Thursday, October 30, 2014


I live in a neighborhood that veers wildly from the supremely dumb, to the frighteningly dangerous and somehow meets up seamlessly with the batshit insane. Sometimes, it's all three, like dude two blocks away who decided to see if his Hogwarts' Cloak of Invisibility still had a good warranty after his crack ho washed it, and tested it against the Tampa Police Department's finest. After making them stand around in the hot sun on a Sunday afternoon, and after making them evacuate an entire city block who was looking forward to Brunch at the Three Coins Diner after Church, but being unceremoniously kicked from house and home, couldn't get all swanned up for services, so they stood around and participated and bitched for several hours, and after someone in the TPD ranks said "the Hell with this noise" and stormed the house, dude found out the hard way, that alas, his cloak's warranty was invalidated and yes, he was in fact visible to the cops, whilst crammed beneath a bed in a back bedroom. Either that, or he was just one stupid idiot.

Fresh off that triumph, we have Sharpie Lady. This was brought to my attention by my alert neighbor and "adopted" son Alex, who is of like mind. We've spotted Moses, Jesus the Vampire Killer running around da 'hood and Sharpie Lady is actually a close neighbor; she's just a bit avaricious and her avarice makes her, well, a bit dim-mish. Or, maybe it's the other way around. She's the lady in the neighborhood who wants what everyone has, even if she doesn't need it, or particularly want it, unless you have it. We all know people like that. She doesn't seem a bad sort; just odd. 

Anyway, one of the other denizens had found two Sharpie pens, a black and red one, and he gave Sharpie Lady the black one. Here's Sharpie Lady prior to her use of the pen:

I don't draw; I don't pretend to draw. I have a motor disorder. This is what you get; live with it.

This is Sharpie Lady AFTER she used her new black Sharpie pen that neighbor guy (not Alex) gave her:

I've met Sharpie Lady; I'm pretty sure she knows what make-up is and what pens to draw on boxes are. How in the HELL you'd possibly confuse the two is beyond me. Yes, according to Alex, her eyebrow lines were all jagged and crooked. Of course, you can't wash that crap off.

What makes this even more bizarre, is she THEN went back to the neighbor who had the red Sharpie and asked him for it, so she could use the "lipstick". Now, I realize it's getting to be that time of year, but, as a woman with more than my share for tics and oddities, I've NEVER considered using materials that would be better served for construction as items for beauty enhancement. But, to each his own, I guess. Anyway, here is an "imagining" of how the red Sharpie pen would have gone down:

Kinda like Roz Russell on her downhill slide or someone equally hideous. We've seen a lot of weird stuff here on Nebraska Avenue, but this was pretty noteworthy. 

Obviously, no names are being used, and I will NEVER mention this to the woman when I "see" her face to face. I am not unkind. As I said, maybe it's the wanting, or being so poor, that has unhinged her. I really don't know. Poor people have existed throughout the history of civilization, and Beethoven was happy to be paid a commission of a suit coat with brass buttons for a towering piece of music he wrote, when he was in his forties. Poverty didn't faze him.

We had our last rehearsal before we start a cycle of concerts featuring Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. The critics of his day and now are correct; it is a terrifying piece of music; in structure, style and presentation of his material, particularly his 4-note motif. The "V" or Roman "V" for five was used as the sign for victory in WW II by the allies. The rhythm of the opening phrase "dit-dit-dit-dah" is also used for the letter V in Morse Code (thank you, Daddy). Historians claim coincidence, although I have stated throughout my life and continue to believe that there is no such thing as coincidence.

Anyway, the Fifth sounds wonderful, considering that we are also playing that horrible "La Gazza Ladra" (The Thieving Magpie) overture by Rossini, and that is one that is on EVERY audition list for all of the stringed instruments. For violas, it means a lot of playing in 1/2 or 2nd or 4th position, something violists resist. They're uncomfortable positions; the 1/2 and full steps between notes no longer lie naturally between your 1st and 2nd fingers, but between your 2nd and 3rd fingers and your mind must be agile enough to make that transition. It's more a mental trick, than a physical one. Meanwhile, you're madly trying to keep the spiccato bow going (a light bouncing, almost insouciant type of playing). Spiccato on the viola is akin to road-racing a semi. I also have a very heavy hand, and with a very heavy bow. Strength training and developing other ways to "back off" have made it easier for me, with my e. t. It will show up occasionally, especially during repetitive motion. 

So, I've practiced the HELL out of all of this music; is it the best I've ever played? No. Am I happy with the results for right now? Yes. Between, August and to right now, I've mastered everything I set out to do and then some. This is going to be a great year and they will just keep getting better. I know that in my heart.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


In my meanderings and travels, whether in real life, or in cyberspace, I run into some truly spectacular people who are living remarkable lives and I enjoy their successes and I love hearing about what they're up to, because they make me glad to be a human being. They contribute great things and have fun along the way, all while serving a higher purpose. Crystal Collier is one of these people. When she mentioned during either an #atoz chinwag or a #storydam natter on Twitter that she would be doing a blog tour of her new release "Soulless" I knew that I wanted to jump in on the fun. Crystal is know for her quality cheese and just general all-around generosity *passes the brie; I ate all the colby*. So, without further ado, let me present my dearest dear, Crystal's newest release, "Soulless"! There is a roflcopter (eight times, count 'em eight!) with interview! Enjoy and be sure to read her books. She is a stunning writer!

Interview with Sarah of "Soulless". Sarah is Alexia's aunt, recently lost to the Soulless. Lighthearted, vivacious and occasionally unladylike (despite her noble upbringing). 

Hello Sarah! Tell us a little about yourself.

Sarah: I am amazing. Truly, I am. And rich. (Thank you, my departed and un-missed first husband.)

Wait, first husband?

Sarah: *waves a dismissive hand* Earl Henry Von Faber. A lout--but a rich one who was kind enough to die and leave me some of his fortune. Not all 17 year old brides are so lucky, although I did have to wait 5 years to get my wish.

But first husband means you have a second husband?

Sarah: John. *sighs happily* He is a doctor and a philanthropist. It was our hope that together we might discover a means by which to save the Soulless.

Was your hope?

Sarah: *sits back* Our plans may have gone slightly awry, but I still have hope.

 What do you mean when you say, "awry?"

Sarah: *fingers bite into the armrests. Smiling tightly* Let us just say there is a young girl out there who will learn her lesson once I have regained my strength.

 What exactly are you recovering from?

Sarah: *shifts and sits taller* It is no small secret that my husband, John, was tainted by the Soulless some years ago, and he took every precaution to guard me against his *clears throat* instincts during the moonless night. But all the caution in the world cannot counteract sabotage. *rubbing her back* It has been an adjustment, learning to stave my new-found appetite under the dark moon, but I have been quite successful.

 You're saying you're Soulless?

Sarah: I am saying that any difficulty, no matter how large, may be overcome by preventative measures.

Crystal's books are exciting fun to read, even if you're a full-grown adult! So, be sure and check out her website at and sign up for all of the chances to win! That's 8 entries and you'll definitely get something even just for entering for her signup list! You get a chance to read her reviews, help develop content with her, or provide ideas, or just schmooze around with her! Crystal can also be found in Facebook at her Crystal Collier Author Page,  on Twitter at @CrystalCollier1, on GoodReads and on Tumblr. Crystal, thank you so much for this opportunity to come and play along with you all on #storydam, when we all moved over #atozchat. It's been fun and I look forward to more opportunities like this! 

Saturday, October 18, 2014


                       "Anyone who tells a lie has not a pure heart and cannot make good soup."                              ~ Ludwig van Beethoven

He was born in the city of Bonn, in the Electorate of Cologne, in what would later become part of Germany, on December 15, 1770, or perhaps, December 16 of that year. His happy father had the boy's birth registered at the town hall as was customary at the times, on 16 December early, so scholars differ on the dates of his birth. As mine is the December 15, I choose to think that his was as well. His father, a musician of some renown, known more for his drinking than his singing, was determined that young Ludwig would be another Mozart. Actually, the world really didn't need the one it already had, with the exception of Mozart's “Mass in C minor” and “Don Giovanni”, the last two pieces Wolfgang wrote that are truly worth hearing; the rest is just the same piece written 600 times. But, that's a story for someone who actually cares enough to write anything more about Mozart, so we're safely done with him.

"I shall seize fate by the throat." ~Ludwig van Beethoven

Young Ludwig didn't fulfill his father's wishes of becoming the “next Mozart” nor even the “next Haydn”, which is really okay. Young Ludwig, when not busy fighting off the night terrors that his drunk father visited upon him, if he caught Ludwig trying to play piano after bedtime, took up the viola at a rather young age and played in both of the orchestras in Bonn. Like every viola player everywhere, while he was sawing his way through some boring part, written by you-know-who, he must have been thinking to himself, “Mein Gott! We must have better viola parts around here! These are terrible!” Just kidding. But, the music of the time had already seen the peak of the Classical era and the viola parts had always been awful. Haydn, who danced a merry tune to his patrons managed to write 104 symphonies, while Mozart wrote 41. Other composers wrote just as many and have been lost to history. If they're anything like any piece of music written by Louis Spohr, this is a good thing. Spohr is a bore; bland found a home when Spohr was writing music in the 19th century.

Beethoven's viola. Vienna, Austria

Ludwig was an entirely different matter. Here, for the first time in a long time, well, really in forever, a composer had arrived in Vienna (the happening place for Classical music; very cutting-edge back then) and proceeded to turn the place on it's ear. No longer would the composer bow down to the whims and desires of the nobility. When Ludwig played piano, he was the prince and expected to be treated as such. Salon evenings would turn into competitions, with the young lion raging up and down the keyboard furiously and with a technical prowess that none had seen before. He was also lighting up the musical world with his compositions.

"To play without passion is inexcusable." ~Ludwig van Beethoven

His writing career is traditionally broken out into three periods, although that is a simplification; his first period is considered as occurring during the last years he spent in Bonn and his first years in Vienna. They mark the time when his first piano trios were written and his first two symphonies. This music is still very much in the Classical mold, although there are signs beginning with his 1st symphony that something different is going on in his head. The first movement opens with a forte and immediately drops to a piano, unheard of at the time. This is a reaction to the “stepped” way dynamics were approached previously. It's a small distinction, but a telling one. His 2nd symphony, like his 1st are charming works; almost too airy for Beethoven. This was all about to change in 1803.

"I am a rock-and-roll violist. I kick ass." ~ViolaFury

Firstly, he declared to a colleague that he was unhappy with the way his writing was going; he didn't think that he was achieving the clarity and force of spirit that he was looking for. He didn't want to be thought of as just another salon artist, or have his art be trivialized. It was a higher calling to him and he wanted to bring to it the proper attention and sought to honor his own muse and he was passionate about it.

Secondly, he started the rough draft for his 3rd symphony, and was going to dedicate it to Napoleon; it would be the “Bonaparte” symphony. Then, Napoleon got the bright idea of conquering the world, and Beethoven was furious. He said “So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, too, he will tread under foot all the rights of man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men; become a tyrant!” Ludwig angrily scratched out the dedication page and renamed the mighty 3rd, the “Eroica” or “Heroic” symphony in E Major. And it is truly a magnificent work! I've known it since I was a kid and I've played it several times.

In the third movement, Beethoven completely shreds what remained of the Classical era and goes on a towering rampage of fury. The movement starts off sounding like a funeral dirge and it is dark indeed. He approaches the development with trepidation and just when you think he is going to hesitate and return to the main theme, he cuts loose with sixteen measures of unmitigated rage. It is almost Mahlerian in it's complexity and breadth. Spent, he then returns to the quiet, and ends with a syncopated, almost jazzy little fillip that ends the movement; it's almost as if he's saying “there, I got my musicrage out and I'm good, now, Nap”. But, not to be flippant and undermine the importance of this symphony and this movement and those particular 16 measures; it changed the musical world. We went from the Classical era to the Romantic era in that small amount of time.

"Music is a higher revelations than all wisdom and philosophy." ~Ludwig van Beethoven

It was also the end of Beethoven's early period and as he moved into his middle period, he would see some of his most productive and audacious work written and performed. He wrote his string quartets, along with the famous opus 18, which I love to play. Beethoven's central key is C minor, which puts him in the relative key of EMajor. Being a viola player, this is a natural state for us, as it encompasses our lowest register. I don't know if he thought along those lines, as he once told a violinist “What do I care about your damned fiddle, when the Spirit seizes me!?” So, there's no real indication that he favored violas, although playing anything written during and after Beethoven's lifetime is infinitely better for violas.

"Don't practice only your art, but force your way into it's secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine." ~Ludwig van Beethoven

But spirit and muse were all with him; when we think of the terrifying 5th symphony, it really beggars belief to think that a composer would so audaciously build an entire symphony around four notes: Da-Da-Da-Dum. These notes are repeated throughout the entire work, not just the first movement. There are a few things about this symphony that once again, set it apart from so many other works, then and now. The constant interweaving of the thematic material between all sections has to flow like electricity and the entire work is in constant flux. The other thing that I find remarkable and I've played too many symphonies to count, is that the only other symphony that I've ever played that has a bridge (meaning no pause or break) between the third and fourth movements is Sibelius' 2nd Symphony and that is just as brilliant and astounding as it is with Beethoven.

"The goosebumps start at 4:10." ~ViolaFury

Beethoven was not an easy person to like or get to know. Like many artists and composers, he lived inside his head, but he had an additional reason for doing so; he began to go deaf at the age of 23, and by age 30, was profoundly deaf. He thought nothing of standing up in a pub and yelling “So and So is a Donkey's Ass!” and he was irascible and often seemed unkind. But, through his music; through the splendor of his “Missa Solemnis” and his 9th Symphony, with the most-cherished theme of all time, the spectacular “Ode to Joy” you know that Beethoven understood the human condition and that he tried his best to express that greatness and the humanity and heart that lie within us. There's a very good reason he is my muse and always has been, since, like age 4. He's always been a part of my life and he expresses the greatness I would love to be able to say I've tried to achieve as a human being.

For those of you who may not know, I am under treatment for essential tremor, and have been for the last year. It is inherited and my mother had it. It prevented me from playing viola for several years and I was symptomatic as long as twenty years prior, with worsening symptoms over the last five years; diagnosing was difficult and arduous, but my neat-o, keen-o neurologist figured it out. The Parkinson's Disease Foundation is paying for my treatment. 

However, being a Wallace, and more prone to kick ass, take names and make retribution four-fold when at the top of my game, I am not one to let this sort of thing stop me. Seeing as I can't really take take vengeance out on a condition, or a disease, I chose the next best thing: I undertook an audition for the Tampa Bay Symphony and am playing viola again, beginning this season. SQUEE! Our first concert includes Beethoven's 5th Symphony, which is an amazing work. We will be playing Elgar and Shostakovich later on and I am so very excited and proud to be a part of this excellent group. 

To put this into a better historical context, I am playing on my wonderful Italian viola that was built only ten years after Beethoven's death, in 1827! I'll be writing on the other concerts that we will be performing as time comes closer and I'll put up links as they will be broadcast, as well. I'm also taking 2 programming classes through the good ol' University of Michigan, and this is a lot of fun as well and am looking forward to #NaNoWriMo, where we will continue "Music of the Spheres, Again." No, really, that's the title of the sequel. If they can get away with that in "Sharknado" I figure I can pull it off here. Happy #ROWing!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


It's been a while since I blogged. Not that I haven't wanted to, but life gets in the way, and I've been busy with practicing the viola and brushing up on an old skill, which I really haven't used since college. Programming. Now, that you've all had a chance to recover from "Playing the Violin and How to Avoid It", this seems like the perfect time to resurrect "Tech Tuesdays" which for some god-awful reason has more hits than any of my other gibberish. Probably because those posts contain actual information and not the usual deranged ravings of my half-assed weltenschauung. To that end, and to kind of kill two birds with one stone, I've decided to chronicle my recent foray into Python programming, which I am taking from Dr. Chuck I Forget (Severance), at the University of Michigan, a place where I spent many happy years, learning the viola and discovering how to be an Anarchist (not really), so my education there was not completely for naught.

Anyway, it seemed only natural to take up programming again, as I thoroughly enjoyed it the first time around. Maybe this time, it'll stick.

Apropos of nothing, here's this magnificent white lion to look at!

This class started with the ceremonial loading of Notepad++ and trying to configure it, working off of old screen shots and playing "Guess the menu item" via the instructions given me. Once that was done, I downloaded and installed Python v. 2.7.8 and then, in my typical fashion, proceeded to try and run a simple program. -_- This was akin to trying to communicate with a cow via using an IBM Selectric. Nothing happened. I typically skip all the verbiage in programming books and run right to the appendices. In this case, I overlooked a crucial step, when using the "Start" > "Command" in Windows. I SHOULD have been looking for the Command.exe that comes as a standard part of all Windows versions, yet I was going directly to the Python.exe file and it was unable to find the simple program we had been given to try out our brand-new installs of Python.

Once that was sorted out, I typed within the Python command line, at the chevrons >>>:

     x = 1
     x = x + 1
     print x

This gave me 2, which let me know that I had installed Python correctly, or that it was running correctly, or that the sun hadn't exploded and the earth was melting. Whatever I did, it worked and happiness reigned. 

The professor teaching this course is a huge proponent of open-source coding and sharing of information. We are allowed and encouraged to use the text that is provided with the course. The link can be found here: PYTHON FOR EVERYONE and I encourage those of you who are interested and still reading this to get the documentation and follow along at home. 

I've zipped through the first chapter, and am on to the second. I'm rather behind at this point, due to playing in the symphony and my initial fumbling around on my desktop, which is the norm for me. I'll get caught up and finish the course. Never having dealt with Python before, I'm seeing a lot of weird syntax and whatnot, but Dr. Chuck assures us all that it isn't going to make much sense in the beginning. It does to me, in a Boolean sort of way, but I understand computers and how they work and think; I'll worry about the details as we go along. 

He's a terrible programmer, but wondrous to look at!

So, here are the answers and results that I came up with for Chapter 1, and I'll update as we go. I'm also doing #ROW80, although the poor people there probably think I've died, or have given up on me. #NaNoWriMo is next month and I am writing a sequel to "Music of the Spheres", or more Undead Alien Underground Railroad happenings are to come. On to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and Rossini's "Thieving Magpie" overture. Peace out.


Chapter 1 Exercises

1.1. What is the function of secondary memory in a computer. The function of the secondary memory in a computer is to (C) store information for the long term -- even beyond a power cycle.

1.2. What is a program? A program is a set or series of instructions directing the computer to execute a series of actions at your behest.

1.3. What is the difference between a compiler and an interpreter? A compiler is used to translate an entire program into machine language. An interpreter is used to execute a program in a high-level language by translating it one line at a time.

1.4. Which of the following contains "machine code"? a) The Python interpreter. The Python source file is the file written by the programmer.

1.5. What is wrong with the following code:
       >>> primt 'Hello world!'
File "<stdin>", line 1
primt 'Hello world!'
SyntaxError: invalid syntax
The instruction 'print' is spelled 'primt' yielding a syntax error

1.6. Where in the computer is a variable such as "X" stored after the following Python line finishes? Depends; if written in an editor, "X" is contained in the file, which is stored in the main memory. If that file is saved to secondary memory, it is there as well. If it is just part of a small program that was typed into the interface, it is lost on re-boot.

1.7. What will the following program print out:
x = 43
x = x + 1
print x

1.8. Explain each of the following using an example of a human capability: (1) Central Processing Unit or CPU. The brain. (2) Main Memory. Again, the brain. The hard drive of the computer. (3) Secondary Memory. A notebook, a grocery list. Anything outside the body used to store ancillary information. In terms of the computer, a portable disk drive or a thumb drive, cloud drive. (4) Input Device. Eyes, ears, mouth. Keyboard, mouse, touchscreen (interface) (5) Output device. Mouth, hands (for writing, signing). Printer, speakers, screen. (I add computer correlations, because I have Asperger, and I don’t allow for wiggle room – deal with it.)

1.9. How do you fix a “Syntax Error”? Correct the speeling. :D