share it. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

If you haven't bought Washington's Nightmare, it's available for Kindle readers and apps here.

Here's the review from an anonymous reader:

"This is a fantastic, entertaining, well-organized history/guide to political parties in the United States, from the Federalists in the 1700s up through today's Libertarian and Green parties. Each chapter presents a brief narrative about the history of the party in question followed by a "fact sheet" listing when the party was formed, how long it lasted, how many presidents it managed to seat, who the major players were within the party, what the campaign slogans were, what the key party platform issues were, etc. The author does a fantastic job of presenting a clear picture of what American sentiments, regionally and nationally, have been at various times over the past 200+ years and how events have shaped those sentiments and, in turn, the political climate in America. If you're wondering how the US became dominated by a two-party system, or how the formerly pro-slavery Democratic party became a champion of civil rights, or how the formerly liberal Republican party became associated with ultra-conservativism, or even what the heck the Bull Moose Party and Free Soilers were all about, this is your book. In reading this book, I found it tremendously helpful and oddly calming to be able to put current events into a historical perspective. I liked this book so much that I find myself wishing it came in paperback so I could keep a copy handy for reference! Highly recommended."

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Notes from the Cave

As I've reported before, I'm continuing to work on arranging "old-timey" songs for piano solo, with the intent to publish them in a collection later this year. I'm calling this my Opus 1.

My Opus 2 is a piano suite, in 6 movements, telling the story in music of the White Ship. The White Ship sank in the English Channel in the year 1120, drowning the heir to the throne of England and setting the stage for a 16-year civil war known as the Anarchy in British history.

I've recently finished learning a Mozart sonata (just the first movement) that I have been working on since December, as well as my second Joplin rag. I've also been learning the songs that I've been arranging, and recently posted a performance of my arrangement of Stephen Foster's "Camptown Races."

There are a few wonky notes in there, but I'm still in the phase of hitting wonky notes, particularly when the camera is rolling.  I'll probably always be in the phase of hitting wonky notes, for that matter.

I'm currently learning the prelude to Bach's fugue in G, Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata (which was one of my specialties in college), and a Stephen Foster piece for piano (one of his rare instrumental pieces) called Santa Anna's Retreat from Buena Vista, which was written in 1848, presumably in honor of Zachary Taylor's campaign for president. Taylor had been the victor over Santa Anna two years earlier during the Mexican War (which was, by the way, the most immoral and unjustifiable war in America's history). At the time, Taylor was a national hero and certifiable celebrity. He was also the only president before He Who Shall Not Be Named who had no political experience before winning the White House. His presidency was, of course, largely a disaster and he died after about 18 months in office. Just sayin'.

But this is a politics-free zone so lets talk about sex instead. Just kidding. Honestly, music, reading, and work is about all I do these days and I don't have much else to talk about.

I just wrote a paragraph about work and decided it sounded so jaded and cynical that I didn't want to put it out there for the world to read. So I deleted it.

Let's try reading instead. I'm currently reading a book called Foundation, which is an overview of British history from the ancient past up through the end of the 15th century. I wanted to learn more about the ancient history of Britain in particular, although the author really only spent a few chapters on that. The bulk of the book covers the Middle Ages, although I really enjoy reading about that too.

I'm also reading Under the Dome, by Stephen King. I am very picky about what King books I read, but I watched the CBS series that was based on the book and decided I wanted to read it. It's a monster - well over a thousand pages - but it's good.

I've got something like 59 books to be read on my Kindle, another 4 or 5 print books that I've had for years and haven't read yet, and an additional 85 books on my Kindle Wish List. I have a serious problem.

Remember when I used to have a trampoline? Some of you may. Well, we're getting another one! My 11-year-old has been campaigning for one all summer and she's finally broken me down. It'll be a good way for her to exercise and if I can stomach it, maybe it'll be a good way for me to get some additional cardio as well. I jumped on my sister-in-law's trampoline a few weeks ago and felt queasy afterward, but I'd just eaten a huge meal and had some beer in me too, so I'm hoping that wasn't a normal thing. Trampolining is a good cardio workout and also good for your abs, and God knows I need to do something about my abs. I hate crunches and won't do them, so maybe this will be a way to slim down a bit. I'm over the waist-to-belly ratio that is a marker for heart disease, so I need to lose some of my gut.

That's enough for now.