Tuesday, April 30, 2013

BLOGGING FROM A TO Z APRIL 2013 – LETTER “Z”



THE ZITHER FAIRY

The Zither Fairy is a literary conceit I created when, during some 'splainin' of how I went from A to Z myself in my life. My 2nd husband, a violist himself, whom I met during a gun-for-hire gig found that after our marriage, I did not in fact, turn into a something-other-than-a-violist. Professional jealousy, stupidity, or just plain WTF? I have no clue.


Interesting sounding; much like the cembalo, which were used by Bela Bartök and Kodály. But, I can play neither zithers or cembalos.

What happened was this, it was summer time in Michigan, a usually fallow time, where we don't play much besides weddings, or music festivals out-of-state. He was 22 years older than I, and I was pulling in more work during the summer and he seemed, well, a tad put out about it. My feelings? Who cares, the money was all coming to the same household. Then, I got hired to play with the “Moody Blues,” for 3 weeks and all hell broke loose. So, that fall, I re-enrolled in school and majored in Computer Science. Needless to say, that marriage was history. To explain the demise of it quickly and easily in writing (although, the end of a marriage is never quick and easy, there were many agonizing nights and realizations that I should never, ever have assumed being married to someone who played the same instrument would bring any similar understanding,) I invented the Zither Fairy.


She's welcome to do the laundry once in a while.

Thus, when writing about the differences that ended the marriage, I say, "Alas, The Zither Fairy neglected to come and convert me from a violist to a zither player, therefore, I went back to school and majored in computer science." The marriage flatlined, anyway. But I did earn a new career, that allowed me to practice the old one at the same time and new adventures were to be had!



Monday, April 29, 2013

BLOGGING FROM A TO Z APRIL 2013 – LETTER “Y”


YALTA

The Yalta Conference, held on February 4 to 11, 1945, was the WWII meeting of the heads of government of the US, the UK and the Soviet Union, represented by a very ill Franklin D. Roosevelt, a pretty feisty Winston Churchill and a very covetous and non-trustworthy Joseph Stalin. The 3 met to discuss the post-war organization of Europe. The conference was held in Livadia Palace near Yalta, in the Crimea.

The meetings was intended mainly to discuss the re-establishment of the nations of war-torn Europe. Within a few years, with the Cold War dividing the continent, Yalta became a point of intense controversy and to some extent has remained so.


I see Poland, I see France, I see Stalin's Underpants...

Yalta was the 2nd of 3 wartime conferences among the Big Three (Britain, the US and the USSR) which were represented by Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, until the Potsdam Conference in July 1945, which was attended by Stalin, Attlee (who had replaced Churchill at the polls) and Truman (who had stepped in when Roosevelt died in April 1945).

The 3 leaders were trying to establish an agenda for governing post-war Germany. Churchill's attitude towards the USSR differed vastly from that of Roosevelt, with the former believing Stalin to be a “devil”-like tyrant leading a vile system. Roosevelt's view was mitigated and he truly believed that Stalin wanted nothing but a type of “noblesse oblige” (?) “he won't try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace.”

Churchill held firmly to his beliefs, however and this outlook is partly responsible for his losing as Prime Minister before war's end. No less a general than Patton saw this coming as well. As Russia drove west during 1943 and 1944, parts of Poland and Romania were “liberated” from the Nazis but the Russian boot stayed. Churchill was right, as subsequent events proved.

When it came time to decide on the conference site for Yalta, Stalin insisted it could not be the Mediterranean, as his doctors forbid his lengthy travel at this time. Roosevelt was very ill, yet took a journey that most certainly did nothing to lengthen his life in February of 1945 to the Crimea. So, Stalin was already dictating terms to his fellow conference participants. Churchill did his utmost to hold Stalin at bay, but with Roosevelt's illness, it was difficult to do. The two men had forged a strong bond, wrote to one another almost every day for years and depended on one another. Winston was worried that his friend was sick and dying. Yet the two men soldiered on.

Premier Stalin wanted Poland; he termed it a question of security and honor. Roosevelt bought into that, hoping the United Nations would be able to deal with Stalin if and when it came to that.

Later, many Americans considered Yalta, a “sellout,” encouraging Soviet expansion of influence to Japan and Asia and because Stalin eventually violated the agreements in forming the Soviet bloc.

Some of the key points that came out of Yalta; agreement to the priority of the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. After the war, Germany and Berlin would be split into four occupied zones.

Stalin agreed that France would have a fourth occupation zone in Germany, but it would be formed from the American and British zones.

Germany would undergo demilitarization and denazification and their reparations were partly to be in the form of forced labor (as forced labor of Germans was impelled upon Germans in the USSR)

Creation of a reparation council which would be located in the USSR

Status of Poland was discussed. It was agreed to reorganize the communist Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland that had been installed by the USSR “on a broader democratic basis.”

Poland's border would be pushed along the Curzon line basis. Reparations would be coming from Western Germany.


In other words, where the Russians sat, east of the Green Curzon line, that was given over to Russia. The rump state of Poland was Poland, but "under occupation." There were never elections.

Churchill alone pushed for free elections in Poland. The British leader, whose country had hosted the government-in-exile, felt that the “U.K. Could never be content with any solution that did not leave Poland a free and independent state.” Although Stalin pledged to permit free election in Poland, he forestalled, never honoring his promise.

Citizens of the USSR and of Yugoslavia were to be handed over to their respective countries, regardless of their consent.

Roosevelt obtained commitment by Stalin to participate in the U.N.

The aftermath of the Yalta Conference is like most. Messy and inconclusive. Some conditions were met, some weren't and some were stalemates. Many were expedient lies made during desperate times. Wars tend to bring out the worst in people. Why should we expect more from our leaders?



With the exception of Joseph Stalin, the men who met at these conferences were honorable men. They were playing the hands they were dealt and in the cases of Roosevelt and Churchill, you'd have to go a far piece in history to find 2 such able men occupying an era fraught with such peril. Hitler and Stalin were 2 sides of the same coin. It is no exaggeration to say that between the pair, we're talking about 2 men who were responsible for the deaths of 100 million people; easily. Between the wars, ovens, holocausts, famines and plots. We haven't even talked about the Maos and the Pol Pots. Just 2 men whose time in power encompassed maybe, 25 to 35 years, total. That is a special kind of evil.

Churchill and Roosevelt had very unique roles to play and I put to you that only Churchill understood the true savagery he was dealing with. After FDR's passing and Harry Truman came along, his whole understanding of war was focused on Oppenheimer and the Bomb, really. I know this sounds simplistic, because Harry Truman was capable and very responsible, but he had huge shoes to fill and a short learning curve. Yet, of course, the world knew nothing of this. Roosevelt spent years and years writing to Winnie and had an earnest, trustful relationship with the man. It's not to say Roosevelt was out of his depth; he was a very shrewd man. But, Churchill had Old World sensibilities. He'd been in the Boer War; he'd witnessed Concentration Camps. He led and was beaten badly at Gallipoli; made a hash of it and understood how cruel and horrible war could be.

This was the War Admiral, the man who went up against Stalin, fully understanding the danger and paranoia of this most evil of men and Roosevelt followed his lead. Americans may have felt sold out, but, Joseph Stalin? We're lucky we still have a country. Winnie knew the peril and did everything he could to ameliorate it. I hope to never have to be in thrall to allies such as this again. I hope to never have to crawl in bed with the devil, to beat an enemy that is worse. What does that say about us as human beings? What we would be better off doing is looking to ourselves and caring for those we have at home.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

BLOGGING FROM A TO Z APRIL 2013 – LETTER “X”


XYLOPHONE


Xylophone is a natural fit, being a percussion instrument in an orchestra. I thought of X-ray and the “X-Files” which I adore, but ended up with xylophone, as I knew I would; it was inevitable. When I was a kid, playing the viola in the San Jose Youth Symphony, we routinely tackled all sorts of music that we didn't play in public schools, or private schools for that matter. The reasons being, A) the instrumentation was always a bit off, 50 violins, 1 viola no cellos, and 2 string basses. There would be 75 clarinet players, but no sax players. That sort of thing.


A colorful group! They make me happy and I haven't heard a note yet!

Then, there was the matter of talent. Not everyone could afford private lessons, or wanted them. Some of the students didn't even want to be playing whatever it was they were playing. One kid got stuck with a bassoon, because it was all that was left in the band room and he was late the day they handed out the instruments. We had to listen to him carp all year. Better than listening to his playing.

Violins are a special kind of Hell. When you first start out on it, it sounds horrific. I don't care if you're Heifitz, you are going to suck out loud. Your talent and ear determines how long you will suck. That and the forbearance of your parents. I was banished to the garage until I made it non-suckable. About the time I achieved that, I discovered the viola and switched, and didn't pick up a violin for 30 years, until someone offered me lots and lots of money. I still think I suck at it, but no one's complained yet; I still prefer my viola.


It looks like an upside-down piano keyboard; I'm a bit dim about anything non-string in music.

Anyway, back to the Youth Symphony. We were playing things like Brahms' 3rd Symphony, and Schumann's 4th Symphony. Franck's D Minor Symphony and Liszt. So, one of our concerts was devoted to playing Camille Saint-Saëns' “Carnival of the Animals.” This piece has 14 movements, each devoted to an animal, or group of animals. There is one called “Aquarium” which is haunting, one called “Personages with Long Ears,” one named “Pianists,” ( Saint-Saëns could be wry) and one called “Fossils.” This is depicted by the xylophone, wooden, but not a marimba, as there are various types. So, the xylophone resembles dry bones.



Of course, now that I've thought of this piece that I played when I was about 14 and have never played again (it's not a hugely popular piece in the symphonic world) I can't get this tune out of my head. It's quite catchy. I'm not a huge fan for French composers by and large, but I do enjoy Camille Saint-Saëns and his compatriot Hector Berlioz. They both knew how to push the envelope for modern symphonies. Hope you enjoy the fossils!

Friday, April 26, 2013

BLOGGING FROM A TO Z APRIL 2013 – LETTER “W”


WORK

Originally, I was going to write about the origins of the last name of “Wallace,” a name shrouded in mystery and whose original meaning in old Welsh is “foreigner” or “stranger,” which means we did not originally come from Glasgow, or any place in Scotland, but more likely somewhere around Eastern Europe or Russia, but after yesterday's self-indulgence, and a happy instance of interesting bit of labor, that I was able to witness, I chose “work” instead.

For those who are not familiar with my blog, I was homeless when I started this... whatever it is. “Chronicles” is the proper term, I guess, even though I am no longer homeless, I live among homeless people, still. It has become a catch-all for all of the stuff that goes on in da 'hood, as I've not left, just moved across the street. Anyway, there are new and interesting things going on, the primary one of note being the refurbishing and re-opening of the Laundromat across the street from where I live.


The building on the corner is the Laundromat; the white house across the street (the notorious Nebraska Ave., 33602 and 33605) and to the right is an historical landmark. Teddy Roosevelt once stayed there. It was a brothel once, too!

When it closed, the former owner took away all of the innards; washers, dryers and stripped it to it's bare bones. That part of the business sat derelict for several months. The Honduran Restaurant next door in the building remained unaffected, going full-blast, all day. We were all faced with the idiocy of hiring a cab to take several of us to a laundromat about a mile away to wash all of our clothes. I was not going to wrangle clothes, wheelie-thingy, soap, blind-cane and all that in a City Bus. The Bus is already a crap-shoot; you never know when you're going to land in an episode of “Angel” or “Deliverance.” One needs to be a moving target to survive a ride on The Bus.

Anyway, a few of us would pool our money and off we'd go. Those days will soon be behind us. Yesterday, the crane came and put 2 2-ton HVAC units on the roof of the new Laundromat. I was able to get some pictures of this and I was mightily impressed. These men knew how to work it. There were 5 men, a truck and a huge crane. I know nothing of mechanics, but I do know they used a stabilizer, as the crane was much higher than the truck was wide.



I was really too close to get the scope of how high this crane was in the air and I'm a terrible judge of height and depth, since I have no depth perception, but this thing was wayyyy up there!

One of the men rolled the 2 units to the front of the truck and secured the units; one at a time, with chains that were attached to the crane. He gave a thumbs-up. The guy sitting in a cabin, who was controlling the crane, started to lift the unit, slowly, at first. As he did this, he began to swing the unit around in a 180arc, while raising the unit to clear the roof. He did it quickly and efficiently, first increasing in speed, then slowing as he approached the 2 men waiting on the roof to help jockey the unit into position for connection.



I already had my camcorder out, and had taken some stills, but I wanted to get the movements of this. It was done so smoothly and these men worked so efficiently, it reminded me of a ballet, or more appropriately, a crew of sailors, they worked that tightly. It was beautiful to watch. Being legally blind and being excited, even in a good way, doesn't really help my Parkinson's tremors. Mea culpa. The recording is a bit jerky, but I think I captured the essence of it.



It was kind of crazy and I was excited; I'm sure the men thought I was nuts. But it was fun!

Said and done, the whole operation lasted maybe 20 minutes. Quite an accomplishment. Some people spend their whole lives working at jobs they hate and feel like drudges. I didn't get that feeling from these men at all. They were quick and efficient; they did their work and then sat in the shade and shared some beers. I can relate; I always loved my work; there's a reason musicians play.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

BLOGGING FROM A TO Z APRIL 2013 – LETTER “V”


VISITORS
(A Short story)

She came from a fairly logical, although chaotic background. Her father drank, but was a happy drunk. A former Captain in the Air Force, pilot of B-29s, he mustered out towards the end of the Korean Police Action after 2 crash landings after successful sorties down MIG alley; all shot up. The Captain landed his birds and saved his crews, but the landings were hard and there were injuries. In 1953, with no high school education, he married another Scot in Petoskey, Michigan, took entrance exams and went to college. The kid was an “oops baby” and Daddy was sole caretaker, while Ma worked 3 jobs to get Dad through school.


1st Lt. Glenn Wallace

The girl grew up as kids did in the 50s, semi-happily, thriving on neglect and left mostly to her own devices. Music was her passion from the minute of her birth; it was the only thing that really existed for her; that and reading. Reading was primarily for an escape from increasingly bitter arguments between parents; parents who were no longer agreeing on how to raise their only daughter. Daddy had it right. He'd been with her from her birth and knew the kid was like him. Ma did too, and was trying to do everything to change that. But the kid wouldn't have been happy with that. Thus, the conflict. So, the Daddy hung on.

Unaware of what this conflict concerned at the time, the kid went on her way, started playing the violin, still reading. A few years earlier, a failed suicide attempt on the part of Ma, drove a final wedge between the marriage of Daddy and Ma, although it would be years before the marriage ended formally. Through it all, Daddy and the kid discussed things. They would roam the night and look at the skies, Daddy swigging his Boone's Farm, or more increasingly, Vodka, but never mean or cruel. Ma could be so to the kid. Daddy was the kid's refuge and she appreciated his cold logic as he explained the heavens. He told her about Vega, Mars. He explained Einstein and his special Theory of Relativity. He loved Meteorology and explained the different types of clouds and their weather.


Ma Flying; guess who hates to fly?

As she grew and he ran out of answers for her, instead of mock-shouting “Because I said so!” which always made her laugh, he went to his brother-in-law, the Nuclear Physicist, who worked at Jack-Ass Flats in Nevada. Daddy wasn't prone to confabulation and often thought that Uncle had some wild stories, but then Daddy remembered some of his own hair-raising experiences flying his squadron out over the so-called Bermuda Triangle and was maybe, just maybe, a little less skeptical. So, with Uncle's 2 sons and Daddy's daughter, they explored the heavens and the world around them. Grand adventures.

Ma wasn't always so harsh; she'd had a hard childhood with grifter parents and would try to relate to her only child. She loved her, but wasn't always sure how to relate to her. She did sense an otherness, a logic or something she couldn't put her finger on. She said to the kid once, “you need to keep at least one foot in this world.” Her daughter looked at her blankly, for a moment. If she said anything in response, it is not remembered. Ma gave up. Her daughter was in parochial school, learning from Jesuit priests. In an attempt to find answers about the origins, meaning of the universe, god-consciousness, her teacher said, “Now, see here, you don't need me, to interpret all of this. You have that spark of divinity. You just have to seek it out for yourself. That's what you are, a seeker of truth.”

Hmm, at 12 years old, the girl knew she's not really old enough, but that thought took root, and still dwells there. Over the years, things change, as they do in every life. The girl grew up, made a whole bunch of bad choices and some damned good ones. She married young. That didn't work out, so she married again. That didn't work, either. That fabled 3rd time is the charm? No, it isn't. But, somewhere along the way, she switched from violin to viola, majored in music and that took off. She never stepped foot in a classroom to teach, but taught privately for 30 years.

She played viola in every type of venue there was for that long as well and loved every minute of it. The 2nd husband (also a violist; they met on a gig) was sad when the Zither Fairy didn't show up and turn his wife into a zither player, so the wife in a fit of frustration, went back to school and decided to major in something TOTALLY different than music; Computer Science. That is the left-brain talking, ladies and gentlemen, because unbeknownst to her, music is almost completely math, as is comp sci. She got rid of husband number 2 and went to work for IBM, who let her play all she wanted to and work from the road. Sweet deal. 3 years later, in an upward move, Verizon let her do the same thing. She was still seeking.


Wolf, Mary and Bernadette Peters

But, no one gets to have their cake and eat it, too. There's always a price to be paid, or scales to be balanced out. Our girl was also partying hard and making bad choices personally. That is not what caused her current predicament, but it didn't help either. Eventually, after a disastrous 3rd marriage and 5 years of living with some guy who's abusive and capricious, she ends up in the hospital. She's already blind in one eye. Now, she's got malnutrition and COPD and CHF. She gets better after 2 months in the hospital and is placed in a homeless shelter.

After receiving her Disability and moving, she has a psychotic break and starts to manifest symptoms of Parkinson's Disease and they're pretty significant. She's legally blind and has dealt with that, so this is really not that big a deal. Once in a while it gets frustrating.

The interesting thing is this: with each sense that is damaged, other things come along that increase awareness of things not normally seen. She can feel someone's distress from far away. If she is still and quiet during the day, she can feel that, but faintly. It's stronger at night. She used to love the night time. After the psychotic break, she feared it for several months. She had what is known as “night terrors.” She would see things flitting around and it bothered her. About 2 months ago, she opened her eyes and they were there. Six of them. Shimmering, beautiful, the closest description would be almost like sunflowers, with appendages and digits.


I run this at night; my computer is in my bedroom.

They were in a semi-circle around the bed. Even the air shimmers and is golden. This house has always had a presence. Something jumping on the bed; nothing malign. But these 6 don't come all the time. They were fearsome at first. They only come when SETI@home isn't running at night; once a week at most. The girl become woman is logical, you see, but she remembers her Daddy and Uncle and their discussions about Area 51 and things thought to be preposterous. She shares the skepticism, but like her two relatives, she has an open mind. During the last visit, as she thought “I mean no harm and will protect you,” the smallest one, barely 2 feet high, put it's hand upon the edge of the coverlet. Three small fingers.

It's not an answer, it's more a piece of a large puzzle. We are born seekers. I don't know what anything is sometimes. I can't speak to anyone else's outlooks or zeitgeists, I only know that as I've aged and as I've had to deal with more and more physical challenges, I cease to be as alarmed by things that would have raised the hair on the back of my neck a decade ago. Scots are by nature, a fey group. We may be hella mathematicians, ship builders and doctors, but then, there's Nessie. Need I say more? 


Nessie is our claim to fame!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

BLOGGING FROM A TO Z APRIL 2013 – LETTER “U”


UBIQUITY

ubiquity (noun) The state or capacity of being everywhere, especially at the same time; omnipresence; the ubiquity of magical beliefs. Okay, that's pretty straight forward. However, I maintain some things are more ubiquitous than others. Or maybe they're just more irritating. Paris Hilton comes to mind, as does Justin Bieber. I think I could do with a little less of their ubiquitous presence.

How about this?

                                          We seek him here, we seek him there,
                                          Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
                                           Is he in Heaven, - is he in Hell?
                                          That damned elusive Pimpernel.


Now, of course, I'd probably side more with the proletariat, but it's a fun romp!

When the play, The Scarlet Pimpernel, written by Baroness Emma Orczy and adapted for stage by Julia Neilson and Fred Terry first opened in 1903 at Nottingham's Theatre Royal, The Scarlet Pimpernel was not well received. With a re-written final act by Terry, it reopened in London in 1905 and ran for 122 performances. It has been the template for spy novels and television shows. So, in it's many different iterations and over the generations, the Pimpernel is ubiquitous and will pop up here, there, and everywhere!


A member of "They?"

They” are also ubiquitous. “They” are responsible for everything and have been for years. “They” are not “us.” “They” are the ones who've canceled your favorite TV show, “Zero Hour” even though it sucked out loud. “They” are the ones who towed your car even though you parked in front of a fire hydrant. “They” are the ones who wrote that horrible software that is unusable and crashes every five seconds. “They” are first cousins to “Them folks who...” “They” are going to raise taxes, take away your right to own bazookas, blimps and keep you from strolling through Area 51. “They” are everywhere. “They” have microphones in your ceiling fan and “they” are not going away. “They” are also transmitting music in your head. “They” are ubiquitous. Don't look in the mirror. You might see one of them! Just know that they are here, there and everywhere!


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

BLOGGING FROM A TO Z APRIL 2013 – LETTER “T”


Лев Троцкий

(Lev or Leon Trotsky)


When I was in college studying, I took Russian History and Languages for 2 years. Ever captivated by them, their art, their sheer heart in the face of adversity and completely fascinated by the Bolshevik Revolution. Trotsky was born Lev Davidovich Bronstein, but as all Russian Marxists soon found, it was easier to remain out of the clutches of the Czar's secret police with noms de guerre. Lenin was born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov and Stalin, a Georgian, was born with Iosif Vissarionovich Djugashvili. He deliberately chose the moniker “Stalin,” because in Russian, it means “steel.” Harbinger of things to come and not good things.


Here, artist; you must make me look MORE evil. Draw some fangs and a tail!

Trotsky, was initially a member of the Menshevik party, a more loosely-organized and liberal party than the Bolshevik party. Although he and Lenin quarreled and often times had out and out splits over dogma of true Marxism, prior to the 1917 revolution, they both recognized the other's worth. Neither, however trusted Stalin, although he too was part of the inner circle.


Stalin doesn't even look like he's having a good time here. Spoilsport!

Trotsky initially came to prominence in 1905. A peaceful strike was held at one of the shipyards and grew into a general strike in St. Petersburg. Father Georgi Gapon led a peaceful procession of the participants and citizens through the streets to the Winter Palace to plead with Czar Nicholas for food and relief for the oppressive government. The Palace Guard fired upon the peaceful gathering, causing the deaths of a 1,000 of those gathered. This has become known as Bloody Sunday.

Trotsky was picked up, arrested and put on trial, a “show trial.” He was allowed to speak in his defense, although the resulting verdict was a foregone conclusion. It is said that he gave the “speech of his life.” A superior orator, dynamic, forceful and an incredible writer; impassioned, logical and understanding of what was at stake and how to communicate to people who were not necessarily the most literate, Lenin understood him and wanted him on the Bolshevik's side. Stalin feared him.




Trotsky and his daughter Nina in 1915, France

After these events, Trotsky secretly returned to Russia from imprisonment in Siberia, and set up shop in Kiev. He had been printing leaflets in Kiev, but soon decided he needed a wider audience. He went north, to St. Petersburg, was discovered and had to flee to rural Finland. During all this running and fleeing, he managed to found the newspaper Pravda, Truth.

The Menshevik and Bolshevik parties were still at odds, but slowly gaining strength and also consensus about what they wanted to achieve for Russia. It was decided at one of their many gabfests that they would unite as one. Zinoviev, Bukharin, Bulganin, Plekhanov, Kirov and others, to a man, all lined up behind Lenin. Lenin and Trotsky continued to spat, but again, they all argued over dogma. There is a scene in “Reds” that depicts it accurately. It just sounds like a lot of yelling.


This was probably taken after a yelling session in the Politburo.

While all of this is going on, the country is literally falling apart. In 1914, when WWI breaks out, Trotsky is in France, once again in exile. Then, France deports him to Spain for anti-war activities. This has come about, because when Lenin declared the Third Internationale, he adopted it as written by Trotsky, which excluded Russia from WWI entirely. So, Spain, says, “well, we can't have any peace-mongers here,” and they ship Trotsky to the U.S. The U.S. lets him stay and teach or write or play chess, for a while, and then in 1917, the Russian Revolution breaks out. Czar Nicky gets tossed and Trotsky hops a ship under Swedish registry which gets waylaid by the British government and sent to Canada. Trotsky gets detained for a month in an internment camp in Nova Scotia. All because Lenin, as head of the Bolshevik party, pulled Russia, who at that time was an ally, OUT of the war.

After some fum-fawing, and fooling around, the Russian foreign minister Pavel Malyukov demanded the release of Leon Trotsky as a Russian Citizen, and the British Government released him on April 29th, 1917. When he arrived home, although he agreed with the Bolshevik position, he didn't join right away. Eventually he did, and sided with Lenin against Zinoview and Kamenev to overthrow the Provisional Government headed by Aleksandr Kerensky. Stalin wrote of Trotsky's particular prowess as a Military Leader in his memoirs, a passage Trotsky later expunged from his own works; the enmity between the two that great even then.

Trotsky was not only a wizard on the battlefield. He was the consummate politician, securing Lenin's primacy in the Soviet, keeping the power centralized and by the end of 1917, Trotsky was the number 2 man in the Bolshevik Party. He streamlined the organization and centralization, which had been Zinoviev's task. Zinoviev did feel the slight, but soldiered on; he had been with Lenin for over a decade.


The yelling ranged from distribution of goods, to whether or not Russia should recognize other countries at war.

Trotsky went on to experience more brilliant achievements, became Head of the Red Army in 1918 and several reversals (losing his beloved army in 1925) in fortune. It is no secret that Stalin hated and feared him more than any other man. In Lenin's last will and testament, he literally beseeches the heirs “Stalin is too coarse... becomes intolerable in a Secretary General.” Of Trotsky, Lenin says, “...is distinguished not only by his outstanding ability. He is personally perhaps the most capable man in the C.C. (Central Committee) but he has displayed excessive self-assurance and excessive preoccupation with the administrative side of his work.”

After Lenin's death, Stalin reclaimed every copy of this testament that he could, killed the recipients and hounded Trotsky and thwarted him in everything the man tried to do. Trotsky and his family, after running for several years, ended up seeking asylum in 1935 in Mexico City. There he studied, wrote, and published “true” histories of the Bolshevik revolution. He lived quietly in a house that belonged to the painter Diego Rivera. On August 21, 1940, and undercover NKVD agent, Ramon Mercader broke into his house and hit him in the head with a pickaxe. Trotsky was rushed to a hospital and operated on, but died a day later. He was 60 years old.

I always liked Trotsky; the pen is mightier than the sword, he proved that. It would have been a far different USSR or CCCP had Trotsky and not Stalin succeeded Lenin. We never really stop to think that Lenin was in power, REALLY in power from 1918 until 1922, when he had his first stroke. There are rumors that Stalin had Lenin killed. Who knows? But Stalin ruled from 1924 until 1953; that's a long time to instill a zeitgeist of fear, paranoia and utter hatred for anything outside of yourself. Djugashvili started his career at a Jesuit monastery. I too, was taught by Jesuits, but it just deepens the mystery. One of the first things Stalin did was treat his own SSR, Georgia with immense cruelty. Part of the Harvest of Sorrow.


He has his own Facebook page, "Imaginary Trotsky." Like all animals he graces us with his presence, even if he is no longer here.

On a happier note, in 1987, I inherited a little blue ball of fluff. He squawked when I took him home. I was in the midst of taking some Russian Language and Russian History classes. I didn't know what this little guy was; I named him “Trotsky.” He turned out to be a stunning Russian Blue when he grew up. Smart as a whip and a one person cat. Very protective; all 20 pounds of him. He also had this weird Siamese yowl. I didn't think much about that. He really wasn't a talker. We went pretty much everywhere together. He died in 2002 at the age of 17. I miss him; I found out some cool stuff about these cats. The Arkangel (Russian Blue) cats as they're called, are from Leningrad. During WWII, the breed almost died out, during the 900-day siege by the Nazis. They've been infused with Siamese blood to keep them going, hence the yowl. I learn new stuff all the time. Here's to you, товарищ Троцкий (pal Trotsky.)

Monday, April 22, 2013

BLOGGING FROM A TO Z APRIL 2013 – LETTER “S”


IGOR STRAVINSKY

If Beethoven bridged 2 musical eras, the classical and the romantic, Stravinsky defined and shaped the neo-romantic and helped lend legitimacy to the 12-tone or dodecophany style as it was once known. Being Russian didn't hurt, and he wrote about what he saw in the world around him. Unlike Prokofiev, who would leave Russia, shortly after the Revolution with the regime's blessings, only to return later to approbation for most of his works, Stravinsky, having left well before the Revolution, was free to come and go as he pleased.


I played for a conductor who looked like this once; he scared the hell out of me.

Thus, he was never hamstrung in the type of music he wrote. Don't get me wrong; they are both 2 of my favorite composers to listen to and play. But for sheer courage, one must listen to Shostakovich. He lived in Leningrad during the siege during WWII, wrote 15 symphonies and dared Stalin every inch of the way. His music is dripping with the tragedy of a nation. Prokofiev gives us glimpses and what-might-have-beens. His 7th symphony, the “American” is beautiful and heartrending in it's joyful abandon.


There are no "do overs" here.

Stravinsky was another kettle of fish. From “Firebird” which is probably my favorite piece to play (lots of growling around on the “C” string and the “Danse Infernale!) to the wonderful, game-changing “Le Sacre du Printemps” or The Rite of Spring, which was premiered in 1903 in Paris, as a ballet, no less!. The Parisians rioted in the streets. Diaghelev had choreographed the thing and I heard it was just a few scraggly ballerinas in chicken feathers, thus the riot. Most likely, it was because no one had ever really heard anything like this before. You can't read the bitch. It must be memorized. This music is a depiction of spring, exploding. It explodes in Russia, apparently. That, I can believe.


I have heard that Diaghilev and Stravinsky had an "intense" working relationship. You can just take one look at Igor and guess that...

Tempo changes. Different key signatures every measure. 1/7 measure, followed by 5/12 measure. Split measures. You cannot count it out in your head, you have to memorize it. Anyway, Stravinsky still had other things to write after this. Admittedly, I haven't played his later works, such as “Canticum Sacrum.” Of course, I don't sing. It is a vocal piece; exceedingly difficult and is a 12-tone work. Stravinsky was a seeker and sought out different sounds, tempi, chord changes, rhythms. and threw out all the rules, he learned so assiduously. Other composers, such as Aaron Copeland recognized Stravinsky's monumental greatness as a 20th century composer and his continual need to push the envelope in expansion of the expression of neo-romanticism as well as 12-tone music. Composers such as Arnold Schoenbert who started out writing neo-romantic pieces such as “Verklarte Nachte,” ended writing with his 12-tone masterpiece, “Pierre Luniere.” So much of his inspiration and writing stemmed from the groundwork set by Stravinsky.


Lt. Kije; it looks like they are letting cars into Red Square now!

While Prokofiev is a powerhouse as a composer in his own right, he had to answer to none other than the Soviet machine and there is little doubt that any radicalism he displayed in his earlier works was tamped. He took to writing more programmatic pieces, “Peter and the Wolf,” in collaboration with Disney, “The Scythian Suite,” “Lieutenant Kije,” “Alexander Nevsky” and “Love for 3 Oranges.” Along with several symphonies. The Russians were and remain, some of my favorites, to play and listen to, starting with Tschaikovsky all the way through Shostakovich.. However, Igor Stravinsky surpasses them all; ferocious music, written mostly during ferocious times. But, he had to leave his homeland to do it.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

#ROW80 2ND QTR POST – Check In Sunday



My god. I can't believe that this is my first post for poor, lonely #ROW80. The newness has worn from our relationship; I can't deny that. What was once anticipated, as a small child anticipates Christmas, went through the drudge stage of “here's another blah #ROW80 post. Goals, shmoals,” to complete abandonment as my head was turned by wittier, more challenging challenges, ala A-to-Z blog challeng for 2013. “But it's only a month!” I told #ROW80. Cold silence was #ROW80's response.

Ever the fickle one, I tossed my head and went merrily on my way, writing about Beethoven, being Idle, Amusement, Vidkun Quisling (stretching there) and that last refuge of scoundrels, Runescape, an MMORPG, that at 57, I shouldn't even BE a gamer. Still, 95 year olds play the damn thing, so I'm safe.

At any rate, poor #ROW80 may not take me back on May 1st, and my lackluster, feeble attempt to make up and be as one again, will probably be seen for what it is; a “pity make up, until something better comes along.” There's a 90-day blogging challenge. Eww.

To prove that I am sincere, I've brought you flowers and everything, #ROW80, on this off-day Sunday-check in, free from blogging to A to Z. I'll see you in 10 days or so, #ROW80.




I'm shameless, is what I am...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

APRIL A TO Z CHALLENGE 2013, LETTER “R”


RUNESCAPE - A GLORIOUS WASTE OF TIME



I used to “write” a “blog” for all of about 15 minutes regarding the wonders and glories of playing MMORPGs, specifically Runescape. The blog is as terrible as it sounds and it consisted of a big batch of lazy; tons of cut and paste pictures from in-game and fan forums and a bit of self-conscious typing. This was just last April. Gah. The fact that I abandoned that forum so quickly illustrates the limited form I had myself strait-jacketed into. I will usually beat a horse until dead and 6 feet under. Writing for a target audience of gamers is not a good fit for me, although I do enjoy the players immensely and their wry humor. I did this because, being disabled, with legal blindness, mental illness and some type of neuromuscular disorder, I found the population of Runescape a perfect fit. We're pretty much all basket cases, but we're interesting basket cases.

Having said that, I thought I’d have a bit of fun. I belong to what is loosely known as a “clan,” but as of now, we are more correctly known as “a bunch of people who hang out and talk a lot of trash, and reminisce about some of the more spectacular fails we've all been part of.” When we were a Clan, with a capital “C” we were pretty unstoppable. We rampaged up and down Clan row and fought other Clans. The fact that we were the only Clan that had two women leaders was an anomaly in and of itself. It pissed off all the 13 year old boys.

Those days are gone and now, we just sort of gather in our Clan Chat. It is rather like a staid knitting bee. “What are you doing, Killa?” “Oh, doing Barrows. I have Dhurok and the tunnels left. And you?” “Still trying to finish Regicide… This whore of a quest goes on forever.” “Wull, it ain't as bad as that 'un quest. 645,973 Useless Favours.” Everybody groans. The quest is called “One Simple Favour.” You end up helping 645,973 useless NPCs (Non Player Characters) and when you get to the end, you have to help them all again, in REVERSE. The quest seems to go on for 4 years and it is most annoying. Not one person who inhabits the world is capable of doing any job they're assigned to. They all need help. The cook can't cook. The valet can't dress the King. It's beyond ridiculous.

But then, the stories begin. This is where the fun starts. Descriptions of quests gone horribly wrong, of dying in spectacular ways. Discussions of what we all really thought when we first started playing Runescape. I remember one of the first things you are sent out to do is kill Goblins. Of course you get… Goblin Armor. There isn’t a person who has played that game who hasn’t tried to wear the Goblin Armor. You can’t wear the Goblin Armor. I think you get to in the epic quest, “Goblin Diplomacy,” but it’s been many a moon since I did that one, so I can’t remember.

One of the other things that just cracks me up about gaming is this bravado that attaches itself to people. Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, people who game and slay dragons think that should the opportunity present itself in real life, that the pixilated talent will somehow magically transfer to the real world. I’m not sure this is the case. Were it so, I sure would like to have either my Saradomin sword or my Abyssal Whip in real life and the muscles to go with it. I always loved the X-Files episode, “Jose Chung From Outer Space.” Jose Chung is questioning Blaine regarding the death threats he has received: “Aren't you nervous telling me all this? Receiving all those death threats?” Blaine replies, “Well, hey, I didn't spend all those years playing Dungeons and Dragons and not learn a little something about courage.” Indeed.

The notion that there is some transference is valid, of course. While we may not be slaying dragons, there are skills of a mundane kind. To be avoided at all costs in my opinion. My favorite thing to do is to beat stuff up and take it’s things. Call me a thug, but oh well. It’s beyond boring to chop wood, fish, cook, farm (oh god!) mine, smith, craft, thieve, agility, it just all sucks. I’m sorry. I know you have to train one to get to the other to get the goodies and to get the cool quests and… ugh. Barf. I do it when I really, really want to do a quest. The fact that I still have NOT finished the important quests like “Regicide,” “Desert Treasure,” and about eleventy-billion others speaks to my not giving a hoot if I ever hit the top-10 players in RS or not. The fact no one barely remembers Zezima anymore, underscores my point.

They have updated the Combat triad and now I can really kill stuff. But, I can really get killed too, and quickly. Game updates being what they are, several thousand people cried and whined and they brought back the old 2007 RS, but you have to start over. No thanks. Some of that stuff I hated the first time; I just don't feel like hate-remembering is something I want to employ at this point.


LINUS and I on a mining run... ugh

I've got a really bad shiny, bad-ass weapons and armor crack habit to feed, along with a houseful of dependents. I have a Lion named Linus now. He seems to live happily in my house with my hunk of eye candy Royal Guard servant that I can barely keep in tea and scones. I have pets that are busy running all over the house. A Hell Cat, a Purple Cat and a Penguin. It’s a bit startling to come in and find the Penguin on the dining room table, but there it is. Still, I’ve managed to accumulate mad, beautiful armor and swords, and whips and shields and pretty shiny things that hurt monsters. It’s all so lovely! I love to stab and maim and plunder. Just don’t ask me to bake a cake.



SUPPOSED TO BE GOD-WARS; LOOKS LIKE MAD, DRUNK NEIGHBOR WITH POT-BELLY THROWING LAWN CHAIR. CAN YOU SAY "EPIC?"


Friday, April 19, 2013

BLOGGING FROM A TO Z 2013 – LETTER “Q”


QUISLING

Vidkun Quisling was a middle-management politician in Norway, during the mid-30s until his execution for collaboration with the Nazis in 1945. But for that, ahem, stellar achievement, we might never have heard of him. As it is, his name has joined the pantheon of epithets that I for one, would never care to have associated with my name.


I guess smiling wasn't part of the portraitist's contract.

Vidkun was never one to let the grass grow under his feet, nor anywhere else it seems. Before going into politics, he proved himself in the military, joining the General Staff in 1911. His specialty was Russian Affairs and he himself had a hand in the architecture of the Russian famine of 1921 in Ukraine. I'm sure his father, a Church of Norway pastor, was displeased, although Wiki doesn't say. Vidkun went to Moscow with a colleague, one Frederick Prytz, and when he left in 1927, Vidkun stayed on and managed British diplomatic affairs. King George V, appointed him Commander of the Order of the British Empire, but was an Indian Giver, after Vidkun's later behavior. Two observations here. Couldn't the Brits have found an, oh, I don't know, an ACTUAL BRIT to manage their affairs? And, two, what did Winny have to say about all of this? King George being rather dim-mish.


King George V looks like Prince Albert, looks like Czar Nicholas, looks like Kaiser Wilhelm... They're not dim-mish; they're inbred cretins!

Anyway, our anti-hero mediocred his way back to Norway and started a party called the Nasjonal Samling in 1933. It didn't do much and didn't poll well. As classrooms go, so do parliaments; the NS just sort of hung out in the back of the classroom, throwing spitballs at the teach and passing notes. This went on for about 9 years, when Hitler and the SS with the Wehrmacht came a-knocking at the door.

Quisling collaborated with the German invasion and from 1942 to 1945, Vidkun Quisling served as Minister-President of Norway, working with the occupying forces. His government, referred to as the “Quisling regime,” was dominated by his old ministers from his Nasjonal Samling. The collaborators, unwittingly or not, participated in Hitler's Final Solution. I myself, believe they DID know what was going on. Quisling had finally reached the pinnacle to which he thought he belonged.

At the end of the war, Quisling was put on trial during the legal purge in Norway. He was found guilty of charges including high treason, embezzlement, murder, and executed by firing at Akerhus Fortress, Oslo, on October 24, 1945. During the war, quisling became synonymous with the word traitor. It is still in use today.


McCarthy wasn't a traitor, just unaware of how dangerous he truly was. Stalin said of him, "Why should we worry about tearing America apart? They are doing it to themselves."

In refreshing my memory of this WWII incident, I was reminded of a similar incident, that had results not quite so catastrophic, but were still horrible for the people involved. “Tail Gunner Joe,” or Joseph P. McCarthy, the junior Senator from Wisconsin was awash in his own mediocrity and by chance hit on the “Reds Under the Bed” idea and spent the next several years trying to get people to give up their friends, family and work colleagues as members of the American Communist party. My father was scarred by it, to the extent that he was upset when I stated my political views on national television. Neither of these men, McCarthy, or Quisling believed in what they were doing; they were corrupted by power and cared nothing for who became hurt in the process.