Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Tuesday morning things

* I stayed in my car a couple minutes after arriving on campus because Sirius XM was playing the overture to "The Jolly Robbers" (von Suppé) and I wanted to hear it to the end. (It has a bit in it that is often used in old cartoons, because it's fairly antic, and when I heard it, I was like "OH that's the piece, I didn't remember where it was from).

The bit I'm talking about is near the end, about 5 minutes in here. You might recognize it:

(I believe there is a dance-school performance of the Can-Can that uses that as part of the music; I think I remember seeing that on YouTube)

I don't know the story of the operetta but most operettas tend to be kind of silly and light and end happily (which really, I think, are the stories we need today)

I guess von Suppé is best known today because his music was used extensively in Warner Brothers' cartoons: Morning, Noon, and Night in Vienna, and the Light Cavaliers, and Poet and Peasant...It's light classical but you want that sometimes, and I kind of like the silliness and bluster.

To be honest, I'd like to see some of those silly old operettas revived. (Though, I don't know, maybe in our more-sensitive era, there are things in them people would object to? I'm not sure how you make "the jolly robbers" morally upright)

* Some talk on twitter about the viral video of "train shaving guy." Apparently someone filmed a guy shaving on the train, and it went viral, and people laughed at it and called him an "animal" and similar. And I feel kinda like this is the point where we've all become playground bullies of a sort: you don't know the guy's story. If I commuted on public transport and saw a guy shaving on the train, I'd be like "poor dude, he's so pressed for time he doesn't have time to shave at home" (and yes, I know: you can get up fifteen minutes earlier but sometimes you just need that extra fifteen minutes of sleep or something).

I dunno. "Viral videos" are one thing if the person in them is a willing participant and wants to risk the cesspool that fame can be, but I dislike people randomly photographing people out "in the wild" and posting them online for the amusement of others. Oh, I'm sure there's no LAW against it, like a legal law, but that kind of thing would be against my moral law. Partly because I live in fear that some day I will fall awkwardly in public, or have a "wardrobe malfunction," or some such, and through no intent of my own, I become a laughing stock - and what do you do then, if you're employed as something like a professor? I guess you hope that something else takes its place and your fifteen minutes of infamy is a literal fifteen minutes, but if it got bad enough - well, I could see someone quitting their job in disgust.

Someone on twitter commented that "some people see all such forms of mockery as 'punching up'" and oh, my friends, no.

And yes, yes: maybe there's an "I laughed at the guy who shaved on the train because of the guys who have no razors" kind of thing going on here, but, as I said earlier: punching up or punching down, I really prefer no punching at all, and prefer humor to be funny for all involved instead of taking some person just trying to live their life and holding them up for the amusement of a bunch of emotionally-stunted losers online (there, I said it. But I stand by the "emotionally-stunted" part.)

But yeah. There's some kind of weird and sick undercurrents in our culture. I suppose there always have been and they've become more obvious with social media. (Heh. I think back to when smartphones were brand new, and one of my colleagues (the one I sometimes refer to as Best Frolleague) were talking about them, and I commented, "And they have cameras? Who needs a camera on their phone?" and his response was, and I quote: "Pervs." Though I do admit now I can see how it's handy for GOOD uses, for example, if you get into a minor fender bender and want to take photos for insurance purposes, or, I have students coming in all the time with "I saw this weird bug, do you know what it is, here's a photo?" It's just, some people use the tool for evil as well as for good.)

Once again I state a phrase attributed to, but probably not actually said by, Plato: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

And I'm not always great at this; I've done my share of dunking on people like Elon Musk, and yes, he does seem to have stuff going on in his life that I hope he gets help for, and perrrrrhaps smoking a blunt live on a podcast (while rigorously drug-testing your workers) opens you up to be a bit more of a free target than some regular working schmoe trying to get ready for the day on his commute, but, yeah. We've all sinned.

* The Christmas catalogs seem to be starting. Got one from Acorn and one from Signals yesterday. I am of mixed feelings about this. On the one hand: 2018 has been such a brutal year in some ways (isn't every year, now?) that I want to shift to thinking about nice sweet pretty fun things. And I need to start figuring out Christmas gifts for my family (And I need to figure out, in the nearer term, how to ship the art kit I bought for my niece's birthday in early October....at this point I'm leaning towards going to the UPS store and asking them to pack it and ship it, and just paying whatever high amount it will be. Because I don't have a box on hand big enough for it).

But on the other hand: yeah, it seems awfully early, and at least here, summer is still blazing on.It's supposed to be a heat index in the low 100s today (so much for my plans to mow the lawn after school) and so it's hard to contemplate Christmas. (And I don't like the onslaught of catalogs. I wish places would send ONE - in the model of the old Wish Books - and put a big sticker on the front saying "This is your last catalog before Christmas; save it if you plan on ordering." It would cut down on expense and waste, though in the modern "Constant Contact" world, retailers seem to have concluded that if they aren't spamming people (either with e-mail or with actual catalogs), people will forget about them. I don't know.).

* The only knitting I got done last night was a few rounds on the simple sock. For various reasons, when I finally got home "for good" I was absolutely exhausted and didn't trust myself with the more-concentration-requiring knit that Celestarium is.

I got home a bit after 3 pm, but had piano practice to do and a tiny bit of "grading" - the daughter of one of the women in bell choir is a gifted kid who reads way above grade level &c., and she's into science, and apparently the public schools here (the family moved from another state, where the girl had been in accelerated classes) frown on things like tracking, and she's bored, and often bored smart kids act out in bad ways....so her mom is having her do some science enrichment with my help. It's another thing, but I'm fine with it, if it helps the girl. She's a sweet kid and there are some things about her that remind me a little of me at that age (9).

She had written a short report for me on monarch butterflies and I graded it and added a few comments (really, the grammar and organization was what I'd hope from my college students - not that they aren't that smart but a lot of them just use their time badly, or don't see the value in taking time to write properly). And then I remembered a book I had bought - on monarchs and milkweeds - with half a thought of sending it to my niece but then realizing (a) I liked it myself and (b) it was well above her level and more aimed at maybe young high schoolers. And so I wrote my name in the book and took it with me and told her she could borrow it if she was interested and wanted to learn more about milkweeds.

So that took a little time, but it feels worthwhile. I'll have to think of more things for her. I'm not sure what else I have in the way of reading material but I might ask her mom if the girl has read the Dark is Rising sequence, because I know she likes Harry Potter a lot, and there are definite similarities between this series and it. (I know she loves to read and reads at a pretty high level).

I may have to look around in my "citizen science" files and see if there are any kinds of studies or projects she could do on her own time and write up...

Or, big thought, and this would take a lot of time on my part but might be worthwhile: find out if her mom or dad has some time (a couple hours) to come in on a Saturday here (and her little brother would be welcome, too, he could always run around in the back garden if he got bored) and I set up a mini workshop on some of the simpler soils techniques, like determining texture and measuring pore space and color and maybe even bringing some "live" soil to look at the critters in it.

I could see doing that for a small group of kids who were really into science, as enrichment. Again, it would be more time, but....sometimes that fun 'gee whiz' stuff is just fun for the instructor to do and sometimes the kids get a lot out of it.

And bell choir was longer than usual; almost an hour, and the level of concentration it takes does make me tired, but that's probably a good thing, in a way - it takes my mind off other stuff and I actually slept really well (and with no unpleasant dreams) last night. And I just LIKE bell choir; it is being part of a thing where I am only a small part, and it only works as a whole, and somehow that's important to me, because so much of what I do in my work life feels fully dependent on me. (And as I commented last night: like Bob Belcher, I tend to take responsibility for things that really aren't my responsibility, or aren't fully mine). I'm also learning:

- If someone has to be absent, we manage, by shuffling people around
- If you make a mistake, keep going, no one will notice. The only "bad" mistakes are ringing before the song starts, ringing after it ends, or getting so off count you stop ringing.

I once said that I liked Dante's conception of Heaven, where it was a huge choir that grew in size as more souls joined it, and they were eternally singing praise (And perhaps that's not so far off from John of Patmos' vision, either). And bell choir is like a tiny little shadow of that, and that's partly why it's valuable to me.